Imagine being out in the middle of a desert. The sun is high in the sky, unrelenting. The sand beneath your sandals almost smolders, and the heat from the ground lofts up to your nostrils. You're beyond dry, you're parched. Your throat becomes a heated kiln. It is like the earth when it forms into the endless cracks of broken pottery, opening, straining for any drop of moisture. The dampness of saliva would be nice, but even the pebble you've placed under your tongue no longer fools the body. There's just nothing left, and you're withering away from the face of the Earth. Is this your final hour?
Off in the distance, through the ripples of heat you see something. A hint of color, something waving? Is it real? Is it another mirage taunting your soul? Closer you walk, not really believing, no hope in your steps.
The trail behind you is not the walk of a man so much as the slither of a snake. Your toes drag with each movement.
But then the wind changes and there is the wisp of a scent that drifts across your nose. Your body realizes it even before your drowsy thoughts can awaken, and then comes the exclamation! Water?
That's the smell of WATER!
A new drive takes over. Your feet begin to leave the earth with a bounce. Your hopes are rekindled and the new vision before you almost carries you on wings. In fact, almost nothing in this world could stop you now. You recognize the palms and can even see the tall grasses. You are driven.
"I am not finished!" you scream to your spirit!
To the waters edge you fall, and it isn't enough. Your whole body, as if by pure impulse, pushes you in. It's cold! It's pure and fresh and life-giving. Some sort of artesian well, broken from the bowels of the deep dark canyons of bedrock below, bubbling up at the same rate as the joy renewing in your heart.
Your thoughts become your own again. Clarity returns. You sit beneath the shade of the Palm. Your canteens are filled and your lips, once again moist and elastic. You smile, even laugh at how close you came to Death's door. Your voice is raised to Heaven as you thank God for your good fortune.....but then....
What's that? Out in the ripples. A speck, just a rock....no, it's moving. Slowly, but yes, it's certainly moving. Whatever it is, it's still alive. It doesn't have your fortune though. It's not moving towards this dreamy place. It's moving to the side.
Doesn't it see this palm? Does it see and not believe?
"Life," you whisper beneath your breath, still not sure. "There is life here you foolish beast."
Then the heat relents for just a moment, and you make out the figure of a woman.
Yes, no doubt a woman!
You see her hair tossing about. Her frame in full view. You can even see her dragging steps, familiar in your mind to your own not long ago. To your feet you pounce as air fills your lungs!
Your arms waving frantically you jump into the air, and from the very core of your soul comes your scream,
"THERE IS, THERE IS WATER HERE! THIS WAY!"
The figure, just about to cross the horizon of the next sand dune, seems not to hear. Your voice must not be cutting through this heat. You run towards her, gambling in your mind, 'how far will I chase her, will I lose sight of this place, will I find it again if I run all the way to her?', and just before she takes the last step out of your sight, you scream with all you've got,
"WATER! LIFE-GIVING WATER!"
The winds shift, just for a moment, and your message rides the waves. Faintly, she stops in her tracks. She turns and peers through the hot sun. There is an eternity that passes, as her drifting thoughts push through. Are you real? Could it be? Is it worth it to change course? You catch your breath and hold it.... and finally she turns your direction.
YES! YES! YES!
That, my friends, is this verse to me, written from a man in prison, about to die for his love of Christ, to another, younger and more timid brother in the faith. He was just a beggar, telling another beggar where to find food, once a lost and hopeless soul who'd had the fortune of finding the Oasis:
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but that of power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..." 2 Tim 1 ~ Paul
This message is life-giving. We should never be afraid to shout it from the rooftops, let alone the basement. May we have the confidence to venture out from the shade of the Palm for the sake of another. May we all have the spirit of search-and-rescue. May we approach them with child-like understanding. May we share. Anything less would be criminal.