We need water.
It’s a fundamental building block of life. All life (well, carbon based life forms, anyway, as Star Trek fans know). Almost sixty percent of the average human body is water. It’s essential to the proper functioning of all our organs, from the skin to the brain, and we’re shedding it constantly, in a variety of ways. So we need to replenish it.
And it’s worth noting that we’re often not very good at that. Health care professionals suggest that we need to take in somewhere between two and three litres a day. Or there’s the “8x8 Rule” - that’s eight 8-ounce glasses a day. I heard someone say the other day that another good rule of thumb is to take half your body weight and make that the number of ounces you need each day (they didn’t say whether that was pounds or kilograms). Of course, if you’re physically active, like an athlete for instance, or you have health issues or you’re a certain age, you’ll need more.
Those numbers - and I’m sure there’s lots of other ideas about how much we should drink - are all a little different. But the point is that, whichever one you choose, it’s a lot. A lot more than we probably do drink. Certainly a lot more than if we only drink when we’re feeling thirsty. Yes, you’re probably not getting enough water to be healthy if you only drink when you’re thirsty.
Okay, so there’s a few conflicting studies lately, some suggesting that you should actually only drink when thirsty because, well, your body knows, right? Others say that you definitely need this much (insert number here) each day. But the more important point is the need to keep your fluid level balanced. You shouldn’t just slam down a few glasses when you’re thirsty and you shouldn’t just have a couple of mouthfuls after working out. Your body needs water consistently, not just when you feel like it.
That can be a little problematic for those who don’t really like water much. And some people prefer their liquids in the from of other beverages, from juice to soft drinks, tea and coffee, and other, um, adult beverages. We might think that at least we’re drinking something, right? But a lot of those have other things in them that can be unhealthy or dehydrating. Read the label. No matter how you dress it up, water, just water, is still the best thing for you.
Your spirit needs water, too. Not just when you’re thirsty and you can oh so desperately feel it. Not just when you feel like it because it’s convenient or handy. Not dressed up and made pretty and entertaining. Not flavoured with the fear and hate which can dehydrate your spirit.
The water that refreshes the spirit, the living water that Jesus offers is God’s love. It’s a gift offered with no price or condition. It’s refreshing, empowering and life giving. It comes with a Spirit of its own, flowing freely and enthusiastically through all creation, available to all. And it’s readily available - from the tap, so to speak.
There’s a story in John’s gospel about Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:1-42). There’s a multitude of really good 1st century reasons why Jesus shouldn’t be talking to this person, but let’s just concede that, once again, here’s Jesus talking to the marginalized and broken.
Jesus is thirsty from walking all morning and he comes to the well. He doesn’t have a pail and it’s noon (hottest part of the day) so there’s no one around. He needs help to get the water that will refresh and sustain him. Here’s the Samaritan woman. She probably comes to the well everyday at that time to get water. Jesus asks her for some, they have a conversation and Jesus tells her about “the living water” he brings. She asks him to give her this living water, their conversation continues and Jesus reveals to her that he is the promised one. “I am,” says Jesus. And there it is. The well - the tap - from which the living water flows.
I think the living water Jesus brings is God’s love and the well from which we draw it is the encounter, the relationship that we have with Jesus. In that relationship, that dialogue, that “back and forth” with Jesus, we find love revealed and we are refreshed and inspired to live that love with others. Perhaps it’s only in our thirstiest moments that we seek it out, but the well is always available for us to return, again and again, to be filled.