Rivers of Living Water

It’s Easter and I, like Mary, have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of me.

11But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid him.

14And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. (John 20:11-16)

I’m looking for Jesus. They’ve taken my Lord and I know not where.

But Jesus is hidden in plain sight. The problem isn’t that I’ve failed to find what I’m looking for. The problem is that I’ve been looking for the wrong kind of thing.

I’ve been looking for the living among the dead.

12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

13The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

14Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

15Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.

16And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

17It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.

18I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

19Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

20These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. (John 8:12-20)

“Where,” the Pharisees ask, echoing Mary, “is the Father? Where have you taken him?”

“You’re looking in all the wrong places,” Jesus says. “If you want the Father, you should be looking for me. And if you’re looking for me, you should be looking for the ‘light of the world.'”

But the light of the world is hard to see because, of course, it is not a thing in the world. It is, rather, what lights up the world.

I get lost among the lit and, lost, cry out in despair for the very light that surrounds me.

Jesus points: “Look at this lit tree! Can you see the light? It’s plain as day!”

“I only see a tree,” I respond. “Please stop playing around and show me the light!”

Jesus points again: “Look at this lit dog! Can you see the light?”

“I only see a dog,” I say, head in my hands. “I only see a dog.”

Etc., etc.

The light of the world: the invisible that is always visible in its making visible whatever is lit up.

Stop looking for something special. I shouldn’t be looking for something numinous, I should be looking for the light “of the world.” Or better, as Jesus clarifies in 8:12, I should be looking for the “light of life.”

The good news, here, is that I’m already alive. Life, like light, is manifest in everything I do. Can I see it? It is the air I breathe. It is the water in which I swim. It is the earth on which I stand.

Jesus points: “Look at yourself eating breakfast! Can you see the life? It’s plain as day! This is you, living!”

“I only see me eating breakfast,” I say. “Please stop playing around and give me life!”

Jesus, patient, points again: “Look at yourself waiting in line at the DMV! Can you see the life? It’s plain as day! This is you, living!”

“I only see the waiting,” I say, head in my hands. “I only see the waiting.”

Etc., etc., etc.

But I am alive and life is manifest in everything that I do. Good or bad, just or unjust, compassionate or selfish, pleasant or painful, special or mundane, all of my actions are saturated with it. Life shines in it all.

34Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

35Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

36What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

37In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:34-39)

I seek life but I don’t find it. Whither should I go?

“If you are dying of thirst,” Jesus says, “then come to me and drink.”

I come.

“Now look,” Jesus says and points again. I follow his finger. He’s pointing at me. In fact, he’s pointing right at my belly button.

There is a river of living water flowing out of my belly.

“Why are you so thirsty?” he asks. “You are looking all around for light in a world that is already lit. You are looking all around for water when you’re awash in it. You are looking all around for life when in your belly there is a roaring torrent of it.”

He’s right. The sound of life’s red, rushing waters reverberates in my ears. I close my eyes, touch my navel, and feel that river of sensation that is always – always – humming in my bones from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. And there, at the heart of this river of sensation, is just what Jesus said: pneuma, spirit, breath.


I exhale. The blood pounds in my temples. I pause.

The rest of the Lord.

Then I swallow another lungful of light.

It’s Easter. That was no gardener after all.

8 comments for “Rivers of Living Water

  1. KLS
    April 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you, Adam.

  2. April 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Wow. Thank you.

  3. Jax
    April 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    since we are living, and not trying to “make” a living, not building toward a point where your life will begin, for you are using it up already, what do you do with that life, that light, that living water?

    How does the change in perspective change your goals and actions?

    Things that I asked myself after reading this.

    Thanks Adam. it is nice to re-remember things!

  4. Adam Miller
    April 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Good question, Jax. It mostly just puts things in perspective, foregrounding life as it unfolds here and now as something worth living for its own sake.

  5. Jax
    April 26, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Reminds me of the scene in “Stranger than Fiction” when Will Ferrell is talking to Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s character tell him that he may die anytime so go live his life. Ferrell insists he wants to continue living his life by being preoccupied by extending his life. He is missing the fact the preserving his own life comes at the cost of the others things life is meant for: beauty, service, personal growth, self-awareness, etc.

    Likewise, the accumulation of things that perserve our lives (food, shelter, money which will provide for the future) are poor, and unnecessary, uses of our time once the necessities have been met for the immediate future. Working for them makes ones life feel pointless and redundant. Those things are necessary, but once those needs are met, life is best used for other higher purposes. I dare say that most people in the U.S. are missing those higher things in order to dedicate their time, their most valuable resource, for ends that have no purpose.

    See Luke 12:16-20

  6. April 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I am alive.

  7. Adam Miller
    April 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    That’s a nice scene, Jax. I quite like that movie. The messiah could come (or return!) at any moment – no one knows when. Live as if it were . . . now!

  8. Sonny
    April 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Beautiful, Adam. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts.

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