NOTE FROM RICHARD
Have you ever had a moment when you read something you wrote in the past and discovered that it speaks to you again? That happened to me this week.
I wrote this reflection article a few years ago. For some reason, it identifies a deep longing that I have today.
Here it is. My prayer is that you too will find refreshment for your soul as you read this today.
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God...”
– Psalm 42:1-2a (NRSV)
Do you remember a time when your thirst was so intense it was the only thing on your mind? Every time I read the Psalmist’s words, they transport me to a place and time when thirst was the only thing that drove me.
My friend and I had chosen to take a three-day hike in the high Cascades. The trail was steep. Although the weather was clear, the terrain was slippery from recent rain, making the walk more difficult than expected. It was a gorgeous time of year; late fall and the leaves displayed a wide array of colors. The air was crisp, inviting us to walk at a brisk pace.
Several miles into the hike, our canteens were empty. The sun was bright and unusually warm for this time of year. Consequently, our bodies were becoming dangerously dehydrated. Water was no longer an option, but an urgent necessity. The slippery condition of the steep incline was presenting a challenge as well. However, with parched lips and nearing total exhaustion, each step became a battle of the will. My intense thirst drove me to move beyond my parched weariness.
Thirst can also manifest itself in ways beyond a craving for water. One may merely look around and observe those who desire fortune and fame. Some so want success that they are willing to compromise ethical behavior. A longing for the latest and greatest is another strong yearning that drives many people, but it never fully satisfies their craving.
There is also a deep thirst for God in each of us. Augustine of Hippo reminds us: “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” The philosopher, Blasé Pascal wrote: “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.”
Frequently I remind others and myself that knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. While reason may give insight into the nature of God, it fails to quench my soul’s desire for God. Similarly, although I may find understanding relating to the molecular structure of water, knowledge about water fails to satisfy thirst.
As a deer pants for water, the Psalmist often speaks of his longing for God. “My soul longs... for the courts of the Lord” (Ps. 84:2). “My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances [your word] at all times” (Ps. 119:20). “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Ps. 38:9). The image the Psalmist gives demonstrates what our longing for God is to be.
On that Cascade trail, dehydrated and struggling to find enough energy to take one more step, my focus was centered on one thing alone: a drink from a fresh brook! David’s imagery conveys what a deep longing for God is like – a thirst so powerful that it drives us forward in our pursuit of pure, complete satisfaction that only God offers.
Recently a friend who knows my spiritual journey asked me: “What kept you moving toward God when you faced such difficult and seemingly impossible obstacles in your life?” I thought about it for a moment, then replied: “My thirst for God was stronger than my uncertainties, fear, and sense of hopelessness.” That’s what an unsatisfied thirst does. It creates a drive within us, a longing so powerful, that it keeps us moving forward, even when life is uncertain and treacherous.
However, longing without proper focus is like chasing the wind. That’s what happens too often. We become sidetracked away from the only source who will and wants to satisfy our thirst.
When my friend and I reached the summit of our thirsty trail through the Cascades, we were met with the most beautiful scene. Just to the right of us, a doe and her fawn were drinking peacefully with their heads bowed. Startled by our appearance, they quickly ran off into the woods. Likewise, we, panting with anticipation, moved as rapidly as possible to take their place. Out of the rock was a bubbling spring of clear, cold water.
To this day, I cannot recall a time when I was thirstier – and more satisfied than when I drank freely from that spring! On that trail, I discovered that unexpected heat, slippery terrain, and physical dehydration all significantly intensify thirst. More importantly, though, the whole experience serves as a vivid reminder to my soul: that’s how strong my thirst for God should be!
How intense is your thirst?
When do I remember a time that I was so physically thirsty?
What was it like to be refreshed?
How intense is my thirst for God?
What is the object of my longing?
Is it time to drink from the springs of Living Water?