24 May What do You Thirst For?
“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”
This is the opening line of Isaiah 55, a poetic, poignant, powerful chapter of the Old Testament writing ascribed to the prophet Isaiah. The chapter is an invitation to Israel to enjoy life with God which is marked by an abundance of joy and peace.
“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” What do you thirst for? This was the question the worship leader asked during my clergy retreat earlier this week. Sometimes I know exactly what I thirst for: a relationship to be restored, deep rest to replace deep weariness, clarity on a perplexing problem, health for someone who is not well. But this time I was strangely uncertain about how I would answer that question.
I have many longings that are pretty consistent. These are the “meta-level” or “big picture” longings of my heart. I have a profound thirst for seeing the church embrace our call as witnesses and agents of the Kingdom of God. I regularly pray for wisdom and discernment about how we live out that call and what forms it takes in a technology-driven society where the definition of being “connected” is constantly shifting. I thirst for community and particularly, to see those of us at Calvary build a community that is authentic, safe, hospitable and grace-filled. I thirst for communion with God that permeates my life—every interaction, every decision, every attitude. I thirst for health and wholeness for my children. I thirst for belonging and acceptance and love for myself and for all people.
But the familiar words from Isaiah caused me to reflect on the fact that I am in a period of transition that significantly impacts other thirsts. Recently, several major projects and responsibilities have finally been resolved. Help has arrived in another area that has greatly eased my load. These changes have opened internal space to reflect, dream and thirst for….well, for what? I’m not exactly sure and this uncertainty is a good thing. Not necessarily comfortable, but good.
Our culture seems to have little room or tolerance for “pregnant pauses.” Life is so [over]planned and [over]scheduled that people are bored if “there is nothing to do.” But that nothingness is precisely the space in which new ideas are hatched, new insights received, new callings heard. We need open space to know ourselves and others beyond our “doings.” We need a little quiet in which to hear God and our own hearts speaking—or not speaking.
I sense that I am entering a new season. If I rush to fill this now-vacated space in my life, I will lose the opportunity to really listen to my longings, to feel what I am aching and thirsting for. Sure, there is plenty of activity that I can stuff into that space, but if I move too quickly, if I don’t embrace this time of uncertainty as a gift, I risk filling time with that which is not life-giving, with that which can keep me busy but not fulfilled.
Isaiah speaks of God as someone who wants so much more for us than busyness. God’s life is abundant, and we are invited to share that abundance. But that means we need to develop a thirst for God’s way of life, a life marked by hospitality and kindness, mercy towards friend and enemy alike, and sacrificial love. It doesn’t come naturally to us which is why later in Isaiah 55 we find these words:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (vs. 8-9)
No, I don’t know God’s thoughts or ways, but I can thirst to know them. What about you? What do you thirst for?
Yours for the Kingdom,