There was once a king who was very sick and whose wise men told him that if he covered himself with the shirt of a contented man, he would be healed. He sent his emissaries throughout the length and breadth of the country looking for a contented man. At last, several months later, they returned empty-handed. “Was there no-one in my realm who is contented?” asked the king. “Yes, Your Majesty,” they replied. “Then where is the shirt?” asked the king. “Your Majesty, he had no shirt.”
The human body is about 60% water, which is why we often hear the importance of drinking enough water. We must stay hydrated, because dehydration can cause all sorts of problems within our physical systems. But our bodies are smart and most of the time, when our bodies need more water, we will become thirsty; however, by the time this sensation kicks in, we are already entering the stages of dehydration. You see, there are sensors within our body that tell our brains when the salt level in our blood is too high, which is an indicator of dehydration, so it sends a signal to the brain that the water levels have dropped and the brain initiates the sensation of thirst that we experience. What’s even more amazing is that the brain can detect and determine how much fluid we’ve consumed so that the thirst sensation can be turned off almost immediately. The brain is literally regulating the level of water in our system to keep the body physically satisfied or contented. Not too much and not too little. Amazing. If only the brain could work that way in other areas of our lives.
Last week I read South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. It is an interesting little story, but toward the end, one of the characters describes the west of the sun part of the title and it has to do with farmers in the Siberian tundra. She tells about how the farmer gets up everyday and goes out into the fields and plows the gardens. As the farmer plows, he can see nothing in either direction as far as the horizon. Just the fields. His day consists of getting up each morning, having his breakfast, plows until noon, has lunch, then back to plowing until the sun sets in the west. It happens day after day except in the winter when he works on indoor jobs. However, one day as he is plowing, something breaks and dies inside the farmer’s spirit. At that point, the farmer tosses the plow to the side and starts walking toward the west. Headed to the land west of the sun, thinking there must be something more out thee. Like someone possessed, the farmer walks day after day, not eating or drinking until he collapses on the ground and dies.
We can lead such lives as this. Lives that are never contented, causing us to always be searching for something west of the sun. Never satisfied. Always thirsty. It can occur in so many areas of our life. Relationships: having a solid and loving relationship, but always looking for something that might be better. Being invited to the prom by someone known to be good and kind, but waiting to give them an answer to see if someone better might ask. Having a job that provides for every need, but thinking there are others that provide more prestige. This is a terrible state to be in, but it is not limited to our worldly pursuits. It occurs in our faith as well. We experience a dryness in our faith. We don’t believe that God hears our prayers. We become discontent in our relationship with Him. Like the Psalmist, we call out:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
But instead of realizing that he is the source of all our souls desires, we stop what we’ve been doing and we start searching for what is west of the sun. Something we believe will be more fulfilling or entertaining or less challenging. We go in search of something that does not involve the cross that we are called to carry or the sacrifices that must be made. In that search for more, our souls become dehydrated and we become disoriented and confused, we lose our strength and our vision becomes cloudy, we can no longer walk or even stand. Left in such a state, we will die, but in such a state, we can no longer care for ourselves. We are in desperate need of someone giving us a cup of water for our souls.
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
What does that cup of water look like? Is it an attempt to solve the issue for them, by telling them what to do? “You need to drink more water. You need to do this or that.” No. That’s not what they need. Do they need a piece of your mind? “If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times… etc.” That’s not what they need either. If their soul is thirsty, do they need you to quote scripture to them? “You know, Jesus says, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ So, what you need is Jesus. That’ll solve your issue.” Truth is, that’s not it either. What they need, in most cases, is for someone to simply bring them a glass of cool water; and what we are saying is… they need—more than anything else—is to be loved and to know they are loved and to be shown they are loved.
I believe that people go searching west of the sun in search of fulfillment because they are dying of a spiritual thirst. They are dying because they do not feel loved and we can be the ones who give that love to them.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, help us to spread the fragrance of your love everywhere we go. Flood our souls with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that all our life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our souls. Let them look up and see no longer us but only You! Amen.