As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)
In California’s Imperial Valley, deep in the Sonoran Desert, there’s a shallow man-made lake called the Salton Sea. The area was formerly a resort destination for Hollywood celebrities back in the 50’s and 60’s. The problem is that over the years the lake has receded to where now the only growth found there is that the lake continues to dry up, and the dry lake bed continues to get larger and larger. The reason is obvious and simple: the lake no longer is being fed by the Colorado River like it once was.
If you’ve been in ministry very long at all, you’ve probably had to confront this issue head on. No, not supplying water to a physical lake, but supplying refreshing water to our spiritual well being. Whether you’re a pastor, professor, or whatever your profession, this is a dangerous reality we deal with in our calling where we get caught up in the rigorous demands of what we do. Every day we are called on to pour out, pour out, and pour out some more. We have to understand that our relationship and walk with Christ isn’t static and we need to be conscious of what’s going in and what’s being poured out.
Our need for the Gospel is still great today. In some ways the chiseling and growth that needs to take place is even more challenging because what’s different today than when we first started following Jesus is we have more degrees and more experiences and maybe we’ve even gotten pretty good at what we do. So what I’m finding in my heart is there’s a greater tendency to trust… ourselves. We trust our abilities, we trust our decision making, we bank on our experiences in ways that could be unhealthy.
All these things aren’t bad things, and in many settings are good and useful, serving us well. But I wonder if some of these things can inadvertently sabotage us in small ways? They do if they lessen our sensitivity and ability to hear and obey the Spirit. They do if they cause us to listen less or be quick to show fruit that overflows from a Spirit-filled life. They do if we condition ourselves to move forward without the much necessary time spent with our advocate, our helper, our guide. We know that without a steady intake, a fresh source, it doesn’t take very long to dry out.
I have known this truth for most of my life and yet I sit here today, at the end of another week feeling the malnourished effects of another week that I’ve run hard and served hard and poured hard. In the quietness of the moment, if I’m being truly honest and transparent, I’ve pushed aside some of the fresh water that I know my soul so desperately needs. In the deep crevices of my soul I don’t really want to run today, or serve, or even pour. In the quietness of the moment I feel a greater weight to the Psalmist’s words deep within me that as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God (Psalm 42). I want to retreat and simply to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27). I know that’s exactly what I need to do, so to take action, I don’t try and pour a cup of water on a malnourished lake bed, but I run to the source of flowing, refreshing water that is going to fill me and equip and steady me for the ministry God is inviting me to do today.
If that’s you today, take the extremely simple spiritual exercise below and allow it to move back towards the radiant, overflowing river God designed you to be.
(1) Pray: Sit in silence and solitude. Notice how uncomfortable it makes you because it’s so different from your routine. That’s kind of the point. Our bodies are so conditioned to go and move and have constant stimulation. Your body needs a routine jolt. As you pray, start with telling God all the things you know Him to be. Allow this to settle yourself and begin to feel the smallness of you and the mightiness of Him. This perspective and posture is important and realigns us.
(2) Eat: Once you feel like you’re in the right posture to hear, open the Scriptures and read. Note that you’re not doing this for any reason other than to hear from God. You’re not doing this for an upcoming sermon, or lecture, or anything else. You need this to thrive and overflow where God has given you influence. Be willing as you read for the Spirit of God to stop you on a particular verse or thought. Just like a piece of food that hits you just right, enjoy it…savor it.
There are obviously lots of other steps I could add, but do you really need more steps? I really think these are the two steps that will be your best step towards being replenished with the living water Jesus described to the woman at the well in John 4. He said the water that I will give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. May our thirsty souls settle for nothing else today that we also might also say, Sir, give me this water.