I am a prairie girl. Currently, I live on a rainy, well-watered, thickly-treed peninsula of the north. Lack of water is not a problem here. On the prairie, it’s a different story. The Great American Desert, pioneers called it as they headed west from Kansas City. The trees of the Ozarks disappeared behind them and before them spread the prairie, the panoramic view unimpeded all the way to the western horizon. No trees. Enormous sky. Blazing sun.
Where is the water? Finding it is a matter of life or death. Miss it, and you die.
A prairie girl knows where the water is. Each stream and river is conspicuous—trees line the banks. This is the only place trees grow naturally on the plains. They can live nowhere else.
Need water? Shield your eyes and scan the horizon. Look for the trees and scrub brush that edge the muddy creeks that flow into the muddier rivers. There it is. Need to dig for water? Find the largest, oldest, stateliest tree. Its roots have found their way to the source of water deep within the earth—the tree’s height testifies to its find. Prairie living teaches many analogies.
“Where is the water?” a woman of Samaria asked the Savior.
Through hostile territory, he had come just to speak to her. It was a divine appointment. Weary from the strenuous hike to get there on time, he had positioned himself by the well, awaiting her appearance. She came at an odd hour for drawing water—high noon; he had known she would and had pushed himself to get there.
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT).
Need water. Find the tree. Need living water. Find the Savior. He’s already waiting for you.
The demarcation is as clear as a sentinel tree on the open prairie. There is no other source of satisfying water. And God knows how we’ve searched for it. O Lord, how we’ve tried!
The water we’ve filled ourselves with is polluted with desires and fulfillments that destroy the heart and wreck the body. The dirty water may seem to satisfy for a season, but its end is death under the hot sun. Sooner or later, our own water poisons us. We discover that our self-sufficiency, our filling of our hearts’ needs with sex, money, alcohol, work, play (fill in the blank) leaves us empty, lonely, broken, and unfulfilled. Always thirsting, we move on to the next pursuit. Our lives are a drought. Desperate for a drink, we run for the next line of trees on the horizon, looking for better water.
The desiccated Samaritan woman thought her source of water would satisfy—it was the water of her ancestors: the habits, customs, ways, and heritage into which she had been born. Surely, it would meet her needs. Yet her life was a desert; she’d had the brokenhearted experience of having loved and lost five husbands. She was living with another. Using and being used. All dried up. Why?
Jesus told the woman, “Anyone who drinks this water [our own water] will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13, 14 NLT).
The water the Savior gives is himself—the placing of his own Spirit within the believer who puts their trust in him. Those who are cognizant of their complete inability to ever find their own satisfying water entrust their life to him and find the life-giving water.
“I am HE,” the Savior tells the parched woman (and me). “I AM the long-awaited One. I will fill you up.” Delighted, gasping, breathless, she dashes to proclaim the news to her entire village.
They run to the living water, and Jesus begins the work. The Father wants worshipers who know they can’t find their own water—they’ve tried; it cannot be done. His worshipers must be truthful enough to confess this about themselves. Thirst slaked, these then worship in spirit and in truth.
“You are the water I seek,” I say to the Savior. “My own water poisons me. Fill me up with you, Living-water Lord of my life, provider of the only water that quenches. Draw my roots deep into you. Make me a tall tree that testifies to the true source of the living water.”