The fourth chapter of the Gospel of John reports that Christ Jesus once spoke with a woman who had come to a well to draw water. Jesus explained to her that he could offer her “living water” that would permanently quench any thirst. The woman was intrigued and receptive. What might such water be?
It may seem surprising that Jesus offered something so precious to a woman he had never met before, who might have had a questionable reputation. Jesus discerned that she had been married five times and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Moreover, Jesus and the woman were of ethnicities that generally didn’t interact.
The availability of truly satisfying water, described as, for example, “living water” or the “water of life,” and sourced in God, is a theme found throughout the Bible. Referring to Isaiah 55:1, and to God as Love, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (p. 13).
Similarly, Mrs. Eddy writes in her poem “Communion Hymn” of how Truth seeks to save and invites all to the fount:
Sinner, it calls you,—“Come to this fountain,
Cleanse the foul senses within;
’Tis the Spirit that makes pure,
That exalts thee, and will cure
All thy sorrow and sickness and sin.”
(Poems, p. 75)
The idea that everyone is welcomed by God, Spirit, divine Love, to come to Him for regeneration and nourishment has become the basis of my prayers for the world. Impartial and universal Love calls anyone and everyone to drink from, and be cleansed in, its waters of purification. This includes me, those who share my views, and, just as importantly, those who don’t.
Understanding that God gladly receives everyone to partake of His bestowals has freed me from any urge to quarrel with others or try to convince them to think the way I do. I can trust that everyone has received, and can recognize, the invitation to come to God’s fountain and find genuine satisfaction. I’m learning that the goal isn’t to have others agree with me, but for all of us to learn to agree with God.
Hunger and thirst can be manifested in all kinds of ways. For some, it may be an excessive appetite for power, money, recognition, or something that would jeopardize or compromise morals. For others, it may be the longing to belong after they have lost someone through death, abandonment, or disagreement. Love’s living water can satisfy every hunger and thirst after righteousness. Once we drink of the water that God provides, we lose our thirst for unrighteous things.
Knowing that each individual is just as welcome to Love’s living water as we are makes loving him or her much easier.
An experience I had quenched a thirst I couldn’t even name. When I was eight, my life was threatened in a dispute that had nothing to do with me. There were several witnesses, and I was hastily taken to a place where I would be safe. For several weeks I couldn’t go to school or spend a minute alone. The situation created a great burden for me and those around me. It seemed that we had all suddenly become victims. I regained my physical freedom when the individual who had threatened me took his life, but I realized later that the incident had shaped my trust in others.
Over the years, I was able to forgive the man for most of the pain these events had caused me, but they felt so much like part of my identity that I didn’t know how to let go of them. I had accepted that they would always be part of me.
More recently, as I was thinking and praying about my true identity, I was reminded of those weeks in my childhood. I asked myself why I couldn’t let those memories go. I wanted to, but couldn’t see how. Suddenly the message came to thought: “Then you’re binding him to this.” My reaction was immediate. I didn’t want that for this individual, no matter what had happened! And that was that. I was able to let go, not only to be free myself, but also to see the other person as liberated from the events that had seemed to shackle us together.
It was as if the band of negative memories severed on its own, or rather, as if it had never been there at all. I was filled with gratitude on behalf of both of us.
That moment was profound and deeply moving. Realizing that this time in my childhood couldn’t change, and had not changed, who I was—that it hadn’t made me vindictive or begrudging or mean—freed me in ways I hadn’t thought possible. I had understood before that the experience hadn’t harmed me, but now I realized that it hadn’t even touched me. And I felt sure that the other person was able to be washed clean of this as well.
Being always welcome to change our ways doesn’t mean that this happens magically. Whether we have intentionally or unintentionally hurt others or feel victimized ourselves, we can always be willing to recognize and demonstrate our God-given purity and completeness. To experience cleansing of “the foul senses within” requires a sincere effort and yielding to Spirit’s purification. It must begin with the recognition of a need for change and the willingness to let that change take place in us.
Mrs. Eddy writes: “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear,—this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony. The purification of sense and self is a proof of progress” (Science and Health, pp. 323–324).
As long as we believe that God made sinners, we will deal with the outcome of sin. But we can turn to divine Love and understand the impossibility of a God-made sinner, because God made His children naturally good, like Himself.
Praying for mankind is a privilege and a duty. “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection” (Mary Baker Eddy, No and Yes, p. 39). Knowing that each individual we are dealing with or embracing in prayer is just as welcome to Love’s living water as we are makes loving him or her much easier. On this basis, the following promise in the book of Revelation is becoming ever more real to me: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (22:17).