May 19, 2009

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13, 14

My daughter Mimi’s goal is to go to all fifty states. Most we’ve gotten to over the years on family vacations, two she went to on her own, and three more she and I visited together. Only Alaska and Hawaii left to go—and Joe definitely wants to be on those trips!

Arkansas is one of the states Mimi and I traveled to last year. We snagged a great airfare to Little Rock, stayed there a couple of days, then drove over to Hot Springs National Park, about an hour away.

As you might guess, this park is all about water. In fact, the most popular thing to do is take a bath! So we did. We bought a package deal at our hotel for a massage and a soak, believing we would immerse ourselves in the aforementioned hot springs.

It wasn’t until nearly a year later, as I researched and wrote a short article about Hot Springs for Midwest Living (which will run in the September/October issue) that I found out only a few spas actually use the water from the springs—and ours wasn’t one of them! Upon reflection, I realized our hotel didn’t say it used the spring water—I just assumed it did. The places that actually do use the hot springs, I found out, specifically say so.

This discovery gave me a good laugh, but didn’t really bother me. All sorts of healing and medicinal properties were attributed to the hot springs in years past, but the park service makes no claims about either drinking or bathing in the water. And doctors don’t prescribe “taking the waters” as a cure, like they used to. We didn’t miss anything by not soaking in the “real” springs—all we cared was that the water was clean and hot!

I thought about the spiritual implications of this mix-up after a recent conversation at a writer’s conference. One woman proclaimed that nowhere in the Gospels (the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) did Jesus say He was God (actually, He did, in John 10:30). Another stated her opinion that what was spiritual truth for one person wasn’t necessarily truth for someone else. “But how can there be more than one truth?” I replied. “Truth is, by definition, objective. Something is either true or it’s not. In addition to proclaiming His deity, Jesus said He is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ [John 14:6]. So either He is who He says He is, or He’s a nut job and shouldn’t be paid any attention to.” (If you’ve read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis—p. 28—or Josh McDowell’s story in Skeptics Who Demanded a Verdict, you might recognize this line of reasoning).

My words didn’t go over very well, needless to say, and the three people who had invited me to their table quickly made excuses to go elsewhere. It was pretty obvious that when having the right information really mattered, they were quite content dabbling in “water” of their own making, either ignorant of or indifferent to its source, and to the One who makes very specific, life-altering claims, like this one from Jeremiah 2:13: “’My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’”

Sadly, I recognized that I also am sometimes guilty of trying to fill myself up my own way. Too often I carve out a personal reservoir of self-sufficiency, pouring in everything I find meaningful—work, family, friends, experiences—only to find that it’s a leaky container and I can never quite get enough. God never promised me those things would always satisfy me, any more than the hotel Mimi and I stayed at said we were soaking in the “official” hot springs.

But God does guarantee His spring of living water never runs dry, and I only have to plunge back in to find relief. My prayer is that you too will accept no imitations, but soak, drink and revel in the refreshing fountain of life that is the real deal.

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