In the Thirst

Dry Parched GroundScripture Passage (Isaiah 55: 1-3)

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

 

Thirst, real thirst, probably eludes most of us who are reading this. We have water. We just turn on the tap and, usually, it runs freely. Many of us don’t think it’s good enough water so we spend money buying high-priced spring waters (which may be from a tap anyway!) But when one is really, really thirsty, thirsty to the point of feeling dry and parched, water is the most incredible thing in the world. So, here, we read of an invitation to all those who thirst. That really sort of sounds like thirsting is a good thing. So those of us with bottled water and instant food, those of us who satisfy our longing by buying more stuff or building bigger things or wrapping ourselves in the bounds of what we do, probably struggle with the whole idea of thirsting.

 

We live in a world that dangles satisfaction and completion in front of us. We live in a world that looks for results. We live in a world that looks for solutions to things that we do not understand, to things that are difficult. And yet, nowhere in the Scriptures does God protect us from the difficulties of life by telling us to run and hide, to avoid pain, to avoid suffering, to avoid darkness or wilderness or unknowing. After all, thirsting for something more means that we are alive. Physical thirst means that we are still living and breathing and our bodies are craving what they need. And spiritual thirst is the same. We are still alive. There is still something more. And in the deepest part of our being, we know that.

 

There are those that thirst for wealth, those that thirst for stature or position. There are those that thirst for pleasure or happiness. And there are those that thirst for things to be comfortable, to be the way they want it to be, perhaps to be the way it’s “always been”. But, for most people, attaining those things really doesn’t satisfy them at all. It leaves a veritable dryness in life. Perhaps the point is that life is not in the quenching but in the thirst. Alexander Stuart Baillie once wrote that “one needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful. When one has done [his or her] best there is, [one] finds, still more to learn and so much to do. [One] cannot be satisfied until one attains unto the stature of Jesus, unto a perfect [human], and ever thirsts for God.” I thirst. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And life began.

 

 

All your love, your stretching out, your hope, your thirst, God is creating in you so that God may fill you…God is on the inside of the longing. (Maria Boulding)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

I know I’ve tended to be a little irregular with the postings this season. I’m sorry about that. Life continues to get in the way. Maybe it’s part of that thirsting. I will try to keep the waters flowing.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

So, Again, Why Are We Here in the Wilderness?

Jesus tempted in the wildernessScripture Text:  Matthew 4: 1-11

 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

 

We’re past the mid-point place in the journey and it’s becoming tiresome. Is it all worth it?  We haven’t really seen any sign of where we’re going and things have gotten so incredibly uncomfortable (and some of it is beginning to get a little personal!).  We’re ready for all of this to be over.  At the beginning of the journey, we heard that Jesus had gone into the wilderness.  We already know that.  But the writer known as Mark didn’t really elaborate on the temptations that Jesus encountered.  This version of the story seems to focus on just that.

First of all, Jesus was fasting.  Now it doesn’t say what kind of fast—there are fastings from all meals except breakfast, there are fastings from everything except water, there are fastings from everything that enters one’s mouth.  There are also other fastings—fastings from certain input into one’s mind, fasting from doing certain things, perhaps fastings from human contact.  Maybe that’s what Jesus was doing.  Because forty days and forty nights by oneself doesn’t provide a lot of company.  He probably was famished.  But whatever Jesus’ fast entailed, it was long and it was hard and he was famished.

So Jesus is tempted when he is the most vulnerable, when all of his guard and his shields were down.  He is tempted to guarantee having what he needs, tempted to impress and be liked, and tempted to be in control.  Henri Nouwen said that the temptations were to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. Oh, he could have made excuses.  We all do it.  After all, think how much powerful his ministry would have been.  Think what WE could accomplish if we were relevant, spectacular, and powerful.  The truth is, those things are not bad in and of themselves.  Relevance, spectacularness (probably not a word!) and power can do great things when they are harnessed in the right way.  But when they get in the way of who God calls us to be, when they become the reason we are doing things, when they become our primary focus and goal in life, then they have pulled us away from who God calls us to be.

See, Jesus knew those temptations and knew to resist them.  I think the whole reason that Jesus was tempted at all was not to prove that he could resist temptation but rather to put these things in their proper place.  They are not bad; they are just not the main thing, should not be the goal that we are trying to accomplish.  The truth is, this wilderness journey does not beg for us to accomplish; maybe in some way it calls us to famine, to being famished, so that we know exactly what we need.  So, again, why are we here in the wilderness?  We are here to empty our lives of ourselves so that they can be filled with God.  We are here to realize how our souls hunger and thirst for God.  We are here to finally know that nothing fills our emptiness, nothing fills us up, nothing fills our souls but God.  We are here to finally know that longing for God is our main thing because our longing will lead us to what we most need.

One needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges.  It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful…[One] cannot be satisfied until [one] ever thirsts for God. (Alexander Baillie)

FOR TODAY:  Long for God.  Write down what that means.  What emptiness do you feel?