It is hard to admit this but I waste water.
When I brush my teeth at night, I run the water needlessly. When I shower, I spend extra time in there and sometimes I use our Jacuzzi tub which takes several gallons to fill up. I water the garden in the summer whether it needs it or not. I waste water washing the car, leaving the water on as I apply soap to the car when I should really turn it off. This is just a sampling of my wastefulness.
Like most of you, when I turn on the tap, clean water comes out.
I take it for granted.
You see I live on “this side of things.*” Access to clean water is not a problem.
People who live on “that side of things” don’t assume that the tap will always yield water. I can’t relate to this but for some people who are struggling, their day is consumed with two main activities. Where can I get water? Where can I get food?
Pastor Labberton says that the quest for food and water involves “lots of walking, standing, gathering, cutting, carrying, squatting, pounding, grinding, swatting, boiling and hopefully cooking.” Water especially is a problem because water is a commodity that often does not come to someone; you have to go where the water is. The real work is getting the water home after you get some. The main burden of water-gathering around the world falls on girls and women. They can spend hours each day retrieving water.
Human beings can survive twenty-one days without food [complete starvation] but we can only live for seven days without water. Our bodies are 60% water, our cells need water to live, our joints need water for lubrication and water helps us regulate our body temperature. We must have water.
I could focus on the lack of food, electricity, shelter, etc. All that is part of the life of a person struggling with poverty but water is not so common in a poor person’s life. If you are not poor, you don’t have trouble getting water. But can you imagine day and night, struggling to get it. There is worry and fear that you won’t have it, the pressure of an uncertain life. Whereas I have time to engage in hospitality, joy, and love, I don’t have to worry about the essentials of life. I can dream, I can laugh, I can give tenderness to others and receive tenderness. I am not struggling to find water.
For Christians, maybe we should not take water for granted. Our Bibles have several references to water. In fact it is not just water; it is “living water.” John 4: 14 says “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 7: 38 describes water as flowing “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” Zechariah 14: 8-9 “And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.” Jesus declares in the book of John: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”
As we think about the needs of the poor, it is all about essentials and nothing is more essential than water.
I sit here today planning what to do to show my spouse I love her tomorrow [Valentine’s Day]. Do I have the right gift? Where can I take her to eat a special meal? Can I do something special to entertain her?
What kind of Valentine’s Day would we have if the best gift I could give her was a bottle of water.
I can do better because I don’t live on “that” side of things; I live “this” side of things.
I should thank God that I can “do better” but I should never forget that there are people in our world who would love to have clean water. If they take care of that need, maybe they will have a chance to ponder their need for that other kind of water…
You know… “that living water.”
*Pastor Mark Labberton refers to the lifestyle of people who are not struggling as “this side” and the lifestyle of people who struggle as “that side.” The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor.