…but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. Ezekiel 47:5
One of the first songs that guided and consoled me when I began the timid steps of following Jesus, was Matt Maher’s “Come to the Water.” I sang/prayed it for days pondering its message and taking comfort in its words and melody. Then, after several days of this, I remember walking into our basement storage room and before I even turned on the light I could smell it: the damp, dank smell that comes with a pool of lifeless water. I anxiously threw on the light and was relieved to see, not the flooded storage room I feared, but simply a large puddle due to a drain pipe that had accidentally been kicked away from the drain. Whew! Simple clean-up and a simple fix. Having restored my heart to its natural rhythm, I thought of the song and remember turning my eyes to heaven and saying, “Thank you, Lord, but this was not the water I’ve been praying for!” And then I laughed out loud. And I started to realize that maybe God has a sense of humor, too.
Today’s readings provide us with fantastic images of the kind of water we long for: the Living Water that is Jesus. Images of water pouring out of the temple and into the Dead Sea in the Old Testament and a pool of healing water for the ill and crippled in the New Testament are the two bookends that point toward the Living Water that is Jesus.
The reading from Ezekiel was especially powerful for me today. An angel brings Ezekiel to the temple of the Lord and shows him this water that starts spilling out of it as a trickle and ends in a flowing river too deep to cross without swimming. And I’m overwhelmed with images of my own life, and God’s work in me.
I sit with the images awhile and return to a prayer I’d nearly forgotten. It’s a prayer that maybe feels unnatural to some because it’s less of prayer as we think of it and more of an encounter with Jesus. In this prayer I picture myself lying in a pool of water that to me looks a lot like a babbling brook or a creek that would run through someone’s back yard. I’m lying on my back and the water surrounds every part of me including about four inches over my face. Knowing that the water is a symbol of Jesus, I relax in the water and the water is Him. I rest in Him. I float in Him. He cools me if I’m warm and warms me if I’m cool. I breathe Him in. He cleanses me inside and out. He heals my wounded heart. He soothes my raw and sensitive spots. He restores my soul. He replenishes my spirit. We share no words (though you could), because this encounter–this heart-to-heart, face-to-face, breath-to-breath experience –is so much deeper than words if you let it.
Then after several minutes of this, I open my eyes.
And it’s hard to explain the changes I experience after these encounters because they’re subtle, but very real. My body feels reenergized, my mind is clearer, my outlook is brighter and the world appears somehow softer (more fragile, maybe even?) and I am more aware that I have a purpose in it. A mission to make changes where I can, when I can, as often as I can, as long as I can.
This is the Living Water that is so deep and so wide, that I realize I can never cross it, except by letting go of everything. And in Him I find an ocean of everything I need..healing and love and comfort and mercy and grace.
And after reflecting on all of this, , I smile a grateful smile and turn my eyes to heaven, and say the only thing I can think to say… Thank you! THIS is Water I was praying for.
Reflect: How do I see Jesus as the Living Water in my life? Am I fighting Him by treading water? Drowning in Him and afraid to let go? Thirsting for Him but not sure where to turn? Immersed in Him, but relying on an oxygen tank? Whatever your understanding, spend a few minutes and sit with the thoughts of water and Jesus and see what comes to mind for you. Ask Jesus to show you what He wants you to know or see.
Pray: Lord, thank for being Living Water for us! Thank you for the times you replenish us and the times we thirst for you. Help us to remember that your oceans of love and mercy are readily available to each of us, and that just as the ocean meets the beach, you are happy to meet us where we are, whether we are watching from the shore, or swimming in your depths. You beckon us, but never force us in your love. Amen.