Thirst (a poem)

She’s been haunting me the past few days, walking off the pages of the Bible and into my imagination.

She’s not had an easy go of it, the woman in John chapter four. We know this immediately, from one small detail: she walks to the well for water at noon. Only an outcast would make this trek in the blazing heat of the day; anyone else would fill her water jar with all the other women early in the morning, while it’s still cool.

On the particular day that John records in his gospel, the woman finds Jesus sitting at the well she normally finds deserted. And conversation ensues. Conversation about God and thirst and worship and spirit and truth.

This woman, we find out during the conversation, has had five husbands and now shares a bed with a man who’s not her husband. Quite enough in those times, in a small town, to send a woman to the well at noon.

The idea of this woman’s daily trek to the well under the baking sun tugs at me:

What happens when I’m forced to be alone with my thirst?

Is it such a bad thing to become acutely aware of my desperate need? Or are there benefits?

Am I more likely to meet up with Jesus in these moments–when I am not only thirsty, but conscious of my thirst?

In reading the stories of Jesus, I cannot deny this: Jesus seems to gravitate toward those who are most aware of their own thirst. And so, I’ve allowed myself to enter into this woman’s story on one of her daily walks to the well, some time before the events of John chapter four.

thirst
(the woman in john 4)
by kirsten wilson
©2013

sandals kick up fiery dust
wave after wave of heat
crashes against my shins
yet i walk
steady into this midday surf
of sun

the jar i carry
draws into the clay of itself
the blaze of sky
grows hotter with every step
adjust my grip
and my palm burns

feel it flame
up the sinews of my arms
and straighten my shoulders
tilt my head toward the sun
colored spots dance
and beckon
in the heavy air

breathe deeply
from this oven sky
o my soul
let its hot breath
parch your lips
your throat

strange blessing this
solitary noonday trek
far from the grasping
thirst of the man who waits
upon my bed
far from the choking
drafts of the gossips who drink
my shame stirred
into fresh-drawn water
in the cool of the day

the only thirst
here
in this sweltering desolation
is mine

lower the jar
into the water of the well
raise it to cracked lips
and drink

drink deeply
from this liquid strength
o my soul
let its healing whisper
flow past your lips
your throat

throw aside
all you know
but this thirst

this momentary hope

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