Ministry, Reflectionary

Natural Thirst

As pants the hart for cooling streams,
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.

For Thee, my God, the living God,
My thirsty soul doth pine;
O, when shall I behold Thy face,
Thou majesty divine?

I felt thirsty all weekend. I think my effort to replace coffee (overly sugared and creamed) with Diet Coke has been too successful in some ways and mildly disastrous in others. It becomes a habit to grab a can from that fantastically convenient can holder in the door of our gorgeous hotel for food and pour it over a cup full of amazingly crushed ice from the freezer side of the operation. I seem to forget it dispenses water.

I’m sitting in my office wishing I had that Diet Coke over the neverending crushed ice from home.

Years ago a friend gave me a handout to read about “natural thirst.” She also gave me something to read about “letting go of outcome.” I’m not sure I paid attention to either of them, but I remember where I lived at the time and, mostly, what was worrying me then. My mother had nagged me to lose some weight and upped the pressure by paying for a W—— W——- membership. I felt sure that nothing would ever go well in my life, ever, if I did not push ahead and succeed at this effort. And one of the keys, according to my friend who had been very successful taking off baby weight, was to drink the water.

Let’s not get into the fact that she was skinny before she had a baby and would be skinny ever after, okay?

So, the water. I was not yet a coffee drinker at that time in my life–coffee came with seminary–but I drank, I’m sure, too much Pepsi, and almost no water at all. I believed in the water, and I came to believe in the idea of “natural thirst.” If we don’t quench ourselves with something naturally thirst-quenching, we will eventually forget what it felt like and lose our natural thirst. You can reclaim it by disciplining yourself to drink water, or that’s what my friend’s piece of paper said.

Isn’t it interesting how we can learn something so well and then seem to forget all about it?

Sunday I came home from church to an empty house. The children were with their father, and Pure Luck had gone out to eat brunch and exercise with a friend. I felt thirsty, and I fixed myself a Diet Coke. The work of the morning had gone well, I thought, yet I felt thirsty for something more.

How do pastors quench their thirst for worship? This is especially hard for those of us who work alone, who feel so responsible for creating the container of living water for others that we cannot find a way to drink ourselves. I would tell you, usually, that I find other sources of refreshment, other source-points for God’s refreshing grace. I seem to be in the presence of a supernatural thirst, and I’m not sure, in the midst of committee meetings and home flea emergencies and broken dishwashers and the other concerns of this particular week, how this thirst will be quenched.

Why restless, why cast down, my soul?
Hope still; and thou shalt sing
The praise of Him Who is thy God,
Thy health’s eternal spring.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom we adore,
Be glory as it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.

As Pants the Hart, Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, 1696

12 thoughts on “Natural Thirst”

  1. Good questions Songbird- I wish I had good answers- our District Chair did give one good piece of counsel though- and that was always to place something into a service that would feed your soul, it could be prayer or a hymn or even a reading- just one thing for you- and he said you will be amazed to find how well folk respond- because suddenly you are worshipping truly worshipping as well as leading.
    I do try to remember this, and when I do, it helps.

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  2. But in a liturgical church, the pieces that fill me are generally there…whether or not I am filled is another question, and I (at least at this point) seem to have no control over it. Sometimes out of the blue I will connect, but others I am dry dry, dry. So how indeed do we make sure that thirst is quenched?

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  3. It is interesting to note that thirst seems to run in “years.” I can go years drinking the usual same ole same ole and always feel satisfied, and then suddenly, like this year, feel “thirsty” all the time. It is so much more than what we literally physically drink or consume.

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  4. One of my favorite hymns! (And these days, I wonder how many people think that “hart” is a typo?) You raise an excellent question, which concerns me for friends and pastors. I’ve heard from so many who are on leave or even just on vacation from the pulpit, how refreshing it is to *just worship*. The UMC, where I was once a church secretary, had district worship services just for clergy at least once, maybe more times a year. (Still, someone had to be the clergy for those services, maybe it was the Bishop.) It seemed like a good idea to me.

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  5. So true, Songbird.
    “Give me this living water, so I never have to come to the well again.” How often I feel like the Samaritan woman! Singing the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday worship usually centers and refreshes me, but there are times when I am so thirsty and the well is just too far away.
    So, really, crushed ice in the door? Ooohh. . .

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  6. Sally’s advice would work for any of us, clergy or not, who gets burned out taking care of all the details—whether it’s a Sunday service, dinner party, carpool schedule or a board meeting. I think I’ll apply her advice to several areas of my life. (Hmmm, I think that means my family will be having Pavlova with strawberries and cream tonight.)

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  7. After reading Sally’s comment, I realized what was missing on Sunday: the choir. I really enjoy singing the hymns while standing so near them, but they are on a summer break. It’s the hymn singing that meets the spirit need for me, and I now see that in this larger sanctuary, farther away from the congregation, I don’t feel part of the singing when the choir is gone. During the closing hymn I had an overwhelming urge to join my children in a pew and sing with them, as I often did at Small Church, but it seemed too conspicuous to cross over to them at Main Street Church once the hymn had gotten underway. I’ll have to work at it. Heck, I may even preach about it.

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