Jesus said to her, “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
On Monday, my son Ro and I left town to climb Centennial Peak which overlooks Mancos from the east. The drive to Sharkstooth Pass Trailhead which leads up Centennial is always an adventure. The last mile and a half of forest service road is a maze of sharp rocks which easily puncture tires and the nearly impassable road is full of deep potholes which our Jeep Cherokee bottoms out in.
When we make it to the trailhead, Ro and I get out, stretch, check the underside of the car for any leakage, and breathe a sigh of relief when we find none. We apply sunscreen, recheck our water bottles and food supply, and start walking up hill. I tap the trailhead sign for good luck as we disappear into the dense forest of spruce and fir trees.
Morning shadows grace the forest floor in silence as the rising sun nestles down from the tops of multiple century old trees. The light touches the soil and plants burst forth and reach up towards the sun in a never-ending cycle of life, death, and new life. Ro and I walk in peace as “we disappear into something beautiful” as Mirabai Starr says.
A stream of ever-flowing water cascades over moss covered rocks and fallen trees. Any name for the creek would lessen its presence. I marvel at the dense vegetation that grows outward from the creek’s well of life, and I’m thankful for a clear trail to walk on. The abundance of plant life along the stream always makes me believe I’m walking through a Japanese garden instead of a high mountain forest.
Ro and I walk softly, aware that we are guests on hallowed ground. As we near a stream crossing, he steps off the trail and wanders towards a long, steep rocky slope which defines the edge of the forest. “Where are you going?” I ask.
He does not respond. Instead, when Ro gets to the base of the rocks, he drops down on his knees, bends over, and kisses a spring of water flowing from beneath the rocky slope. I did not see the spring from the trail. Ro drinks deeply and stands up smiling ear to ear. “I never go by this spot without getting a drink.”
“I didn’t even know there was a spring here, and I’ve walked this trail dozens of times.”
“Do you want a drink?” “Yes.” I walk up to the spring, empty my bottle filled with tap water in it and replace it with fresh spring water flowing from the mountain. I take a drink and say, “This is so cold and good.” “I always drink this water,” says Ro.
Is this the living water that Christ offers the woman at the well? Is it in plain sight and we just don’t see it? Is it everywhere but we don’t take the time to drink deeply?
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When we plunge our hand into it, all we feel is a caress. Water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember that we are half water. If we can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does,” says Margaret Atwood.
Does living water cleanse us of debris—worry, fear, and anxiety—and does living water fill us with hope, awe, and wonder at the same time? Is the interior life, a life of contemplation, a continuous flow where we fall into deeper pools of awareness of the divine which saturates creation and our very souls?
The woman at the well says, “Jesus give me some of this water so that I may never be thirsty,” (see John 4:15). What truly quenches our thirst for life?
Do we drink living water when we “disappear into something beautiful”? Something sacred?
We hold our child’s hand as we walk them to school. Our dog lays next to us when we are feeling down. Starr writes, “We curl up in bed with our dying friend,” and we experience a moment of divine love. A swallowtail butterfly rests on a yellow bloom. “The veil has been pulled back. Everything feels inexhaustibly holy,” Starr writes. Living water flows within us and from us, and the beauty holds us.
Through contemplative practice (prayer and stillness) our gaze turns inward “toward a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:12). “We glimpse the face of the Divine where we least expect it,” says Starr. The ordinary becomes extraordinary, holy and divine. Grace flows.
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it,” said Lao Tzu. And Jesus said, “I will give you living water and you’ll never be thirsty again.”
May streams of living water flow through our mountains and our hearts. May we drink living water forever more. Amen.
Blessings and peace,