We were driving down a winding road through dark New Hampshire woods. My husband of three days and I. We had just hiked to the top of a favorite mountain to watch the sun go down over Squam Lake, like we had done a year before when marriage seemed a far off dream. A mild May breeze floated through our open windows and I looked over to the driver’s seat. There he was, and even with the pipe in his mouth sending sweet smelling clouds into the night sky, I could see that he was smiling.
“What? Why are you smiling?”
He looked over to me, his eyes softening. “I’m just so…so…” sigh “…Content.”
My heart soared to the stars peeking through the treetops.
It is the feeling I get when hiking these Montana mountains. You climb and climb, lungs burning in the thin alpine air. You know the peak will come, but when you finally get there, you can’t believe your legs carried you that far. You pass through the last patch of trees and there is majesty. Landscapes stretching in front of you for miles, mountain ranges layering to the horizon, rivers and lakes and valleys below you like a painting. Standing on the precipice, exhaustion vanishes and you feel only supreme happiness. All is right in this big bright beautiful world. Your heart soars like the birds flying into the sun.
I treasure these memories because finding satisfaction is one of my major life struggles. Isn’t that the culture we live in? Buy this, look like this, have this kind of relationship, and then you will be happy…for a day, at least. Contentment is so elusive, always just beyond us. Sometimes I feel like I am always chasing after that feeling, that happy “high” feeling. Because most days aren’t honeymoons or mountaintops. Tomorrow I will wake up to a sink of dirty dishes and an overflowing basket of dirty laundry; I won’t get to it all because I have to walk to work and it might rain so I’ll need to remember my raincoat. My heart is not soaring; it’s on the cold hard ground of reality, craving more.
How will we cope? For years, living with an eating disorder was my coping mechanism. It was an effort to squelch soul desires for “more” by disciplining my body to live with less. I was starving myself, but the hunger inside me only grew, and it wasn’t just food I wanted. My search for satisfaction – in myself, in the approval of others around me – led to desperate measures, to the point that my distorted mind believed that by depriving my body, I might actually achieve fullness of soul. Though I have found recovery from much of those destructive eating habits, I still find myself looking to tangible things to fill intangible voids.
Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
I am the woman at the well. Coming with a jar of water while Jesus, the Fountain of Living Water is sitting there, waiting. Will I see Him? Will my heart burn at His words? Will I cry like the woman, “Give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water”? I need more than momentary sips.
Marriage often makes me feel happy and loved. But it cannot meet all my needs for identity, purpose, affirmation, redemption, and lasting joy.
Being in nature, eating good food, enjoying friendships, getting lost in a good book…these things bring pleasure and a sense of goodness and glory. But they cannot provide for my soul that longs for eternity.
These things in themselves will never be enough.
Standing there at the well, with my empty jar, I learn that I don’t just want More. I want Jesus in all of His life-giving, soul-restoring, sin-forgiving fullness. I don’t want a drop of water; I want the Fountain. One of the amazing things about knowing Jesus is that He promises to fill us up in such a way that we will never be hungry or thirsty again. He, Himself, will be the ultimate provision.
He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.
Revelation, the book of the Bible that describes the One Day when all things will be made right, paints a picture of eternity as feasting to fullness at the table of Christ:
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching hear. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water.
Daily satisfaction in Christ allows me to enjoy my circumstances and relationships without suffocating them with expectations to fulfill me. Expectations they can never meet. I am free to take joy in these things for what they really are – gifts from my Father who in Himself “will be the beginning, the middle, and the end of [my] perfect happiness.”*
Every day, even the mundane ones, I can lift my hungry soul to Jesus and ask Him to fill it with More, More of Himself. Instead of dwelling on what my life is not, I can rejoice in what it is. I have Jesus, with me always, and He is my substance. I can say: “It is enough”, and really, truly mean it. I can finally know what it is to be Grateful.
Will I come to the well, expecting springs of living water?
Maybe today my well will be a sink of dirty dishes. As I work through the sudsy pile, I look up. Out my kitchen window the sun is coming up behind the snow capped mountains.
And I let my heart soar…to heavenly places.
Scripture in order of appearance: Isaiah 55, John 4, Psalm 107, Revelation 7. *Quote by John Piper