What a privilege it is for me to be standing here and speaking to you, my church family. Today is a special day, it’s Baptist Women’s Sunday. I haven’t always been a Baptist, but I feel so at home now that I’ve been adopted into this beautiful family of believers. I feel honoured to be asked to share with you today and believe that God has something for all of us, myself included.
For the past couple of years the Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec have had a slogan, a focus and its “Come Thirsty, Drink Deeply”. So I decided to talk about what that means to me, in my life and the way that God shows up and draws me to Him.
How many of us have experienced thirst in our lives? I’m pretty sure all of us have, at some point in time, and likely even today you’ve experienced it…maybe right now you’re thinking, I could really go for a nice cold glass of water.
As most of you know, earlier this year I had surgery. And one of the new realities in my life, that I really need to be mindful of, is making sure that I don’t get dehydrated. Water is essential for all living things, water is the largest component in the human body, the healthier you are, the more you have in your body, and the more you need.
Just after surgery I had got up to go for a walk and suddenly my mouth was dry and pasty. I felt lightheaded, dizzy. I had a headache. My mouth was so dry, I couldn’t even speak. No sound would form. I was severely dehydrated, even with my IV, my body needed water. The only trouble was, that I was given a small medicine cup to drink. One just like this, 15 ml. That’s what I was required to drink on an interval that would increase my tolerance of what my stomach could hold. I can tell you this, it was not satisfying, nor was it getting the job done, which is why I needed the IV.
So there I was, I hadn’t even made it to the door of my room, I was standing at the sink wanting nothing more than a big gigantic drink of water. I was thirsty and I was feeling miserable. And the nurse had to say to me “Amanda, I know you’re thirsty, but if you just drink this small amount, every 15-30 minutes, I promise you, you’ll start to feel better.” In my head I’m thinking, “ya right. can I please just have the big glass. I don’t want it in regular intervals, I want it all and I want it now!” The problem was, I wouldn’t have been satisfied with that, in fact, I would have felt incredibly sick.
Before I became a Christian, I was thirsty. I felt sick from the troubles of this world. I was a very mean and sarcastic teenager. Ya, I grew up going to church, I knew the stories of bible. But it wasn’t real to me. It was something that we did on the weekend. I would be picked up on Sunday mornings by the church bus, they would bring me to Sunday school and then afterwards I would stay in church with my grandparents and I’d be tucked between them and during the service I played with my grandfather’s pocket watch. I went to Christian summer camps and attended youth group as I got older but my faith wasn’t real, because it wasn’t mine yet. I was coasting along on my grandparents faith.
But I was broken. I had suffered some terrible things in my childhood. There were happy times of course, it wasn’t all bad but enough happened that I became very jaded to the world. If you ask Steve about me back then, he would likely say I was the tough one. I didn’t let people in, I didn’t trust people and I didn’t love people. But one day, I finally allowed God in. I knew from the bible that God was waiting for me, it my choice to follow, my choice to believe. And one Sunday night, in the back pew of the church I was attending, God knocked and I finally listened.
There was an alter call after the service. If you are unfamiliar with that, it’s when the pastor calls people forward to be prayed for. And I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a whisper in my ear, felt the breath on my skin. “it’s your time Amanda, go forward” and I turned around, honestly feeling a bit frustrated and angry and ready to tell someone off. Only I discovered that nobody was there. And all the little hairs on the back of my neck went up and I said, “Ok God, I’m ready for what you have for me.” That encounter in the back of the church, awakened me to the realization that there was a thirst in me.
As I walked to the front of the church, I stood quietly with my hands open as the team of people prayed for me. I was known in this church. So they prayed a simple prayer and as I stood there in full surrender to God, having listened to His calling, I had my first real drink of the living water. I felt like there was a direct beam from God to me, fresh living water was pouring into my very soul. I can’t tell you how long I stood at the alter, it felt like minutes but it also felt like days, what I can tell you very honestly is that; I have never been the same since. I encountered the living God that evening, in the form of the Holy Spirit, and that living God has become a fountain of strength and love that sustains me to this very day.
In John we read,“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” My soul was thirsty for God, for a peace that could mend my broken heart. And I found that peace and healing, that evening at the alter in my encounter with the living God.
That first encounter though, it wasn’t enough to sustain me through my life. I have had to return, again and again and again, to keep being satisfied. I have to continue to meet with the living God to spend time with Him regularly. We can’t expect that coming to church and singing a few songs, listening to a sermon and having a quick prayer is enough to satisfy our souls. We must encounter God daily, through our personal prayer times, through our reading of scripture, through our worship and our acts of faith and service. We must drink deeply and drink often.
I’ll bring you back to my story about my recovery time in hospital. I had a choice to make, I could follow directions that were laid out in front of me and become satisfied. Or I could disregard the instructions and go it alone and just grab a big old glass of water and drink it all. I wish I could say that I followed directions to a “T”…but I didn’t. I took the larger cup, tipped it back and drank. And then, as quickly as I had drank it, I started to feel ill. I couldn’t contain it all, my stomach revolted and I wasn’t satisfied any more, and it couldn’t sustain me long term. I may have been satisfied for a few moments but it was unrealistic to think that having just had major surgery on my stomach that I could drink a large cup of water without some sort of ramification. My ramification was, that I got sick to my stomach. This is not a fun experience when you’re stapled stomach starts to spasm, in fact, it hurts, a lot.
I think sometimes we want to experience God in a way that can be harmful for us long term. We crave the emotional high of the mountain top experiences with God. A great Sunday morning worship service, singing the song or the hymn we love the most. Or we get the answer to prayer we want, there is that moment of great satisfaction. That this was incredible. and we expect that this experience will leave us feeling full for a lot longer than is reasonable. Because as we climb to the mountain top and we reach the peak, we’re only there a short while before we begin to descend into the valley. And without having regular encounters with the living God, we’re left thirsty in a dry and weary barren land. There is nothing wrong with the mountain top experiences, I believe God gives them to us for a reason. But we can’t rely on them for our daily faith.
The truth in my life is that I’ve been in far more valleys than I have on mountain tops. The first five years of marriage are said to be the most difficult. Our first five years were tumultuous. Full of a lot of valleys. Shortly after we were married, I got pregnant. It wasn’t planned. We had no savings, Steve was a full time seminary student, he was working 2 jobs on top of that. I was working. This wasn’t the time for us to become parents. But we wanted kids, and we were overjoyed once we got over the initial shock.
I was thirteen weeks pregnant when we discovered that the baby, that we had just gotten used to the idea of, had died for an unknown reason. We had become one of the statistics, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. We were quickly stumbling our way down into a valley, a very dark valley for the first time as a married couple. I remember being in the hospital, and sighing my first breath prayer. They were talking about me possibly needing surgery but they wanted me to go home for the weekend since no doctor was available for the procedure until Monday. I remember sighing the prayer, “please let me pass this baby naturally”. In one of my deepest valleys, God heard my prayer. That weekend my body laboured and Kennedy was laid to rest.
That following year Logan was born and 16 months later Abby was born. Unbeknownst to us, we were about to go through another long dark valley one that would last years. Logan was diagnosed with autism less than a year after Abby was born, and by 12 months, we knew that Abby would also go on to be diagnosed with autism. This was not the life we envisioned when we chose to be married and have kids. This is not what I envisioned motherhood would be like for me. Life got really complicated, really really fast.
If I had only had the first encounter with God on that Sunday evening when I was 17, my faith would not have carried me through those dark years of miscarriage and loss, of a loss of a dreamed childhood for my kids that I had wanted. Of the dark valleys of the early days of autism that would eventually end with both kids living outside of our home. It would not sustain me through today, after years in valleys with only quick encounters on the mountain top. If my only experience with the living God, was that of 20 years ago, I would not have been able to stand before you today and talk about the living God who through all off these difficult circumstances has carried me through, and sustained me in a way I never dreamed possible.
Because the Living God that we serve, calls us to come to Him, to drink Deeply and be satisfied. He can do more than we can ever fathom, more than we could ever even ask of him. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the living triune God, chose to give us, his children, streams of living water, that we never have to be thirsty again. But we need to come to God, in full surrender, regularly and often. Fresh living water, to supply us daily with what we need in order to be a light in this world.
Once I smartened up and followed the directions left for me, I began to feel satisfied in my recovery. It took regular intervals of drinking. Without water, living things cease to exist. If we were to go without water, it’s a fact, we would die. Some doctors say, in as little as two days a person can die. What makes us think that we don’t need daily encounters with the living water that only God can supply? Come thirsty, Drink the living waters. Drink deeply, drink often.