read John 7. Sometimes we feel like we were made for more than this. Some of us walk around waiting to be “discovered” – as if casting agents roam the streets salivating for a glimpse of us. Most of us feel sure – especially when jobs like toilet cleaning or diaper changing are on offer – that people underestimate our value. As the days slip away, and wrinkles crop up, we wonder if we aren’t missing out on something – like a Broadway career, a primetime t.v show or a political office. Sometimes people egg us on down this road to grandiosity by telling us “the world” needs us. Sometimes we hoist our ambitions so high we can’t even see them. There is a strange trembling balance between enjoying every aspect of our life – with the serenity of a monk who can wander in a garden gazing at little flowers – and yet using our gifts in wild wonderful risky ways.
Has anyone ever said to you: “you can’t become famous if you hide like this!!!!” Or have you heard the thought in your own head? “What am I doing hiding like this?? I need to go out, out, into the wild blue yonder, and …..” It’s not quite clear what is waiting for us, Out There, but its call is loud, clear and persistent.
Jesus’ brothers said the same thing to him: “You can’t become famous if you hide like this.” It’s somewhat ironic, given that Jesus ended up becoming one of the most “famous” men who ever walked the earth – even measured by the world’s standards. The fascinating thing is that his brothers didn’t say it out of well-meaning intentions, as in: “we know, dear brother, that you are the Son of God, and we want everyone to get a chance to know you, because you are so wonderful.” Nope. They said it because “even his brothers didn’t believe in him.” John 7:5. It’s interesting, right? The people who told him to “stop hiding” did it out of a negative heart.
Why? I love Jesus’ answer. It’s sounds like something straight out of Codependent No More. “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime.” John 7:6. It’s that, “you can do what you want, but I’m doing something different” philosophy – the one that’s so hard it has people buying books by the millions and attending Al-anon meetings in droves.
So this is where the text gets really strange. After putting up this big stink, and saying he couldn’t go because the world “hated” him, Jesus goes anyway: “after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.” John 7:10. He must have heard a lot about Himself. John says not one person “had the courage to speak favorably about him in public.” John 7:13. So Jesus goes up to the Temple and begins to teach. Why did he go, right after telling his brothers he wouldn’t? Was he doing what the rest of us do – sitting on our high horse long enough to make the point – and then scuttling off to go do what everyone else does? No, because unlike us, Jesus is perfect. He says here that his message is not His own: “it comes from God who sent me.” John 7:16. So apparently God can tell us to stay when others go; and to go after others have gone. God seems to have his own timetable. We’ve all heard the expression: “he beats to a different drum.” Usually it’s said by a frustrated father, trying to find a silver lining in his son’s drug-infested rebellion. But Jesus, unlike the rest of us, really does beat to a different drum. He listens to the sound only of God. We, too, would be perfect if we did that. But who can?
The good news is, we may not always, or often, obey God, but we all have thirst. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to how your heart leaps up when you hear Jesus say these words: “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” John 7:37-38.
We’re all thirsty, and we’re all sick of having everyone around us turn off the tap. They’re hungry, tired, grumpy, mean and just plain tired. They can’t fill us – not for long, anyway. Why? Because we all have an insatiable thirst. It’s not just the alcoholics who can’t stop – their thirst may be more obvious because it makes them stumble, fall down, lose their jobs, families and health – but the rest of us are insatiably thirsty, too. And no one, no one, can satisfy us fully.
How do we know? Because we feel RELIEF when we hear that there is someone to whom we can take our thirst, who will always give us a drink. Thank goodness, our heart responds, when we hear Jesus say this. We try to suppress our knowledge of the depth of our thirst, but it’s there, all the same. And the more we walk this earth; the more our hearts are broken; the more people abandon and betray us; the more we discover how badly we abandon and betray others – even the ones we love – especially the ones we love; the more we discover the depth of our thirst. Because those heartbreaks start to give us a hint of what we’re really thirsty for.
It’s not, ultimately fame that we want, because if we think about it, we all know fame is fleeting – plus, it’s a pain in the butt, because honestly, who wants to be disturbed by fans every time we go for a stroll. What we really thirst for is righteousness. We thirst for a perfect world. We thirst for belonging. We thirst for a love that never walks into the arms of another woman, or another man. We thirst for integrity. We thirst for people who say something – and mean it. We thirst to be able to love others in a selfless, giving way. We thirst for health.
In other words, we thirst for the impossible. No wonder we try to deny our thirst. It’s overwhelming. Our need is overwhelming – and the thought that hounds all of us is that maybe, just maybe, there is no one who can satisfy our thirst. There is nothing to quench it. There is no eternal love. We are just dust and unto dust we shall return – and what could be thirstier than dust?
But no one has ever spoken like Jesus. John 7:46. No one has ever promised the impossible before – and actually done it. Lots of people promise the impossible: “I’ll love you forever. I’ll never leave you. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.” They may mean it. They may not. But they never come through. So here, at last, is the one person we can finally trust. Here, at last, is the person who offers living water – a solution as infinite as our need. Here, at last, is the one who poured out Himself as a living sacrifice – so that streams of living water could flow from our hearts. Here at last is the man we are thirsty for.
As always with the things of God, the most horrendous parts of us – our never-ending insatiable thirst – turns out to be the most beautiful. If we didn’t get our hearts broken by thirsting for the things of this world, things that disappoint us, we wouldn’t cry out, like men crawling through the deserts: “HELP ME GOD” And if we didn’t cry out, we wouldn’t find Him. We are crying out of our brokenness. We are crying out because we discover how stuffed full or pride we are. We are crying out because, yet again, we do the very thing we don’t want to do.
The deeper our thirst, the more deeply He can satisfy us. We were made for the kind of rivers Jesus gives us. Our hearts are dried up riverbeds, cracked and swollen, waiting for streams of living water to come flowing through them, overflowing not only our lives, but those of every person with whom we come in touch.
And with those streams of life, we discover that it doesn’t matter what we do or where we are. God transforms the mundane, so that even toilet scrubbing can be done with joy – at least, unless our hearts are breaking at that moment over something else. And he leads us on His timetable, just as He did Jesus, so that when the time is right – and not a second before – He gives us beautiful opportunities to use our gifts for His glory, not our own.
But we don’t need to show ourself to the “world” in order to find something we can’t find from God. We don’t need to do anything just to prove things to those who rejected us. Rejection causes heartbreak, yes. But our heartbreak is just the opening up of a deep fissure into our ever-present thirst. Our heartbreaks seem like the worst thing, but they’re really the best, because they open us up into more of Love. We are made for more than this. We’re made for Him.
And by the way, I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at trusting God, or doing things for His glory instead of my own – but I’m really really good at getting my heart broken. The good news is – that’s all we need. A broken heart opens us up to the Person for whom we’re made.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on April 12, 2012