I grimaced as I swallowed, my throat scratching while it contracted with effort. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth as I searched it desperately for moisture. The air felt dry, and I licked my parched lips to ease their pain as they cracked. It was a fleeting reprieve that left a deeper longing the moment the air wicked the moisture away.
I rounded a corner and sought refuge from the hot sun in the insignificant shade of a nearby tree. I berated myself for having left my water bottle behind on the desert trail.
My body screamed for water. I thought briefly of sipping from a scuzzy looking puddle…it looked so inviting. I was drawn to it so powerfully that I had to lift myself from my spot of shade and venture back onto the trail. I needed clean, pure water not dirty rainwater remnant. I needed refreshment that would restore my dry body and relieve my hurting lips. Despite any temporary relief I might gain, I knew that the standing water might do more harm than good.
My steps quickened as I recognized the landscape and knew I was close to the trail head. With each step, an overpowering call propelled my feet forward until I reached my car and found the crystal clear liquid treasure I so fiercely desired. The bottle was depleted of its hot fluid too quickly, but I knew, with relief, where I could get more.
The parallels are undeniable: My soul can ache for the Living Water in the same way my body aches for the more tangible substance. Nothing else can quite fill the void; I can stuff my body full of soda, juice, or puddle water but none of those refresh and restore a dehydrated body adequately. In truth they are more damaging than nourishing.
I can pour second rate fluid into my soul as well. Sometimes for a while I feel satisfied. I think it’s enough. If I listen to a sermon, a worship song, or do something good then I think I’m okay. Like soda or juice, they temporarily seem to put off the louder wails of a soul in need of the true Living Water…a soul desperate for connection with the life sustaining, soul quenching, relief-giving Source of Life…a soul living in a parched and weary land.
I can fill my soul with poison too. I can chase things in the world that appeal to me. I have tried to fill my need for Christ with shopping, friends, addictions, food, busyness, and noise. Too often even the best of those leave me parched and desperate for something more.
For long periods of time I have run through life totally deprived of a meaningful connection to the Creator; a connection to the pure, clean revitalizing Living Water. I have buried the need with thick surgery syrup based experiences; have felt exhilarated by the rush of indulgence…But in the end, it still left me empty.
Sometimes, I can bury the need so deeply that I hardly recognize it for what it is. I can trick myself into thinking that my need is actually something more superficial, material, or physical. I can be filled up only to be more drained of what little energy, hope, and satisfaction I had to begin with.
When I fill my day with other things, other people, other pursuits and neglect my LORD, I am left desperately dry with nothing left to give.
When I, inescapably, realize I have neglected my relationship with him, I am too tired to meet him. I’m too depleted to do more than whisper a prayer that He will increase my thirst for him and my desire to know him better. I have to ask him to remind me of my need for him. I have to ask him to help me make the time. I have to apologize for being more concerned with my own life than with the Source of Life. And then, little by little, he shows me where I have tried to appease my need for him with other things. He opens my eyes and softens my heart. Then I can pursue and cling to him more gratefully. When I find that I am finally able to pursue him, I see that he has been pursuing me the whole time. And, I realize that what I want, what I truly need…is more of Jesus.
I have found that, only then, when my thirst is correctly quelled and The Water fills me up, can my restored lips praise him. Only then can I give back to those around me, in word and in deed. Not from my own ability, but from the overflowing excess of a life fully connected to Christ.
And then…then I can sing.