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Out Our Way: I didn't know I was thirsty! - Jeremiah 2:13/John 7:37-38


Last updated 10/9/2020 at 11:51am

Out our way, when Charlie and I worked the herds on the Tiger Ridge, neither of us thought to carry a canteen. Even the modern types you can clip to the saddle tend to get in the way, but the truth is, I just didn’t think about it. Pushing a bunch of stubborn cows most of the day along the old road or cattle trails to where they needed to go, watching for those strays that wander off, chasing the ones that bolt from the herd and have to be cut off and driven back, tended to take up my attention.

After we finished for the day, loaded up the horses and drove back to town, I was still pretty excited as working cattle was still pretty new and exciting to me. Coming home, I felt a little dusty, so before showering, I got a glass of water. Whoa! Suddenly I realized how thirsty I was — for one glass was succeeded by another and often a third. My body craved water and I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t know I was thirsty until I took that first swallow.

In a similar way, my prayer life and time with the Lord has been much like getting that sip of water. I get busy with the everyday things in life and am often so distracted that I forget God. But then, it sometimes happens that something — Someone — sort of taps me on the shoulder and reminds me. I open the scripture, or read a devotion, or simply think maybe I ought to pray a bit, even if I don’t feel like it. And suddenly I realize my soul is dry and dying of thirst. “Like the woman at the well I was thirsty … ” (Re-read John 4:7-26).

There are a lot of folks dying of spiritual thirst these days, and we see the signs of such drought all around us. So many unhappy, rude and self-centered souls shriveling up. We see it on the street, in the school, on the news and even in the church. And most don’t even know they are thirsty.

For whatever reason, German is commonly the language of modern theology. The word “Zeitgeist” — Spirit of the times — is a classic example one hears and sees quite often, but I recently found a new one that I like even more — the term “umwelt.” I have mentioned it before in these columns, and the word means “surrounding world” and refers to how limited or expansive our awareness is. Think of a bubble in which nothing outside it is noticed, seen or cared about. A very selfish person who only cares about him/herself has a very small “umwelt.” A person who is less self-centered and seeks to expand their world to include far more than self, has a larger “umwelt.”

When you see a shriveled up plant dying in a drought, you know it is thirsty and needs water. Same with a shriveled up soul. But sadly, most such folk don’t know they are thirsty. Instead of peace they know only anger, frustration, and helplessness for which they blame everyone else. They are so protective of their “space” that anyone who is outside it is suspect and to be treated with distrust. 

Well, what can we do? First, we need to realize we are thirsty and tap into the living waters ourselves so that we can grow and expand our own “umwelt” to truly embrace others. Second, keep watering the soul, for those who know they are thirsty and drink of the Living Water may, by example, encourage others to do the same. As we begin to flourish, some, who are presently in their self imposed drought , may realize they are thirsty and start to seek the Living Waters as well. Third, we can start to “pray for rain” for those parched souls around us who have yet to discover they too are thirsty. That first taste of the Living Water may open them to want more, for the One who offers it sends it to all who will drink of it.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Brother John


The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write “Out Our Way.” He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected]


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