I grew up in a city, with no water anywhere around me, except for the swimming pool at the park near my house. I never learned to swim, although I made an aborted effort to learn when I was age 52. As long as I was floating with my hands on the wall of the pool, I was fine. But, when I let go of the wall, I had the feeling that I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and I started panicking. I started thrashing, trying to get back to land, and when the swimming teacher tried to help me, I fought her, nearly drowning us both in just 4 feet of water. She kept shouting, “Put your feet down!” But, I was so focused on getting out of the water that I could not hear her.
Then she said, “You are going to drown us both!” That, miraculously, I heard, so I put my feet down, and all was right in the world again. I swallowed so much water that I had a headache for three weeks running! I stupidly asked when was my next lesson, and looking at me as though I had lost my mind, she said there were no more lessons. I had been afraid of the water too long to learn, unlike small children who learn to swim easily because they have not learned to fear water.
So, needless to say, I still cannot swim. But, ironically, I love to see water in any form: a river, lake, ocean, bay, or a bayou. No matter what I am experiencing in my life, just seeing water flowing is enough to calm my heart and mind, and to cause me to stop and consider just how small my problems really are in comparison. There is something about the enormity of an ocean that tends to shrink my seemingly huge problems down to very small issues. If my heart is heavy with grief or disappointment, just standing near a lake and seeing the perpetual movement of the water is enough to heal my damaged spirit.
For me, the life-giving properties of water gives it the ability to heal us. In his encounter at a well in John 4, Jesus talks with a woman abandoned and rejected by other women and by five husbands, and He offers her living water for her battered soul, a form of water much more life sustaining and soul healing than the water from the well. He says to her, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14). He was offering her the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, connecting us to God, the Creator of life, when we become believers. In John 7:39 it states, “When he said, “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.”
This is the picture I see in my minds’ eye when I stand looking out over a body of water or when I hear the bubbling of a stream: the living water flowing into the hearts and minds of God’s people, refreshing us and healing our broken spirits. For me, our hurts, disappointments, and griefs are a form of thirst for something more life-affirming and life-sustaining than everyday food and water. It beings me peace when I look at the oceans and remember the timelessness of them, of the countless numbers of people who have stood in the same place, having their problems reduced in size, their spirits lifted, and, therefore, their thirsts quenched. They were then able to keep moving forward just knowing that the oceans and rivers declare the reality and power of the living God, theirs and my Creator.
Revelations 22:1-2 reminds us, “Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were for medicine to heal the nations.” When I look at a body of water, I am reminded that the waters existed before God created the earth, for Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was formless and empty, that darkness covered the deep waters, and that the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
From this beginning, the waters have represented the life-giving power of God. I cannot swim in it, but watching other people enjoy the water through swimming, surfing, and wind-surfing, I am reminded that God knew we would need more than just food from the bodies of water around us, but also the calming and peacefulness to our spirits when we think of the enormity of the waters and realize just how small and temporary our problems really are. I love to sit at the edge of the ocean, looking out across the vastness of it, not able to see its beginning or its end, and I thank God for the rivers of living water that quenches my many thirsts and connects me to the One who loves me so amazingly.
Dear God my Father,
Thank you for the waters that bring us such joy and peace. When I see people enjoying the oceans or rivers, I am always amazed at the joy on their faces. It is as though You are healing them from the inside. It is beautiful to witness. For me, I have great respect for the hugeness of the waters, realizing that we must also show reverence and respect for the waters, not destroying them, for when a body of water dies, so do the hopes and dreams of countless people around them. Praise You, Abba, for the life-giving and life-affirming properties of the water that flows from our bellies, the Holy Spirit, that allows us to refresh others and ourselves. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.