Living Water

Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:6-14

One of the biggest benefits to living in Portland, for me, is jumping into the car and speeding toward the Columbia River Gorge. Sometimes I bring my camera, sometimes I bring my journal… but the last time, I didn’t bring either of these things. I brought Dana.

That’s because Dana and I have a great time when we hike. In fact, if you’re ever in the Gorge with us, you’ll know it. You’ll be able to hear the laughter for miles. It makes up for the fact that we’re not very experienced, we’re not in shape, and we each have a sense that we’re only going to hike until beer-thirty and then call it a day.

On this particular outing, we decided to hike to the top of Multnomah Falls. I’d been there many times, but only climbed as far as the bridge before turning back- not because I needed to gather up courage, but because hiking in torrential rain is not my idea of a good time.

Here’s what they don’t tell you in the guidebooks. Multnomah Falls is rated as an easy hike because the trail is paved, but the switchbacks are kind of steep and after a while, you really start to feel it in your knees and ankles. It’s not the Bataan Death March, but it’s not exactly beginner, either. Therefore, we didn’t think to take a few things that would have come in handy, especially bottles of water.

We got about a third of the way up the trail when we realized that we were really, really thirsty. We slowed our pace. At about the halfway point, wanting water crossed into needing water.

I concentrated on the beautiful scenery. The trees around us were magnificient, and their jagged pattern provided a gorgeous, if not somewhat interrupted, picture of the river. As we climbed higher, ignoring my thirst became more difficult. My mind began to torture me with pictures… ice clinking in a glass, a bottle of Dasani, the squeeze of a lemon slice…

We reached the observation deck, and all I wanted to do was plunge my head in. The fact that the current was literally strong enough to break my neck was enough of a deterrent. I wondered aloud if there was any way I could taste Multnomah Falls, to literally drink it in.

I was so glad that I’d spoken my wish, because Dana knew just what to do. She led me a little farther into the Gorge, away from the falls, to the river that feeds the giant waterfall. It was surreal, as if it warranted a warning. I climbed the rocks sitting in the current until I could cup my hands in the middle of the river, and brought them to my lips.

If joy had a taste, this would be it. I knew the river was alive, and it was as if I’d been able to take the rhythm of the rushing current and incorporate it into my pulse. For a moment, the river and I were one being, and I felt the power of nature in all its fullness.

It was a relationship of which to be mindful. I put one hand into the water again, reaching as far down as I could to pick up a stone cradled in connection. I put it in my pocket, and continued to splash and play. My face and hands were dirty from sweat and a little mud, but I’d never felt so pure.

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