As we were leaving my youngest’s class I heard a lot of commotion coming from the other side of the road. I was careful to put her in her car seat quickly from the road side as the argument was between a driver and traffic warden. Sure enough the angry driver sped past right behind me leaving the warden open mouthed on the pavement. I looked around and people were walking up and down the street as if nothing had happened. I looked back at the man and he still looked shocked so I asked him if he was okay. He crossed the road and we chatted about what happened.
He was a community officer and had issued the lady a parking ticket. She had tried to persuade him to cancel it but when he refused, she got really angry, told him she was a Christian and that God was going to punish him and he was going to hell. He began to laugh and said,
“Not very Christianly of her and anyway I don’t believe there’s a hell so I can’t go there”.
I asked him why he didn’t believe there was hell and he told me it was because the God he believed in who was all loving and righteous wouldn’t send anyone to hell. I replied that it IS because God is loving and righteous that there is hell. Take, for example, somebody murders your child and you are in court and the judge says ‘I’m not sending anyone to jail’. You expect a court judge to draw the line between right and wrong but the God of the whole universe, who is loving, righteous and holy you expect not to draw a line between good and evil?”
We both turned as a small white car came past us, the window was down and the driver shouted obscenities in our direction, making it clear his dislike of traffic wardens.
He turned back to me and continued, “Good people wouldn’t go to hell though”
“Are you a good person?” I asked
He quickly and confidently replied, “Yes I see myself as a good person”
“By whose standards? Because I used to measure my goodness by human standards. I looked at terrible things others had done and judged myself “good” because I hadn’t been as bad. But when you see yourself measured against the absolute holiness of God then every single one of us falls short of that perfection”
The same white car drove around again, more shouting from the window.
He told me he was raised in church and the things he’d seen that had made him question religion and I said that you can go to church from day one and attend every single Sunday of your life and be as religious as you like but it makes absolutely no difference.
Then the conversation turned deeper and the smile dropped from his face as he told me he’d been searching for so long. Then one of the most heartbreaking things anyone has ever said to me came out of his mouth
“My cup is empty”
Empty?! I normally hear people say their cup is half full or half empty but never empty.
“You were raised in church, I’m sure you’ve heard Psalm 23 countless times? Your cup should overflow!…You know, Jesus didn’t just say ‘I know the way, I know the truth, I know where life is’ he said “I am the way, the truth and the life”….the one you are looking for is Jesus.
We were interrupted by a bleeping sound and he began typing into his machine and said he had to go but if he wasn’t in uniform and had more time he could talk to me all day and that I’d really made him smile, I noticed he was beaming by this point. Of course I knew it wasn’t me making him smile but his heart was filling and softening with what he had just heard.
We are good at making up our own gods, gods who turn a blind eye to our wrongdoings, gods who we use to get our own way, gods to frighten people, gods to control people, gods who will punish the way we would, gods who need us to do religious duties, gods who satisfy our fleshly desires, gods we make with our hands, gods who others have made with their hands, gods who don’t speak, gods we can interpret the way we want to, gods who adhere to our own plans, gods of traditions and the root of sin in when we are our own god.
But the living God far exceeds all we could ever possibly dream of. Wanting absolutely nothing from us and pursuing us with such ferocious love. God who loves us so much that when we fully deserved the biggest parking ticket that was way too great for us to ever pay on our own, he stood in our place and paid it on the cross and defeated death so we can have eternal life. Covering us with his righteousness so we have full access to his presence, now and for eternity. There is no greater love!
Thirst. Horrendous in the natural and utterly crushing in the spiritual. Attempting to quench our spiritual thirst with anything other than the free gift of living water will leave us empty. Nothing or no one can satisfy that deep thirst; our relationships can’t, our achievements can’t, our possessions can’t, our addictions can’t, our good deeds can’t, our religion can’t – like downing a fizzy drink they all ultimately leave us still thirsty.
We are ALL given the invitation to drink and the certainty to never ever ever to thirst again. To live with our cup overflowing.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38
“Come to me”
Not come to religion, not come to the man made, not come to tradition, not come striving to do good deeds, not come covering up, not come to a special building or place, but to come to the one who when we ask we will receive. The living God loves you, his heart breaking until you are home, always searching the horizon for when you will turn back, seeking to find us ready to say ‘yes’ where ever we are; in our rooms, in our cars, in churches, on the bus, on our way to work, in nightclubs, in the park and on a regular afternoon as we go about our job issuing parking tickets.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14