Saturday, July 12, 2014

Holy Water

"A Stream in the Desert"

In these summer months, people everywhere are heading out to mountain lakes and oceanside villas to take advantage of cool refreshing water on a hot summer's day. And while I love the ocean and find a lake to be restful and refreshing, there is nothing like living in a desert to make you appreciate just exactly how important water really is.

July is the hottest month of the year out here - daytime temperatures hover at around 112 degrees and it doesn't drop down to much below 80 at night.  They tell us that, to avoid dehydration, we should be drinking about 5 liters of water every day. I can't ever remember a time when I drank so much water, but I also know that if I don't, I immediately start to feel sick and wilted. In fact I have noticed that if I start to feel dehydrated and I drink a long tall glass of fresh cool water, I "immediately"perk up - it's like taking some kind of miracle drug that has instant effects.

Here in the desert I have come to appreciate water as far more than a source of rest and recreation. Water is literally the source of survival- even more important than food. In the desert we treat water with great respect - all water out here is "holy water." 

It's no wonder that the Bible should be so rich in "water in the desert" metaphors. After all, the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are desert religions. They have their origins in the desert regions of the Middle East, and the stories of these traditions are desert stories. 

I am thinking about one particular desert story found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The people of Israel have been exiled from their homeland. Their conquerors have sent them away to live a life of captivity in the desert, in a foreign land where they languish dried up and parched.  Then, in the midst of this driest of places they discover that they have not been abandoned.  The abiding Holy Presence is among them and they still have one another. They hear the good news that they will be returned to their homeland as the Prophet Isaiah offers words of refreshment: 

I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
 I will fill the desert with pools of water.
Steams fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.

This story of exile is not just some historical account of things that happened to the Hebrew people centuries ago. Like all biblical stories, this story is a rich metaphor about the "spiritual journey," applicable to any human being who walks through the wilderness of life, sometimes feeling lost, alone and in exile, dried up and parched.

I think about the wilderness where I live - it is much like the desert of the biblical stories and my desert home make these biblical stories come to life for me. 

On the surface it all looks so desolate, parched and dry (especially in these summer months),  but in reality there is an abundance of water out here. Aquifers, streams of water, flow just beneath the surface of the parched dry soil - that's why crops and flowers grow here and how human life is sustained. There are many places not far from my house where I can find a desert stream fed by an underground spring flowing across the parched land.

And so, the desert teaches me a powerful life-lesson. 

In those times and places of life when I feel the driest, cool refreshing water flows just beneath the surface -a Holy Presence abides and people surround me to refresh, encourage and sustain me along the way. I am never left alone - never hung out to dry and to wither away. 

So I drink deeply on this hot summer's day - there is "Holy Water" everywhere!

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