When I was a kid, I tried my hardest to be athletic, while I still enjoy college football, sports clearly is not my thing. Before I was old enough to accept that it was ok not to be into baseball, I played my way through numerous years of city league ball. Once, at about seven years old, my father picked me up from a scorching afternoon of practice in southern Alabama. On the ride home, I was being a stereotypical seven year old who had decided I needed something to drink at that very moment, and I was going to make ear piercing squeals until I got my way. Midway home my father was trying to rationally explain to me that he didn’t have any cash and we had something to drink waiting at home. Once I knew there was no amount of begging that would get him to stop at a gas station I demanded that he stop the vehicle at once. When he asked why, my simple childlike response was something along the lines of, “Because I’m gonna strike that rock out there, and I’m gonna drink the water that comes out.”
Twenty six years later, my father still talks about that uneventful afternoon. He says he wishes he had stopped the truck and let me exercise my childlike faith. In Sunday school, I’d heard that God gave water out of a rock, and I believed He would do it for me. Who knows what would have occurred if my dad had stopped and let me out. Part of me is glad he didn’t stop; part of me thinks I might have had a crisis of faith if the rock didn’t begin to spit out water like a geological Kentwood fountain. However, I know the part of me that looks back at my childhood self as being naive, is just a reflection of what we become when we loose our childhood wonder that God will give us what we need to survive.
Under the guise of “maturity,” we look past the provisions of God for us, and in turn become naïve ourselves to think we will find greater nourishment in the water we have at home, instead of the water God wants to give us out of the depths of His being. In times of fear, doubt, anger, hurt, need, or disappointment we all have the things we run into to find comfort. Not all of the things we run to are malevolent in and of themselves. Family, entertainment, food, adventure, or possessions can direct our attention into positive directions, yet in the end if we are seeking these, in and of themselves, for our sustenance, we will be thirsty again soon. On the other side of the coin, often in these times we tend to run to more dangerous wells to find relief. Drugs, drunkenness, pornography, greed, lust, and pride are greater pitfalls in our search for relief as each of these seeks to actively destroy us, and leave us wanting them even more for it. Yet time after time, we still find ourselves running in one of these two directions every time we need a fix. What we often do not see is that as we run to these broken wells, we are actually running away from the one Well that could do us good.
In John 4, Jesus addresses this age old problem when He comes upon a woman standing by a well. There are a lot of things we can take away from this encounter, but it does us well just to get down to the brass tacks. The woman Jesus encounters offers him a drink from the well; in return he offers her abundant life. While she tries to steer the conversation to religion, Jesus pushes further. She acknowledges that she has been trying to find her happiness from bouncing from one man to the next (perhaps this is why she was at the well alone at the hottest part of the day. Perhaps avoiding the other women in town?) He tells her that the well she has been pulling from will always leave you thirsting for more, but he offers a well that will never run dry.
Like it or not, we are all that woman standing next to a broken well. If you aren’t now, you were once, and it would do us good to remember when we were in that position, as we encounter new comers to the well. Day after day we have come trying to quench our thirst, only to find our throats dry once again. No matter how hard we try to fill the void of what we have lost, of the pain of our brokenness, we remain empty. As we try and pour money and possessions on our broken families, failed business, our everyday trials, our souls simply digest and dispose leaving tomorrow to end with the same feeling of hunger. It’s a viscous cycle that has become our reality, the norm. Yet, God never intended for his children to find their sustenance in this way.
In Psalms 34 we receive the ultimate invitation:
“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalms 34:8a ESV)
This isn’t just an invitation to come and sample what a new restaurant in town has to offer. This is the same invitation that Jesus offers to the woman at the well, the same thing he offers the thief on the cross, the same thing he is offering us today. He is offering rescue. Psalms 34 continues by stating:
“Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (the Lord)!” (Psalms 34:8b, ESV)
Or as Eugene Peterson puts it:
“Blessed are you who run to him!” (the Message)
God is crying out to us, he longs for us to run to him in our times of trouble, in our moments of need. In the same way, God cried out in the Old Testament, for the children of Israel to return to the provisions he had promised to supply. In Jeremiah God proclaims:
“My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (ESV, emphasis added)
When you are “thirsty” where do you run to drink? Where do you find your joy, your hope, your peace? If it’s in anything other than Christ Jesus and his living word and Spirit, you will always be thirsty for more. The things we run too, end up being what God called “broken cisterns that can hold no water.” These are wells we’ve dug for ourselves to temporarily mimic pleasures that God wants to give in eternal form. These “cisterns” will always run out. It is time we stop forsaking our Father. Let God do for you what he longs to do. Let him lead you beside still waters, and let you drink from “Living water” only he can provide.
Grace and Peace to you.