My soul thirsts for you…as in a dry and weary
land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1
The Season of Lent is a time when many people of faith focus more deeply on their spiritual lives. The forty days of Lent are a reminder of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying before the start of his Galilean ministry. Jesus was famished, according to the scripture, hungry and thirsty after those forty days in the desert. It was then that the devil came to tempt Jesus with food, material possessions, and power.
We are famished. We, too, hunger and thirst for more than what we have. There are many people in our communities and throughout the world for whom hunger and thirst is not simply metaphorical; rather impoverished conditions have created a real need for food and water. But there are many people who are able to meet their basic, physical needs. And yet, they are still thirsty. Thirsty for connection. Thirsty for money. Thirsty for power. Thirsty for more.
It is this thirst that both tempts us away from and draws us to the Divine.
1. Humanity longs for spiritual connection to God.
Throughout history, humanity has exhibited a longing for the Divine. World religions, from the mainline to the lesser known to the indigenous, are rooted in a belief that the physical world is not the end of existence. Belief in a Higher Power, whether called Jesus Christ, Brahmin, Allah, YHWH, or by other names, reflects this human longing for deeper meaning and spiritual connection. There has been much in the news lately about the problems caused by religion, that it is possible to lose sight of the many ways that faith improves our world. Many great thinkers and mystics, including Thich Naht Hahn, Thomas Merton, Rumi, Theresa of Avila, and others act as guideposts, pointing us toward the divine as the answer to our spiritual thirst. In the words of Augustine of Hippo, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”
2. If we seek spiritual growth, we will find it.
Hebrew and Christian scriptures are filled with promises that spiritual growth can be found by those who are willing to seek it. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, says, “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Similarly, Jesus promises, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7) We can seek after God through spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, study of sacred texts, fasting, and solitude. We can also seek spiritual growth through outward action, whether acts of service, acts of justice, and lives of simplicity. We can be people who, in the words of the Psalmist, “seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalms 34:14) Spiritual growth is not far from us. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is at hand, available to those who desire it and are willing to seek it.
3. Spiritual life quenches our deep thirst.
Not only is spiritual growth available to us all, but this spiritual life will satisfy our eternal thirst. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Our celebrity-obsessed culture suggests that if we have more of their things, do more of what they do, or even look more like they look, our lives will be more fulfilling. But pursuit of material success alone will leave us, paradoxically, more thirsty and more empty. This is because material things cannot satisfy the inner longing of the heart. This does not mean that we are all called to live an ascetic life devoid of material comforts and success. It is normal and acceptable to have material, financial goals and to enjoy those achievements. We should, however, recognize that external, material success will not bring the inner peace, joy, and fulfillment that can only be found through the interior life of spiritual growth and development. In the words of the Gospel of John, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Meditation: Sit in a quiet space. Pay attention to your breathe, inhaling and exhaling. Acknowledge, without judgment, the longing that you feel, whether physical, material, or financial. Then, pay attention to the deeper thirst of your heart. How will you seek the Lord today?