Early into my morning routine I nudge the lever of the sink and fill my glass to the brim. Studies reveal that four glasses of water on an empty stomach can remedy any number of body disorders. My one-glass ritual does not aspire towards such prophylactic proportions. However, to my sluggish mind this tilt and drain drama is sufficient proof of a healthy diet, a convenient conclusion that takes the stress out of the rest of the day’s meals.
My misunderstanding of water is not restricted to exaggeration, I also underestimate its true nature. I think the lever I nudge is its source and the modest stream that trickles forth an accurate expression of its power. Urban living has domesticated and diminished my experience and appreciation. I need to get out more.
The Autumn long weekend was the ideal opportunity to pack up the dog, the camera and the snacks (no worries there I had drunk my morning glass of wonder water) and drive to the conservation area. We had decided before we arrived that we would conserve our money not our strength.
Our frugality required us to park some distance away and take an upward trail to the desired sights. We strained and struggled along the incline and rejoiced when the path flattened before our cardiograms did. There, framed by fall colours, the stream flowed, it fell, flashing in the sun and splashing at the base. Here was water in its natural glory, undomesticated, alive and moving, making impact.
In Jesus’ day, the annual Feast of Tabernacles involved priests drawing water from the Pool of Siloam and pouring it out at the base of the altar in the temple. This ceremony was to depict the promise that one day rivers of living water would flow forth from God’s temple bringing life to the whole earth (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
Against this backdrop, Jesus spoke these words,
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (Jn 7:37-39)
Is that our expectation? Do we envisage our inner lives welling up under the influence of the Holy Spirit and springing forth, flowing with God’s glory, and making impact on the world around us. Or has our understanding been domesticated? Have we plumbed up the influence of the Holy Spirit, restricting it to certain theological pipes and experiential levers and only accessing it in glass-size amounts.
I suspect that far too often we constrict the Spirit’s influence in our lives because we believe His empowering presence is only for the mighty in faith, or those martyred or sent out as missionaries. But for believers whose lives and callings are ‘ordinary’, the Holy Spirit does not flow as living waters. We must be content with something more modest, no rivers for us, just tap water.
We need to revisit the story of Jesus and the women at the well (Jn 4:4-26). Jesus offers her living water which he describes thus: “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.”
It is not natural water about which Jesus speaks but the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26-27). Jesus did not make this offer to one considered outstanding by her community but to one who was an outcast. Jesus’ offer makes it clear the life-giving influence of the Spirit is not just piped to those who we might think, but to all who will trust in Jesus.
This woman, even though her standing was not stellar, believed Jesus’ offer of living water was for real. His offer was accessible to her, a sinner, and also to all those who had sinned against her. Her faith is evident when she dared to share Jesus’ invitation with the people who had cast her out and marginalized her.
The details of our situation differ, but let’s be bold and ask what would it look like for us to consider Jesus’ offer of living water as real and accessible. What would we dare to do if we believed Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to abide with us so our lives flowed and splashed with the glory of Eternity?