The wonderful poet Mary Oliver named one of her collections, mostly written in the wake of her longtime partner's death, "Thirst." In those poems, she explored grief and suffering as an authentic part of her ongoing spiritual journey. The thirst - for God, for comfort, for meaning, for beauty - was real but also gave her the courage and inspiration to lay her soul bare before God, in both praise and lament.
I am frequently aware that I am thirsty, too. That I need some basic soul nourishment, that I am feeling nearly depleted. Sometimes all it takes to feel better is a day with a book or an outing or a stimulating movie or concert. Sometimes a conversation with a friend revives me.
I am becoming aware that it is in that time of thirst that I am most able to pray simply for relief and mercy, to ask to be able to see God's generosity that I know is out there, to give up trying to water myself and let God water me instead. And to pray for the eyes to see that water when it is offered - through a call from someone, an invitation, a rainbow or sunset, a companion, a chance reading of a poem or essay or hearing of a song, some encounter with beauty and grace. To pray to be able to breathe in God's love and care that can feel and smell like rain on a hot day.
"Give me that living water," said the woman at the well in a chance encounter, and Jesus replied, "Soon you will have abundant water bubbling up from within you yourself that will not only nourish you, but that you will share with others."
But she had to first realize and then admit that she was thirsty. It was a risk, but it was worth it. God provides.