…My people have committed a double wrong: They have rejected me, the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot even hold water.
— Jeremiah 2:13 NET
Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”
–John 4:13-14 NET
…Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
–John 5:40 NET
Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’”
—John 7:37b-38 NET
Scooping the moisture out of their makeshift cisterns made from broken pottery laid in a shallow hole to sweat the ground or capture the dew, Bedouins had to strain out as much mud as possible to get a drink. The water was not clean, certainly not the kind you might think of at an oasis in the middle of a desert. Yet, for some odd reason, God’s people preferred muddy water to pure, clean, artisan well water. It’s a powerful image Jeremiah uses to depict the lunacy of looking for life apart from God. Don’t choose death. Choose life. Why choose muddy water when you can have the best water available? Good question. Yet mankind persists.
Are you aware of your own thirst? At the close of the great feast, to people overstuffed from way too much food and drink, Jesus stands and calls out in a loud voice: “Are you thirsty? Come to me.” Seriously? We’ve just gorged ourselves over the course of days and you want to know whether we are thirsty? Yes. What I have to offer will quench you deeply and fully. What I offer is so incredible, this life-giving water will burst out of you to others. You will become a source of life-giving sustenance to all who are also aware of something missing. And could be the means Papa and I use to awaken others to their thirst. (Compiled from various passages using some literary license.)
With Lent, we turn from deadening choices to life. We move from muddy water to enjoy and drink deeply from the artesian well that is Jesus who lives within the heart of every believer (which makes the whole metaphor even more poignant). Sadly, there seem to be more days I’m aware of thirst more than I’m in touch with the rivers flowing within me. Yet, this does not negate Jesus’ words. There is a life-giving river within, whether we notice or not. Lent can provide the ways and means of accessing this incredible reality. Because lent anticipates resurrection, we must lean into the fact that God is up to something in us that is life for us, and life-giving to others.
While praying over the passages above, a song popped into my head I had not heard for nearly 40 years. I’ll leave you with the opening verse to ponder as you look to Papa about your own dilemma between muddy and clear water.
All day I face the barren waste
Without the taste of water, cool water
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry
And souls that cry for water, cool, clear, water.
–“Cool Water,” Sons of the Pioneers