Jesus and a Samaritan woman are standing by a well. Jesus has crossed the boundaries of polite society by asking her for a drink. As they talk about the water, Jesus tells her:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:13).
As a backpacker, I know something about being thirsty.
I’ve had weeks on trail where the weather was drier than expected. There have also been trips when our group was thirstier than expected. When the Nalgene bottles run dry, there’s nothing a hiker wants more than to fill it with cool, crisp, clean mountain water.
But that’s not the kind of thirst Jesus is talking about. The Samaritan woman at the well thinks it is; she is excited at the idea that she won’t have to haul water back from this well anymore. She doesn’t get it; but we do.
Jesus has already told her what kind of water this is: living water (4:10).
“The water I give… will become… a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
As a backpacker, I know something about a spiritual well run dry.
I’ve had days on trail when the miles travelled and the heat endured and personal stink created were more than I could handle. There have been trips where four straight days of rain (including a brief hailstorm on day two) wore down all my good morale. I have spilt the pot of macaroni and cheese, lost a contact, fallen into a river and turned my hiking boots into tiny mobile swimming pools.
In other words, I have had my well run dry.
But in these moments I have also experienced a spring of living water welling up within me.
I know this is largely due to the fact that most of my backpacking experience has been with Wilderness Trail, a Christ-centered ministry. The pastors and staff there showed me how to lean on God when my well ran dry. They taught me how to drink of that true living water.
I think it also helps that, on trail, I can’t turn to any of the escapes that civilized life offer. I can’t drown my sorrows in ice cream, take an epic-length nap, or indulge in a full season of The Office. With nowhere else to turn, I turn to the one I should always go to first: Christ.
Jesus offers each of us living water, just as he did to the Samaritan woman.
I’ve learned how to draw on that water when I’m backpacking. My hope is that, in my daily walk with Christ, I can create that same good habit.