Sometimes people here in Siouxland claim that we're blessed with only two seasons: winter and Fourth of July. The line works, I think, for two reasons: one, winters can be brutal; and two, so can Fourth of July.
When we moved back to Iowa from Arizona, we didn't expect to be clobbered by heat, but we were. The house we rented was not air-conditioned, and, that first July, we nearly died--that's overstatement. What we'd left was higher temps, but what we'd discovered was oppressive humidity.
Right about now, mid-summer, a half gallon of lemonade stands quite steadfastly in our fridge, albeit in various levels of emptiness because, at least for me, nothing quenches thirst as profoundly as lemonade. Pink, white, raspberry--no matter. It's likely a childhood thing--some reminder of a boyhood bucking bales when icy canning jars full of the stuff were the only antidote to heat stroke begat by stifling second-story hay mows. That's overstatement too.
July. Heat. Hay mows. Lemonade--that's what comes to mind when I consider the word "thirst." We just finished a sojourn in New Mexico, where we hiked over murky lava flows and through elegant sandstone at elevations that sucked your body dry. Always pack water. Drink it. Parks and trails at 7000 feet don't pussyfoot; they use the command form. Water isn't just refreshing--it's life.
I've spent most of my adult life believing that if we underplay anything at all about Jesus Christ it's his human side. The great mystery of his existence, of course, is that he was, at once, both God and man. Impossible, of course, yet there He is. Where we underestimate him, I've often thought, is in his humanity. We like him as Lord and Savior, but he could be almost unfeeling at times--witness his almost callous disregard for his own mother--Mary!--when he started out on his own. If you want to follow me, he told his disciples, you'd better forget Mom and Dad--actions, it seems, he promptly modeled himself.
He was human. Jesus Christ was human, too, not just Lord and Maker and King and Redeemer. He pulled on a suit of human flesh, for Pete's sake--and mine.
And therefore, "I thirst," I've often of as a clear indication of his humanity. The physical agony of the cross, far beyond my imagination, is exemplified in his very human needs--he got horrifically thirsty. He was human, after all. Be careful, I might have said--and still would--about overspiritualizing him.
Then there's Mother Teresa, whose very ministry was created--by her own account--by her immense interpretive vision of that very utterance--"I thirst."
Why does Jesus say, "I thirst"? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words--. . ."I thirst" is something much deeper than just Jesus saying "I love you." Until you know, deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you--you can't begin to know who he wants to be for you. Or who he wants you to be for him.Jesus Christ was Mother Teresa's only motivational speaker, and his words, especially those uttered in his own physical and spiritual agony, were her rallying cry. She transformed his thirst into a metaphor and spent her life working to quench the emptiness he felt at Calvary, an emptiness satisfied only by his thirst for the poor, his thirst for their relief, their love, their souls. His thirst for them became her soul's motivation.
She saw him dehydrated, wearied, nearly dying; and she sought to bring him relief by satisfying his thirst for those poor he loved so greatly on the streets of Calcutta.
It may well be I've been wrong for all these years. Perhaps in stressing his humanity, I've neglected his divinity. Perhaps in taking him literally, I've not seen him spiritually, up there on the cross at Golgatha, body and soul dehydrated, his heart overworking to pump his dehydrated blood because he wants, more than anything, not just water but those he loves, his people, splashing over him, gushing with their love.
That's the way she read it, and that's the way she lived in Calcutta.
Something to consider, even here in muggy Siouxland this July.