I’ve been dry. Which is funny because we’ve had so much rain in the past few days that it’s been dripping through the cracks in my kitchen. While a stainless steel pot sat on my floor collecting rain, and I went through multiple towels soaking up standing water off my stovetop, the jar of clay that I am proved to be a leaky vessel. For I seem to hold no water. I feel empty with nothing to offer. Inside, I’m dry. Thus, the dry spell. Dry in every way.
I read from John chapter 4 recently and the words caused me to inwardly moan. Because what I read caused a stirring of the remaining stagnant water within me. But also, it prompted me to consider why I feel the way I do. Because what Jesus promises to a woman of Samaria applies to me, too. And honestly, I just don’t feel it today…
“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never thirst again- ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” John 4:13
So what of that? I’m a Christian woman, so shouldn’t I be filled with this living water? Why the dry spell? And in truth, the dryer I become, the more deadened I feel. Kind of a numbness. It takes a lot to make me laugh or cry at this stage. Like I’m an empty shell. And so, activity ensues. I begin to feel frantic and so I try to quench my thirst by feeding on heaping helpings of God’s word. And yet, nothing. Dry as a bone. An empty cistern. But then, I hear Him. He says to me, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40.
And so, I’m baffled by this statement. Because Jesus is the Word become flesh. And God’s word is powerful and transforming. His words are life. How is it, then, that devouring the Bible in mass quantities leaves me devoid of life? That’s when I hear Him again. I am reminded of Hagar of the Old Testament. She was a woman who had her own dry spells. See, she wandered through the wilderness not just once, but twice. And the wilderness of the Old Testament is not what we think of in our land. No, the wilderness was a desert, barren, wasteland. In fact, one definition shows the wilderness land to be desolate supporting little life. And so, it was amidst Hagar’s dry spells that she encountered the Living God.
The first time she encountered God was when she ran away from home. Circumstances were unfavorable as she was tired of being mistreated by her mistress. So she took off. And that’s when she met Him. But rather than encourage her on her way, God sent her back to her old life. And furthermore, He told her to submit to the mistreatment. But then, He made her a promise. For she was to have a boy child who would grow into a man. Poignantly, this visitation took place at a spring of water. And Hagar named the place Beer-lahai-roi, which means “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” So, Hagar in her dryness, must have stopped at a spring to quench her thirst. But instead, she received a word from the Living One who heard her cry out. Thus, the name of her child was to be Ishmael (God hears).
Hagar did go back to her old life. And it was some years later that she had to go away again. But this time, it wasn’t her idea. Her mistress threw her and Ishmael out. It seems as if she was meant to go away all along… just the timing was not right. And so, Hagar and her boy were sent off with only some bread and a waterskin. And they wandered through the Wilderness of Beer-sheba. Alas, the water didn’t last. And so here was a woman, dry as a bone, trying to sustain both herself and her child in a desolate land that supported little life. She must have lost all hope, for she placed her child under a bush and went and sat nearby. See she couldn’t bear to hear his cries anymore. And tragically, she was waiting for him to die. It appears that Hagar forgot her previous encounter with the Lord. It appears she didn’t recollect what He told her years before. For He said she’d have a child. And He said when Ishmael’s a man… but in her dryness, she didn’t remember. Circumstances seemed too dire. Her unfavorable circumstances loomed before her and that’s all she could see. That’s all she could dwell on.
But you know, Hagar may have forgotten, but God did not. And He heard the boy’s cries and answered. God called out instructions to Hagar, “Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” That’s when God opened her eyes and she saw. There was a well of water. It must have been there all along for she simply needed to get up and fill the waterskin. She just didn’t see it. Her despair and her fear and her hopelessness filled both her heart and her vision. She didn’t know what was right there for the taking. And the sad thing is, I don’t think she even asked God for help. I don’t think she said a word. Because it was the voice of the boy that God heard. Not hers. Unlike Hagar’s first wilderness wandering, she didn’t cry out the second time. She had lost all hope.
And so, today I hear Him. I’ve been wandering my own desert land yet again. And it appears I’ve been digging my own wells. It seems as if I’ve been trying to quench this thirst my way. I’ve been doing more, trying harder, digging deeper in God’s word, and yet, dryness. It was yesterday, my mom said that people sometimes mistake hunger for thirst. And you know, I think there’s something to that. See, I’ve been cramming myself FULL of God’s word. Hours of it. And yet, there’s still this emptiness. Perhaps what my mom said stands spiritually, as well. Perhaps I’m confusing this thirst for hunger. And as powerful as God’s word is, I need something more. I see it through that Samaritan woman in the 4th chapter of John.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.” John 4:7-12
Jesus asks the woman for a drink, which initiates a dialogue. And so, she asks questions of Jesus. See, He pointed out that if she knew who He was, she’d ask Him for a drink. But she pointed out the obvious. Circumstances were clear to see as Jesus had no bucket and the well was deep. How could He give her water? Furthermore, she had Jacob’s well. And Jacob was a great man… a patriarch. People had been drinking from his water for years. And that’s when Jesus pointed out the obvious. Whoever drank of that water would thirst again. He offers her to drink from Him.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38
And so, I hear Him today. I hear Him through the lives of Hagar and an anonymous Samaritan woman. For through them, I see a picture of me. They too, had dry spells. And like them, my faith is running low right now. It’s as if I had forgotten my last encounter with the Living One Who Sees Me. It seems as if I had forgotten what He promised me. And so, my belief has waned. And despite the ceaseless wells I dig by means of activity and busyness and tasks, I remain empty. And despite my drinking from wells that many have drank from before me, I thirst again. And so, it’s here in this dry, barren place that I have no other choice. I just stop what I’m doing. And God opens my eyes to see what lay right before me. For the well of the Living Water has been here the whole time. I just didn’t see it. And because I know I don’t have it in me, I look at Him. It’s clear that despite my best efforts, I cannot satisfy this endless thirst. And so, I do the only thing I can do. I echo the plea of a Samaritan woman of long ago…
I say, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty again…”
And then, I’m able to get up. It’s then, I can help my own boy up. It’s then I can sustain him in a dry and desolate land. But first, I must be filled myself.