“He longs for you. He thirsts for you… My children, once you have experienced the thirst, the love of Jesus for you, you will never need, you will never thirst for these things which can only lead you away from Jesus, the true and living Fountain. Only the thirst of Jesus, feeling it, hearing it, answering it with all your heart will keep your love… alive. The closer you come to Jesus the better you will know His thirst.” – Mother Teresa
As I continue writing my thoughts during Lent this year, I find that every significant spiritual experience in my personal faith journey so far is coming up each week. Without my having planned it really, it is helping me put into words why I believe and how it all connects right back to the cross. In my effort to give this gift to you of writing my thoughts, I am actually giving myself a gift, too. These reminders are renewing my faith in profound ways; so, thank you.
In this week’s Lenten study, Final Words from the Cross, Adam Hamilton discusses one of the final moments in the life of Jesus when he uttered, “I thirst.” I didn’t expect to connect so personally to these particular last words. In fact, when I saw that these are the words we’d cover this week, I nodded and said to myself, “This is yet another revelation of his humanity, so I’m curious about what else Hamilton can discuss.” But as I read the chapter and thought more about it and ran across Mother Teresa’s above words, I came to yet another revelation about my faith — a reminder of my own spiritual thirst and of God’s for me.
Hamilton writes that John’s Gospel is the only one that records this particular statement by Jesus and that John often hints at deeper interpretations of seemingly unimportant statements. For the words, “I thirst,” we find that again, there are a number of interpretations of this deeper meaning. Hamilton discusses these as well as other Gospel accounts, and each has significance for me. Yet he covers one interpretation that really strikes me. He refers to John 4:10: “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask of me and I would give you living water and you would never thirst again.” And John 7:37: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” Hamilton makes a strong point that it is indeed significant that “the one who offers living water is now thirsty himself” (Hamilton 95). Could this possibly mean that the thirst Jesus felt was also for you and me? And that if we are to follow him, we need to understand that thirst?
Well, as scary as this is for me right now, I want to write about a particular experience of my own recognition of this thirst in my life. Fifteen years ago, at the age of 25, I don’t think I realized the depth of God’s love for me until I went on a weekend-long silent retreat. As you know, I’m not Catholic, but a friend who is very dear to me invited me to attend with his group. I was in such a difficult place in my life at the time. I’ll be honest. I was completely lost in all aspects — relationships, career direction, financial, loneliness… I figured, “Why not?” It turned out to be one of the most important things I ever did in my life.
The priest explained something on the very first night that I had never truly heard in the way he described. He said that God comes to us and that God wants a relationship with us. In fact, God passionately wants a relationship with us. As I write this, the word “thirst” comes to mind. I recognized in that moment as a young, lost adult that I was desperately “thirsting” for God as well, and I was realizing for certain that the feeling was mutual. Before that, I didn’t believe He was really seeking me (an insignificant person). However, after that first night of the retreat, I decided to open myself up and listen to Him for the full weekend.
Well, He had a lot to say to me. Thank goodness I brought a blank notebook and a pen. I wrote my prayers down as well as my thoughts on what I was reading or hearing in the sessions and about what I felt like God was saying to me as I walked around the beautiful grounds of Saint Ignatius Jesuit Retreat Center. I even wrote about what I was feeling as I sat with my group during meals. It was a beautiful and enlightening weekend that actually changed my life in numerous ways.
I remember on the very last morning of my retreat weekend I sat alone outside, far away from everyone, staring out at the gorgeous view. I said to God aloud, “I think I understand all that you want me to do, but I’m scared. The changes are huge, and I don’t know if I have the strength to make it all happen. Please help me.” Boys, I won’t go into detail about what all of those things were, but I will tell you that within a week, my life had moved into a completely different direction. I recognized that the brokenness I had felt was caused by earthly desires and pressures and that if I turn to Him first, He will lead me. That very week, my self-concept and attitude about my life shifted into promise and hope. I finally felt worthy again — worthy of God’s thirst for me. I mattered.
We all matter. We are all worthy and loved. He thirsts for every single one of us. Princes, I pray that as you read this in 2030, you feel worthy and truly recognize at the core of your being the thirst God has for you, and that Jesus suffered in order to satisfy it. I believe we are all created to thirst for a relationship with our Creator and “the true and living Fountain.” Drink up and open yourself up to give it back to Him and to His creation.
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