Pastor Steve Yamaguchi once shared a story about a fly fishing trip he experienced. He spent all day in his chest-high waders, rhythmically casting his line back and forth in waist-deep waters, as it lightly drizzled on and off all day. He reveled in the beauty of God’s glorious creation that completely engulfed him and was grateful.
But that evening, he became violently ill. Fortunately, one of his traveling companions was a doctor. After checking his vitals, the doctor asked Steve if he had had any water to drink that day. Steve sheepishly responded that he had brought a water bottle and kept it in his chest pocket, but had never bothered to open it. The diagnosis? Extreme dehydration.
Steve had spent all day literally surrounded by water – wading in a river of it, showered by it as it fell from the sky, keeping it in a bottle close to his heart – but he had not taken any of it in for himself.
He observed that this is how many of us in ministry leadership live: we are fishers of people, as God called us to be. But even though we study, think about, talk about, teach about, and tell people about the living water Jesus offers, we rarely stop to take a drink from it ourselves. We are too busy fishing to drink the living water ourselves–and it’s making us sick.
I know this truth firsthand. For decades, I acted like a spiritual camel: I’d stop at an oasis, drink as much as I could, and then head back out to my life and try to go as far as I could before stopping again for another drink – maybe taking sips with brief prayers or a few Scripture passages here and there. Obviously, this was not a recipe for a thriving soul.
After enduring a church split; my mother’s stroke, year-long purgatory in skilled nursing, and eventual passing; a global pandemic; and the rest of life’s usual shenanigans, I was in dire need of…something. Outwardly, I looked fine – but inwardly, my soul was a dry and shriveled raisin. Such was the state of my soul when I arrived at an eight-day Ignatian silent retreat this past summer.
Just as a raisin would be utterly transformed if it spent a week submerged in water, so my soul was after spending a week in silence with God and myself. More accurately, it was just the beginning of a transformation, as I imagine and hope that what I experienced in that week was only the catalyst of a good work in me that God will bring to completion by the day of Christ Jesus, as Paul wrote in Philippians.
I will share in upcoming posts about my experience in the hopes that if Pastor Steve’s story resonates with you, you too will be encouraged to find a way to finally drink deeply from the well of living water for yourself.