“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Where do you go when you need help? When you need other people?
In Oklahoma City in April, 1995, you gathered at the First Christian Church.
After the horrible bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building at 9:02 a.m., Wednesday morning, April 19, 1995, people needed a gathering place and the First Christian Church turned itself into the Family Disaster Relief Center.
Family members, rescue workers, chaplains, media, and food servers gathered there 24 hours a day for two and a half weeks after Timothy McVeigh’s fertilizer bomb exploded, killing 168 men, women, and children.
They needed food, drink, information, and companionship as they worked and awaited news of who was alive and who was dead from the explosion.
“Families would adopt a table and gather around it, waiting for news. They were always full of hope, but as the days passed, they knew that whatever news they received was probably going to be bad. Trying to describe the atmosphere is difficult. Some families actually got notification that their loved one had died, and after taking care of arrangements, they would return to the dining room in order to be present for other families who were waiting. They knew how difficult that waiting was. There was a real heroism present in that.”
They gathered together and prayed for hope, for news, for solidarity.
Because that’s what we do when we’re thirsty for strength and peace and comfort: We gather.
But after May 4, 1995, things would change for them again.
Gathered around Ancient Wells
Thousands of years ago in Bible times, wells were a natural gathering place. Supplied by springs and rain, the wells in ancient Israel supplies water for both the people who lived or traveled nearby and for their animals.
Usually early in the morning or late in the afternoon, mostly women would bring their pitchers to the well to gather water to take home. And often bring their animals to let them drink at nearby troughs.
While there, they visited with others who were also getting water. The wells were social centers for a community.
Including engagement sites. Famous meetings at wells include:
- Rebekah and Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24:10-27)
- Jacob and Rachel (Genesis 29:1-11)
- Moses and Zipporah (Exodus 2:15-17).
Perhaps the most famous story involving wells is when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:6-29), changing both her life forever and the lives of her community.
Where Are Our Wells?
We turn on our faucets in our individual homes and get water.
- We don’t have to travel.
- We don’t have to get a days’ worth at one time.
- We don’t have to wait our turn with others at the sink.
Technology and wealth often push us away from each other and from God, not towards.
We no longer gather around a communal fire for warmth or gather in public places to get news or even watch the same TV show in the living room. We don’t even have to gather on Sundays to hear a great sermon or sing great worship music.
Yet our need for community among believers—for a gathering place—remains the same.
So how can we benefit from a community well when our needs don’t require us to go there?
We have to be intentional.
4 Ways to Quench Your Spiritual Thirst
Here are 4 ways to quench our thirst for community in modern times.
- Drink Where You Go
We may no longer need to gather at the well to pick up basic necessities, but we do still get those somewhere. Be intentional about meeting friends to do things you’d have to do anyway, like eating a meal or taking your kids to the pool or worshiping God. And drink deeply from more than one well. “Wells of salvation” is plural in Isaiah 12:3, not singular.
- Bring Your Pitcher
Prepare to receive. A woman wouldn’t go to the well without a container to collect the water to take back home. When you know you’ll be around people, be expectant and prepared to take something home with you. Leave with a word of encouragement in your memory or a phone number added to your contacts. God never leaves us empty-handed.
- Keep It Clean
Just as a stone or a covering might be placed over a well to keep animals from falling in or pollutants from contaminating the water, so protect your gatherings as well. Keep your conversations God-honoring when you’re together. Don’t engage in hurtful activities. “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
- Allow Travelers to Drink
Once we find a group of friends we like, it’s easy to seal it off from outsiders. But travelers get thirsty, too. Be open to sharing your water with strangers. Wells are self-replenishing; there is always enough. Hospitality is an extension of God’s grace. You once were a stranger, too, and God welcomed you in.
Just as water is essential for our physical bodies to digest food and regulate temperature and prevent fatigue, so fellowship among like-minded believers is essential for our souls to grow healthy and endure storms and run our race til the end.
Gathering around our wells in the 21st century may look different than pulling water from a well in 2000 B.C., but the human need remains the same.
Whether it’s in a church sanctuary, around the company Keurig, or in the bleachers around a ballfield, gather together intentionally to learn from each other, experience God’s presence together, and quench your spiritual thirst.
Come to the Waters
Back in Oklahoma City, the search for survivors was called off on May 5, 1995.
The families and friends gathered together as a group one more time the following day for a Memorial Service at the bombing site on May 6, 1995.
But the gatherings would continue in smaller groups.
Families stayed in touch, worked together for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, and eventually saw their lost ones honored in the Field of Empty Chairs, a grouping of 168 empty chairs with names etched in each, sitting where the Murrah Building once stood.
Each empty chair represents a person no longer able to gather around a kitchen table with their families every night.
But for those who are still here to gather, let’s drink.
We all need our thirst quenched. From hurts of the day. From drained energy. From jobs well done and jobs left to do.
Let’s come thirsty together.
And leave refreshed.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”
See all the posts here in our series, Water in the Word.