“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of Ancient Mariner. While I can’t really relate completely (or at all) to the irony of a sailor feeling parched when surrounded by water, the phrase captures a feeling with which I am all too familiar. We live in a society and an era where words are ubiquitous, yet so often I find myself starving for life-giving, deeply significant words.
Os Guinness expresses a similar sentiment in his book, Unriddling Our Times.
“Words, Words, words – we are assaulted from all sides by words, but we are starved for a word from God. Blaring, blasting, hectoring, seducing, words come at us from all sides today – on billboards, bumper stickers, newspapers, television and junkman.”
In the midst of an inundation of words, I find my ears hungry (an odd image, I know) for words that cut through the superficial to the deep hunger in my soul for affirmation, purpose, truth that holds up under suffering and scrutiny.
After having spent a considerable time around Jesus hearing deeply pervasive and powerful words in the context of His equally pervasive and powerful life, a considerable number of his throngs of followers began to turn away when the stakes got high and the call became heavier.
In chapter six of his gospel account John writes, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Even though the words of Jesus were not sugar-coated, ego-stroking, sunshine-and-rainbow words, the disciples recognized that they were life-giving words, truths that cut through the surface and penetrated deeply into the human heart and experience. While they were hard-to-swallow and even harder to actually live out, his closest friends recognized something different about them, something other-wordly, something substantive.
They recognized that one word from Him, as painful and penetrating as it may be, was a feast compared to the hollow promises of the world.
Seasonally, my palate seems to pant for the words of affirmation, the complements, the notice of others. While we all long to hear sweet words, sometimes my desire becomes an over-desire, a desperate need for someone to affirm me in ways that no human can. I am beginning to see that underneath that frantic desire to hear sweet words from people, what I am deeply hungering for is a life-giving word from the Word, the only One whose words can really fill my insatiable need for affirmation.
I find myself similarly hungry for His words, spoken through His word or His Spirit or His people, into and over me. In a day when blogs (mine included), books, and status-updates are literally a pocket away, I find my soul starving even more for words of eternal life.
Oh, how I long to say with the prophet Isaiah,“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back (Isaiah 50:4-5)”
We must strain our ears at the door of the Divine, we must wait eagerly and regularly to hear from Him. He loves to speak to hungry ears.