My husband brought a beautiful birdbath home a few weeks ago, to my great delight. We have long had a feast of seed waiting for the neighborhood birds, but they have so far shown little interest. Perhaps a birdbath will draw them, I thought. Surely they would enjoy the clean, clear water! But no. They avoid the birdbath as surely as they avoid the bird feeders.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”, the old saying goes. I hope that at some point the birds will discover that my birdbath is preferable to the muddy spot below the garden, and come refresh themselves in it.
As a child, I dutifully followed the breadcrumbs laid out on the path for me, leading toward success and prosperity. And then one day, my life took a sharp turn onto a new trail when I caught the scent of living water. My soul found rest at its sweet source, its flow washing me clean, quenching my gnawing thirst.
It was by the waters of Strawberry Creek that he met me, with a taste of the supply to come. I felt his smile as I splashed around in the shallows of easy belief like I splashed in that creek, while he gently drew me into places where heaven’s current pulled me deeper into the adventure of trust.
It was in the waters of baptism that I claimed my place, my belonging in the heart of God, ducking under the ocean’s swell to declare it on the brink of adulthood.
In my Bible, I find a rushing torrent, sometimes refreshing, sometimes stinging as I come to terms with a God who doesn’t always behave like I think he should. It is there that he challenges my simplistic assumptions, calls me into the rapids where I must learn to swim in their flow. Where I find rigor and strength in the knowledge that I am not the arbiter of truth but rather, the discoverer of it.
One hot, dusty day Jesus sat down by a well owned by the outcasts of his time. It was to a woman there, weighed down with a long and unsavory story, that he made the most radical offer in history: living water. To her who was wracked with spiritual thirst, he came – not to the power brokers or smugly sufficient. No, it was to her, the least and cast down, as was his habit. And she drank. Gulped it down with an honest thirst, eyes brightening as her dried-up soul soaked it in, nourishing the neglected corners of her spirit, satisfying the silent ache. And she, now filled and overflowing, ran to tell.
What do you thirst for? Hope? Meaning? Where have you been left scraping the dry ground of futility, longing for a healing rain?
Perhaps you are like Hagar, a slave rejected and alone in the desert of hopeless circumstances. God came to her, met her by a spring in that parched land, bringing encouragement and comfort. “You are the God who sees me” she marveled, wiping the cool drops from her chin.
There was a rock at the end of the road where I often sat as a young woman, perched on the edge of our mountain. It was there that I poured out my heart, my tears, and my wonder under the welcoming gaze of heaven. I used to watch the summer storms come up the valley, the air becoming heavy with the scent of sage and life, the cooling breeze moving up the mountain pass to the end of Deerfoot Lane where I waited for the rain, waited for life to find me, fill me, carry me into hope.
That life has carried me all the way to here, where I set out the birdbath, offering refreshment in the woodland. Not unlike the friendship he extended to me, back by Strawberry Creek and at the end of Deerfoot Lane. Not unlike the precious book lying open on my lap. Not unlike the water of life I offered my children, back when they drank it down freely and with joy. I fill the birdbath like Hagar’s spring, ready for the thirsty wanderer. For one who, like me, will be captivated by the scent of water.