Thirst: the essence of the spiritual journey

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “The essence of religion, in my view, is the thirst for an end higher than natural ends.” Quite a paradigm shifting statement. Often, we think of the spiritual journey in Christ as being about having answers and fulfillment … you know, a life where we have things figured out. However, as I grow more and more, Lewis’ comment makes more and more sense. In fact, it seems that the closer I grow to Christ, the less I know and the more I thirst for Him. Maturity and depth doesn’t decrease desire and thirst, it increases it.

Consider how often we are tempted to believe the opposite. Whether it is a personality that tends to not like loose ends or mystery, a culture that prefers living on the surface, or churches that preach certainty and success, we can easily find ourselves going with the flow of believing that the maturity and growth means that thirst declines. Perhaps that is why so many are bored with the church, bored with God, bored with life. The pursuit of certainty always leaves us empty because it means that we have the fudge on the nature of an infinite God. The pursuit of tying up loose ends leaves us empty because that leaves us alienated from people and often even ourselves. You get the idea.

Indeed, when we fully grasp that we have a real relationship with God, it only makes sense that a deeper love would lead to a greater thirst. The more I am loving and enjoying my wife, the more I desire her and can’t wait to get home after a day at the office.

Consider how many times you’ve asked: where is God? Why can’t I feel His presence in my life? Karla Denlinger, a spiritual director that I met this summer, shared this profound insight: “His presence in this life is real, but it comes dressed in thirst.” Maybe we miss Him more because we are either denying our deep, deep thirst for God, or we are misdirecting that desire to other, lesser things.

I wrote the following last month as a reflection on Karla’s words:

“Where? When? How?
Questions all.
Demands, perhaps.
He comes dressed in thirst.
Seemingly a problem to be solved.
Consequently dismissed.
He returns in the same garb.
Inescapable. Irresistible.
Passion awakened as I learn …
… to live into the longing.
A person to be embraced.” TW, July 2011

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~ by Ted Wueste on August 19, 2011.

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