“We are creatures of a great thirst,” wrote literary critic George Steiner. I believe that great thirst is for God. This craving within our hearts and spirits is as insistent as our body’s need for water.
In response to that need, Jesus says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38; see Isa 44:2-3, Zech 14:8).
Jesus extends that invitation in the Temple on the last day of the Festival of Booths. He most likely says it at the same moment a priest circles the great altar with a golden pitcher of freshly drawn water. The priest would have then poured the water out as an offering of thanksgiving for the water God provided the Hebrews in the wilderness.
Soon, Jesus promises, those who believe in him will have flowing within them the Spirit who slakes our thirst for a free, joyful, and grateful relationship with God.
Some of us misspend our thirst. We turn to substitutes for God, attaching our desire for God to something or someone who cannot satisfy it—be it alcohol, drugs, food, work, security, the approval of others, or the feeling of being needed.
When we use substitutes, the ache always returns and our thirst makes new demands. Sometimes it takes a while, but we eventually learn that anything less or anyone other than God will leave our souls dry and our spirits withered.
We are thirsty for God. Jesus is the flowing stream of grace, the river of living water, which God offers as a gift to everyone who thirsts.
Beneath the surface of my desires, how can I learn to identify the source of my deepest needs?
Spirit who satisfies our thirst, help me to not settle for something less than the life and joy you so generously give. Amen.