From the moment that we were called into existence, we received a call to cross the desert of life. And no one can make it without water. Thus, we can summarize our existence with two words: “I thirst.”
From the wailing of birth to the silence of death, we experience an overwhelming urge to satiate this thirst that rumbles in us. Evidently, we not only thirst for water, but also for recognition, affection, for gestures of love: a motherly embrace, a paternal caress, a lover’s glance, a kiss of veneration, or simply a word of salutation.
This thirst, this desire that defines us is healthy, good, and beautiful. The challenge is to discern what is it that really satisfies our desire and where this desire is leading us.
As we see in today’s video, on this journey we come upon “water fountains” (i.e. sources of affection, recognition, etc.). These are meant to give us strength, courage, sustenance for the journey. They become temptations however when our fear of going without water leads us to latch on to them and abandon the journey forward.
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1. Latching on to the Fountain
We look up and see a long, dry, sandy road ahead with a burning hot sun above. Why not stay and rest a while? Thus, we latch on to the first fountain that we come upon. We begin to erect walls to protect it and construct houses to live comfortably nearby.
The problem is that these water fountains were never meant to carry enough water to satiate our thirst. And we neglect the fact that we are on our journey towards something greater, towards a fountain that will never run out, and so we refuse to move on. What was meant to serve as sustenance for the journey, is now finished and the path forward becomes all the more the difficult.
This is what happens every time we forget that our thirst can never be completely satiated with the “bottles” or “fountains” of this world. Even beautiful and healthy relationships can become obstacles when we begin to burden others with expectations that only God can fulfill. Relationships built purely on mutual gratification are destined to dry up. There is always some tinge of dryness, some shadow of fatality in purely human relationships.
Sooner or later, accusations will start to fly: “You don’t love me like you used to!” While many ever-so-wise psychologists will say breaking the relationship is the only way out, the first step is always to ask yourself: what am I truly looking for? Can anyone but God, that source of eternal water, be able to satiate this thirst?
Even on the greatest of days, something in our hearts wonders if the lover will love just as much the next day, and the next. When the day comes and that other fails to give what is expected, one begins to complain, criticize and condemn the other, as if the frustrated thirst within was the other person’s fault all along.
2. Drinking Sand
The water runs out. Now what do we do? There is really only one healthy option: follow the signs towards the source of all water fountains, those signs of conversion, spiritual growth, and purification that God places on our path. Unfortunately, that trail ahead isn’t always so inviting and it seems easier to just stay where we are at.
This is when we start drinking sand and convince ourselves that it’s water.
Every time we resort to false sources of affection and self-affirmation, we start drinking sand. This can include a wide range of things: gossip or insulting someone in order to feel better about oneself, feeling one’s need for affection and affirmation in activities such as pornography, masturbation, or purely carnal, mutually gratifying relationships.
Or every time we act simply to gain the approval from others: spending all of our energy for results so that others applaud us, lying in order to pander to another, dressing immodestly to attract attention, etc. Or all those medicines that we use to anesthetize the pain: alcohol, drugs, endless hours of video games or binge-watching series. The list goes on.
They take the edge off for a brief while. But if you listen to your heart afterward, it will be clear enough that you are drinking sand.
To be clear, it doesn’t matter how much sand you accumulate. No amount of power, pleasure or possession will satiate that thirst. No amount of publicity or self-delusion can transform sand into water. The quicker you accept this, the quicker you can begin to drink.
3. Never stop seeking the Oasis
Today’s world is impregnated by a spirit of competition. Water is scarce, we are told. Gild yourself with accomplishments, titles, cars, houses and plastic surgery. Only those who reach the impossible goal of worldly perfect can taste of that ever elusive water. Every achievement, every satisfaction demands another to follow upon the last without ever giving us the promised satisfaction.
This is the mentality of those who depend on the water fountains of this world because they are limited and finite. We envy those who have more and fear those who have less. Even before the glass is empty, our thirsty eyes are on the hunt for the next prey.
This never-ceasing race can tire and frustrate us so much that sometimes we even begin to ask what’s the point of it all. Disappointment soon becomes depression. What once got us up in the morning now leaves us lying flat on our backs, motionless. We begin to allow the poison to indifference to seep into our hearts.
But what if we were able to reach an oasis, a place where the water never ran out? Our thirst is infinite; nothing else can quench it. We need living water, an infinite source that never ceases to satiate. We must seek for it!
This is the life-or-death option that we must take every day. Every time we refuse to move on, we only become weaker for an already fatiguing journey. While we think we are building a comfortable home, in reality we are doing nothing but embellishing our own grave, for when the water runs out, death is soon to follow.
Here lies the whole point of the desert. Like the Israelites who had to pass 40 years in the desert, it is in the desert where God “speaks to our hearts”. God leads us through the desert for one reason alone: He loves us too much to leave us where we are at.
Amongst the many trials, it is here that we learn to purify our desires and discover what it is that we were truly seeking. When Christ says that we must lose our lives to gain it, it is because we have to let go of the limited sources of water in our life in order to receive the gift of his eternal gift of water. We have to empty our hands so that He can give us more! The tighter we latch on, the less He can give us (and we must trust that God truly wants to give us all that our hearts desire!).
4. What happens when we reach the Oasis?
When speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus says: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
Those who undertake the difficult journey are promised an eternal source of living water. Not only do they find the Source of all water, but this spring of living water takes up its dwelling within them. With this comes freedom from endless competition and isolating jealousy.
The fear of losing is replaced with the security of eternal receiving. The spirit of possession transforms into the spirit of grateful giving. The more we are convinced of its abundance, the more we will find the courage and trust to become ever more generous in giving to others.
This is the great lesson passed on to us by the saints: once they allowed the endless spring to well up within their hearts, they too became like springs of living water, pouring themselves out endlessly to fill the empty hearts of those weary travelers who passed by.
**Evidently, the video is not a religious video so the final “oasis” scene is not exactly what I have in mind but the message is clear enough.