In this Parched and Weary Land

When my alarm went off Thursday morning, I was tired. I wanted to go back to sleep. I did not want to get up and go to Manna House. My soul was dry. My spirit was thirsty.

I could have prayed, “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). But that prayer would have been a lie. I was not earnestly searching for God.

I still got up and went to Manna House. Maybe God’s grace means good habits are hard to break.

Later in the morning, a guest made me think and pray about water in this parched and weary land. He said to me, “You know what’s really been hard out here?”

“What?”

“No place to get water.”

He described the shortage of water for drinking and washing. With the coronavirus pandemic closures the streets are more barren and desolate.

“The bathrooms of fast food restaurants are closed. The library is closed. The two water taps we relied upon are closed off. Finding water has been hard. It’s near impossible to clean up, much less shower.”

This lack of water is not from a drought. There is plenty of water. But not if you are poor and on the streets. The pandemic makes poverty and homelessness worse.

So I wondered, where is God in this? Later in the day I found the prophet Isaiah gave a response.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isaiah 41:17).

Together this guest and the prophet Isaiah reminded me why I get up and go Manna House. God calls me. God calls me to the holy work of offering water to those who are thirsty and to those trying to find a place to wash up.

My conversation with this guest about water started as we watched guests use two new portable handwashing stations. A local nonprofit, “A Lee Dog Story” provided Manna House with these stations. Guests washed their hands before they walked up onto the porch for coffee and a hygiene bag. Other guests walked into the house to use the bathroom and the sink in there for handwashing.

Next Thursday we will resume offering showers. We think we have a way to do this that is safe for the guests and the volunteers. It will mean fewer showers, and frequent cleaning of the shower room. But it will mean ten people from the streets will be able to shower.

At the end of the morning the same guest stopped me at the door. I was headed out to bring in the coffee pot, the sugar, and the creamer. He held out two empty plastic water bottles.

“Can you fill these for me?”

At that moment I looked Jesus in the eye. He looked tired. His clothes were rumpled and wrinkled and worn. He had not shaved for at least a few days. His baseball cap had sweat marks all across the front bill.

“When Lord did I see you thirsty?” (Matthew 25:44)

I took the water bottles, went inside, and filled them with cold water. I went back outside and handed them to this guest. He said thanks and see you next week.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” said the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:1). And he was echoed by Jesus, “If anyone thirsts, let that one come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

When I left Manna House, I was still thirsty. My soul was still dry. But now I was earnestly seeking God in this parched and weary land, because in this guest, God had been even more earnestly seeking me.

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