Wineskins Archive

December 10, 2013

My Cross, My Thirst (Apr 2012)

Filed under: — @ 9:51 am and

By Jennifer Gerhardt

Jesus once said, sitting with a woman beside a well, “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.” He said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

I love this image of Christ as a never-ending source of life, of his people as river-bearers sending out cool, rushing herald-channels of immortality.

My problem is that I don’t always feel like a river-bearer. Sometimes, I do; I see the life in me spilling out like it should, leaving beautiful puddles in my wake. But not always. Every so often I feel a little more like a desert, this world having wrung me dry. And here is where another set of words from the mouth of Christ moves me—two words spoken from the cross: “I thirst.”

How is it possible for the source of living water to thirst? For me, the truth, weight, tragedy, and joy of the cross dwell here, in two words uttered by the one person who should never have said them. It took the whole of humanity to wring Christ dry, and of course He offered the water freely, but in those final moments on the cross He wanted for water and there was none to drink.

When I think of taking up my cross as Christ did and commands me to do, I know I will be, somehow, thirsty, even as the very act of taking up that cross ensures Christ’s living water springing up in me, welling up to eternal life.

I have experienced the springs and rivers of life with Christ, rivers that flow when my friends and I dream up big ways to love our neighbors. Rivers that flow when I hike with my daughters in spring, looking for bugs, animals, signs of God. And rivers that flow when my husband and I counsel young, soon-to-be-marrieds on the joys of love lived well.

But I thirst, too. I thirst when I witness division and bickering among my brothers and sisters. I thirst when good people in solid marriages divorce. I thirst when I have given all the money I have to give and still children in Africa die of starvation or AIDS or gunshot. I thirst when friends move away. Or die. And I will thirst for literal water this sure-to-be-hot Texas summer.

That’s the paradox of living a post-cross and cross-bearing life—that we have unlimited access to the living water of Christ and simultaneously are thirsty for more. Bearing the cross is desiring more–knowing it exists, and knowing you can’t yet have it in full.

In Revelation 21, John foresees the coming of Christ, “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” He hears Jesus proclaim, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” And then John, the one who recorded Jesus’ words to the woman by the well and the only gospel writer to document Jesus’ thirst on the cross, hears these words:

“To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

My cross—part of it anyway—is my thirst. One day, one glorious day, I will lay it down.

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