We’ve lived in Tennessee for three summers now and this has been the most challenging by far. It began with a June drought that left the pastures brown and crunchy for almost two months. When the rain finally came, it brought a searing heat that made everything that breathes cower in the shade.
Between the drought and the heat, the water put out in troughs and pails vanished at warp speed from either thirsty livestock or evaporation. Keeping everything clean and filled was a part-time job and thanks to Shepherd Ed, the lambs, horses, and chickens always had what they needed to thrive. Fortunately, we have multiple ways to access and trolly water around here, with hydrants and taps throughout the farm. Never a fan of city water, I was grateful for its steady supply when I began to hear of farmers’ wells running dry. We live in a land of plenty—until we don’t. It’s in those moments of extreme want that we have two choices on this earth: to dig a deeper well or die.
The “Rule of Three” for survival states that you can live three minutes without adequate oxygen, three hours without shelter (in extremes), three days without water (if you have shelter) and three weeks without food. Air. Shelter. Food & Water. Those are the top three of threes for our bodies to survive. Pondering these things in a kind of existential way drives home how fragile we really are and how delicate is the balance of life.
That’s why I humbly suggest there’s a following “Rule of For(ever).” When one or more of the other "threes" fail, our soul survives for all eternity. Prayer—which roots us in powerful communion and conversation with God—is the means to survive our (eventual) natural death and to live forever in Paradise. But what do we do when our interior well runs dry? When we can barely form words in the back of our parched throats? When our hope, our faith, our dreams seem shriveled and our walk with God is as dry and crunchy underfoot as the scorched grass in the pasture? When prayer itself feels like a rocky bottom that’s hard, uncomfortable, and barren?
Perhaps we’ve sought relief in the shallow wells of the world, which only leaves us feeling more thirsty than before. Perhaps we’ve searched for water in self-help books, yoga, New Age gurus, pantheism, social media, or the stars. But our thirst is bigger than that and requires a purity that can never be found in such things. The Good News is, there’s nothing more pure than grace.
Grace, like water, seeks and flows into the lowest places. So when we’re thirsty and running on empty, shouldn’t we run to the fountain of all grace? That said, I’ve learned that if I’m too weak to run, to fall to my knees where I stand. If I’m too parched to pray, to sit in silence and longing. If my well is going dry, to be patient. Grace will seek me. Grace will find me. After all, Jesus Himself, from the agony of the cross, said He THIRSTS…that is, He thirsts for ME. Isn’t that ironic? Jesus thirsts for me and my love so that He can pour out His pure, living water for me in a pure act of amazing grace. The crazy-beautiful thing is, He wants me to thirst for Him, too!
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well: “If you knew…who it is that has asked for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” According to her worldly logic, she chided Him and replied, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this water?”
But then Jesus assures her: ”Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~John 4:13-14
What the Samaritan woman (initially) failed to grasp is that God has provided us with the perfect vessel with which to “draw water.” It’s the cup of our prayers, which lifts our minds, hearts, and souls to the true and living God who is BOTH the water and the well. The truth is, our spiritual thirstiness is a blessing that leads us to Jesus and allows us to draw graces and favors from the font of his unfathomable mercy. He is the great Quencher of souls!
The droughts and heat waves will come and go and someday the wells of the world will surely run dry. But just as Shepherd Ed keeps our little lambs and other farm animals from thirsting in this life, God promises that the water he gives will become in us a spring of water welling up to everlasting life…Will become. It’s both a process and a Divine Plan. We need to keep drawing and drinking from it, day in and day out, as long as we live/survive. The best is yet to come!
There are plenty of beautiful quotes from the Saints on this subject, but daylight is fading and the horses and lambs are clamoring for dinner. So instead, I’ll simply borrow the words of “the most interesting man in the world” (next to Jesus)…
Stay thirsty, my friends. :)