A Thirsty Hike

When was the last time you were thirsty? I mean cotton-mouthed, cracked lips, throw caution to the wind and drink out of the water fountain at the mall thirsty.

Years ago when we were running multiple weeks of camp every summer, Aaron and I took our camp staff on a multi-day canoe trip down the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. The river meanders for over 100 miles through the towering sandstone and limestone bluffs of the Ozark Mountains in Northern Arkansas. This place is truly one of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever visited. And I could regale you for hours with tales from that week in the wilderness (like the time my cousin flipped his canoe because he was trying to kill a spider or the storm that stranded us for a day on a remote beach or the crazy raccoons that managed to open one of our five gallon buckets of food and eat corn starch of all things). But today I will only tell one story.

We were three days into our weeklong trip. When we planned our route, we plotted out campsites mostly along the banks of the river with two stops at actual campgrounds. Our first couple of days on the river were rough as our staff figured out the dynamics of cooking food, filtering drinking water, setting up and tearing down camp, and navigating canoes safely down the river. By the time we reached our first developed campground just after midday on the third day, our bedraggled group looked and smelled exhausted.

Aaron, my cousin, and I grabbed our less than half full water bottles and left the rest of our group with the canoes to walk up the trail to the ranger station to pay for a campsite. We had depleted our water supply over the morning of canoeing knowing we were headed for a campsite with water spigots.

Fifteen minutes into what we thought was supposed to be a five or ten minute walk, we paused to drink the last of our water. The trail was uphill and completely exposed to the midday summer sun. We poured sweat. The minutes stretched on. Still no ranger station. We trudged on in silence. Did we even have the right trail?

The rumble of a truck startled us from behind. We stepped aside to let it pass, but to our surprise, the driver halted. “Would you folks like a ride to the top?” he asked. Our parched mouths forced out an answer, “Yes! Please!”

We piled into the back of his pickup, and in a few short minutes we were standing on the porch of the ranger station filling our water bottles at the water fountain. The cool, fresh water flooded our desert-like mouths. Never before had water fountain water tasted so refreshing!

Consider the words of Psalm 63:

“O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will life up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.” -Psalm 63:1-5 NRSV

As I contemplate these words, I am struck by the psalmist’s thirst for God. In vibrant imagery, the psalmist describes how he yearns for God with every fiber of his being. His need for God, for communing with God is as important to his survival as water.

Detecting our need for water, food, and even sleep is easy. Our mouths feel dry, our stomachs grumble, our heads nod and our eyes droop. However, our need for God often goes undetected, buried beneath the demands of our jobs, the stacks of bills, the cries of our children, and the mundaneness of everyday life. But our need for God is great regardless of whether or not we detect it.

God is our source of life, our living water, our well that does not run dry, and our bodies yearn to commune with our Creator and bask in the warmth of his presence, soaking up his living water like a sponge. We desperately need to hear his whispers of love to our weary souls. We desperately need to experience the peace and wholeness that comes as a result of dwelling in his presence. We desperately need to be reminded of the infiniteness and power and glory of our great God. And we desperately need to lift our voices in spontaneous, joyful praises.

Our survival depends on it.

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