There is nothing like a crisp, clean, cold drink of water on a hot day. Especially after you have just hiked for 3 hours!
I’m not a hiker. I had one experience of hiking that pretty much ruined my taste for the sport…or adventure – however you choose to look at it. But over the weekend, something unusual got into me and I suggested that my husband and I take a hike together. He looked at me like I was a stranger, but I persisted with my suggestion.
Our usual routine on weekends away is that he gets up early and tackles some monster bike ride through new terrain, while I stay in pajamas and relish the quiet and have some undisturbed devotional time with God. This weekend, however, I threw out usual in an effort to join him in his pursuit of meeting God in the wonders of creation, and finding a new place to worship.
The hike wasn’t treacherous, by normal standards, but since I am not a hiker, it did have its challenges. If you’re a hiker, you would probably laugh at what I considered challenging, but in any case, it was a good workout for me. Our trek actually started downhill instead of up, because the trail led down to a beautiful river, where we sat down on a rock and ate our lunch together. It was picturesque and rewarding, and provided a few moments of deep admiration for God’s blessings.
After being refreshed at the river, we set off on the uphill climb. It wasn’t exactly unbearable, but there were a couple of moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass out or not. My breathing was labored, and we had to stop and rest for moments in between our ascent. Partway up the hill that felt like a mountain, we ran across a small, unimpressive waterfall that fed into a tiny little pool where people’s dogs were resting and drinking (you could comfortably fit about 3 medium-sized dogs in there). On the way down to the river, it had been a sightseeing attraction, more for the dogs’ enjoyment of it than for our appreciation of its provision. On the uphill journey, however, it took on a whole new nature.
By the time we approached the little waterfall, we were sweaty (did I mention it was 103 degrees out where we were?!) and thirsty, and our muscles were burning. There were no dogs at the little watering hole at that point in time, and it seemed to be a little slice of heaven just for us to rest in and admire. We stood by the water, taking in the natural beauty of it, and gearing up for the next leg of the journey.
Then it hit me. I was standing in front of a pure water source (not the little pool where the dogs had cooled their lower halves, but the fresh runoff from the rocks above), and this would be my only opportunity to refill my water bottle so I could make it to the top without getting dehydrated. It seemed like a bit of a hassle, because I would have to take my shoes and socks off, and wade into the pool, making my way over the rocks and to the rock wall where the water was cascading down in tantalizing showers. I considered not putting in the effort, and just doing my best to survive by rationing what I had left in my bottle. But something in me wouldn’t let the thought go.
I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking about going in to get some of the water, and he suggested I just take it from the pool. When I protested that the dogs had sat in it, he pointed out that it was a moving pool, and the water they had sat it had already run down and over the rocks in front of us. He was right, but I couldn’t shake the image, and I also didn’t want the muddy sediment from the bottom of the pool in my bottle…much less my body.
As we stood there, panting for the air we had spent on our climb and wrestling with whether or not to go in after pure water, I began to see a parallel between that water source and the little pool it fed into. I thought about our worship, and how God invites us to come near to Him – so near, in fact, that we are drenched in His goodness and have our thirsts quenched by the purity of His love. He invites us into actual encounters with His presence every time we enter into worship – so that we are refreshed and refilled in every part of our being.
I am privileged to know this kind of worship. I haven’t always. There were years where worship was a struggle for me. I loved the songs, but I couldn’t quite dive in with my whole self. Parts of me were reserved, held back by struggles I carried, fears and insecurities I wrestled with, doubts about God and religion and the people worshipping around me, distractions in the surrounding elements, and even the weight of unprocessed traumas and unforgiveness I was carrying in my heart. I wanted a deeper experience of worship, but I couldn’t seem to get past the muddy pool in front of me, and so had to settle for standing in the crowd, drawing what I could from it all.
I still remember the day that changed for me. The Holy Spirit poured into my heart like a waterfall, displacing everything that I just mentioned, and I felt as if my worship was unchained, and unrestrained from that moment on (it has been a freedom I have had to protect, however, because it is a space in my heart that many things try to squat in).
It is difficult for me now to be in a setting where worship is taking place, and to not come undone in the presence of God. I am often the loud one in the room, sometimes pouring all I have at the feet of Jesus. Not to make a spectacle (actually, sometimes I have to wrestle down the reservations about that). But because I recognize the opportunity in front of me to drink deeply from the pure source of living water that I once could not get access to.
Many people settle for the little pool experience, the second-hand version of worship, like the dogs I mentioned earlier (not comparing people to dogs, of course!). They come near enough to get a little refreshed, to sit in the atmosphere of worship and to get a little taste – even if it’s muddied by the extra stuff that’s present. We admire the singers, maybe the musicians, and we appreciate their sincere devotion to God. We may even be thankful for their devotion, because it provides something for us to taste of God, like a concert provides a connective experience through music, that leads us to feel more satisfied than when we came in. It’s a nice little taste that we feel blessed to have, and it helps us to appreciate the rest of a church service well, or to take on the rest of our day feeling more full.
There are scores of people who live here, never taking off their shoes and wading over to the rock that pours pure water out, never getting underneath the actual stream of God’s purity and passion and provision. I can tell you that there is nothing like it in all the world!
As I stood by that little waterfall, being impacted by a bigger-picture revelation, I knew I was standing in a moment that shouldn’t be passed up. I knew that, even if only for the sake of experiencing the fullness of the metaphor, I needed to take the opportunity I had been offered. Who was to say if I would ever come across that waterfall again? And if God intended to bring me into a greater understanding of the gift of true worship by fully embracing that little slice of Heaven, why wouldn’t I seize it?
Well, seize it I did! Off came my shoes and socks, and I waded across those rocks with my water bottle until I reached the rock wall. It wasn’t a long stretch, nor treacherous. Just inconvenient. But SO worth it!! That water was sweet, clean, and more refreshing than I had imagined. And as I stood there, filling my bottle and enjoying sips in between, a little rainbow appeared, touching the edge of my hand as it met the flowing water.
I’ve tried to chase a rainbow before. I was sure I could get to the end of it. I didn’t expect to find the proverbial pot of gold or anything like that, but I thought it would be interesting to see where it landed, how it touched the tangible. I got as close as I could, but it always eluded me, never revealing its end. Yet, here I stood in a waterfall, and I could actually touch (or rather be touched by) a rainbow!
I know there is scientific reasoning behind the manifestation of rainbows in water sources, but I’m much too much of a worshipper to settle for just that. As I was in the middle of a spiritual revelation about the nature of true worship, I wholeheartedly accepted that rainbow as a sign of the beauty found in encountering God through worship, and about how all of His promises unfold in His presence.
It is when we move past the outer experience of other people’s worship – the pool of kinda pure water – and into a personal encounter with God (coming close enough to taste the purity of His love and holiness) that we begin to not only understand, but become recipients of His amazing promises. He unfolds promise as we draw near and come to know Him, as we dare to take the opportunities He presents us with daily to take off our shoes and wade into the waters that serve as a buffer, and determine to seek Him in all His fullness, for ALL He is.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, God is so good! His love for you is amazing, and He died so that you could go deeper in your experience of it, not just sit on the sidelines and watch others draw little bits of refreshment from the runoff. He is YOUR portion, and wants to delight your heart and soul! May you recognize the moments before you when God is drawing you a little deeper, a little closer, where He can fill You with what your soul is thirsting for. He is worth pursuing! Don’t let those moments pass you by! Go for the gold of His presence, the purity of the living water that will keep your soul satisfied while you journey through this treacherous, earthly life. He waits at every resting place to encounter and refresh You!