Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Ho!

Herescope Testimony Series

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters….”
(Isaiah 55:1a)

 

“O God, Thou art my God;
early will I seek thee:
my soul thirsteth for Thee,
my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land,
where no water is;”

(Psalm 63:1)
By Sarah Huling Leslie

Have you ever been really thirsty? Really thirsty?

I had been a nominal Christian for several years, and I was a chronic backslider. I was converted out of the hippie movement into the Jesus movement. But I was a fragile baby believer, and without solid discipleship the weeds of sin soon flourished, crowding out my faith. I struggled to be a Christian but without much success. Many years later I would realize that during my college years I had been put through various psychological and sociological experimentation programs without my full knowledge and informed consent—all of them designed to erode faith. I didn’t know how to stand firm, and I definitely didn’t know how to walk in the faith.

But God had His own plan for my life. One year after I graduated from college I surrendered and entrusted God with 100% of my life. Corrie ten Boom had come to Des Moines in a pivotal weekend in May of 1976, and my Christian friends and I went to listen to her in every place where she spoke. Her sincere and simple faith guided me into recommitting my life to the Lord. In a key moment of time I recognized that Jesus was real and alive, and He was asking me to follow Him the rest of my life. I immediately rushed to flush my cigarettes down the toilet. From that point on I desired to live a more pure and holy life.

During this time I had been working in a group home with emotionally disturbed adolescents. Even though I didn’t talk about my new-found faith, the teenagers noticed the change in me. Inevitably a few of them wanted to know about Jesus and they requested that I take them to church. Each Sunday that I was on shift I would drive a van load of adolescents to a local Bible-preaching church. Several of them had accepted Jesus into their hearts. As a consequence I was asked to quit my job. I was told by the staff psychologists that believing in God was a sign of “emotional weakness” and they couldn’t tolerate someone “mentally unstable” working with the kids. They claimed that believing in Jesus would cause further emotional damage to these teenagers. These were atheists and this was what they believed. Thus I had to quit my first fulltime job with poor prospects of obtaining a good recommendation from them for my next job.

Suddenly I found myself confronted with the necessity of living totally on faith. I had no job, no income, and my parents were living overseas. There was no one I could turn to for help. Scared, helpless and lonely, I rushed into the arms of Jesus and begged the Lord to sustain me. I had to learn to live on faith alone. But even as a fledgling believer, I had hope. I knew in my heart that the Lord was telling me to wait on Him, that He would open a door for me for a new job, He would show me my next step. I wanted to be in His perfect will. Many people thought this was crazy, but I knew that I needed to obey Him. So I waited… and waited… and waited for God to “give” me a new job. And the Lord encouraged and sustained me with many precious promises from His Word, especially Psalm 16:3: “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (RSV)

Two months later, still without a job, I was asked by a pastor friend to accompany his church youth group as an adult chaperone for a trip to Colorado to do a week of volunteer service. With nothing else to do I readily agreed to go.

I had never been to the Colorado Rockies before. I immediately fell in love with the high rugged peaks. The church youth group headquartered itself in a Christian retreat center, sleeping bags lined up in one big open area. Our volunteer duty was to assist a small group of forest rangers with culling dead wood by carrying it out of the forest. Each day was filled with physically demanding forestry projects conducted at a very high altitude. At night we fell into bed exhausted.

Near the end of the week, one of the forest rangers suggested that on Saturday we could climb one of the high peaks nearby. All week long we had seen its beautiful summit off in the distance. Climbing a mountain had always been one of my dreams so I quickly jumped at the chance. Only a handful of the teens felt like they were up to it.

That night we were dropped off to camp in a cabin in a pine forest at the base of the summit. None of us slept very well; there was a constant rustling noise. In the morning we arose to discover that the food in our backpacks had been tampered with by mice! We had less food, but we figured it would be enough to sustain us on the climb.

Just before dawn we began our assent. It was a vigorous climb. For those of us accustomed to lower altitudes this posed a real challenge. It was much more of a strain on the body than we had anticipated. One step at a time… breathe… step… breathe… step… stop and rest…. One step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. Perseverance.

We passed the beautiful timberline by sunrise and began our assault on the summit. After a few hours we stopped upon a broad plateau above a lush green field to gaze far down at the earth below. It was a beautiful reward for our laborious trudging. We could barely recognize anything—it was all so far away. There was utter silence. Not even tree leaves were there to rustle in the gentle breezes. We could only hear our own huffing and puffing from exertion. We sat there for a long time and rested. The hardest part was yet to come.

We were surprised to see early hikers coming down off the summit. They had already reached their goal. A father and his son wearing shorts and hiking boots had jogged past us up to the summit. An hour later they jogged past us again on their way down the mountain. They paused to talk and told us that over the summer it was their goal to climb every mountain peak over 13,000 feet in the Rockies. No wonder they were so physically fit that they could run up the mountain!

Meanwhile we were crushingly exhausted, painfully swallowing huge gulps of air with each footstep upward. The path became rocky, narrow and circuitous, winding and curving, ever going upwards. Often we could often only see a few steps ahead. Scriptures such as Proverbs 3:23 suddenly began to seem more literal: “Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”

By mid-morning we had depleted our small water supply. The teenage boys on our hike had only brought a few canteens with them. We hadn’t calculated for the increased need for water caused by our extreme physical exertion and high altitude. Our bodies began to complain for water. It began to dawn on us that we might not make it to the top. In between gasping breaths we discussed the possibility that we would have to turn around and go back. We were sorely disappointed. We wanted to make it to the summit—to achieve our goal!

Just at the bleakest moment, a young man hiking about twenty paces ahead of us called down to us, “Hey! There’s a glass of water on this rock!” We didn’t believe what we heard. He must be joking. We couldn’t see his location but we could hear his voice calling down from the curve of the boulders. Surely there wasn’t a real “glass” of water anywhere on this desolate summit!

We stumbled upwards to the rock ledge where he was standing and, sure enough, he was telling the truth! There was a sparkly clean glass sitting on a rock. A literal glass! It was filled with the clearest water I had ever seen. We looked upwards to see the source of the water and traced a tiny stream back to a melting glacier. The ranger had warned us not to drink mountain water unless we could ascertain that it was from a pure source that was uncontaminated. This water was definitely safe to drink—a result of mid-summer glacial melt! We greedily gulped up the ice cold water and began refilling our canteens. It was the best water I had ever tasted.

As I trudged the last 500 hundred feet of rocky path winding up to the summit, it slowly began to dawn on me that the Lord was revealing a very important lesson for life. Just at the brink of utter discouragement, when I would become most weary and my own strength was failing, there would be a miracle—a “glass of water on a rock.” I remembered one of my favorite passages in Scripture. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:14 that “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” and that it would be a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Remarkably, my strength was replenished by that glass of water! I had the physical ability to go on, to persevere, knowing that I could reach the summit. I pondered the spiritual meaning of this experience to my current life situation. Was God trying to tell me something?

The teens and I stood there at the rock at the top of the summit for a good long time, trying to embed that spectacular view into our memories. We recalled the Scripture in Psalm 121:1-2: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”
 

We marveled at the miracle of the glass and asked unanswerable questions. Who had carried it up there and placed it next to that tiny streamlet for water for the weary climbers? How did a fragile glass survive the mountain weather without breaking? How could it be right there on that rock just at the moment we most needed it? By God’s mighty providence we realized we had been blessed with liquid sustenance, giving us renewed bodily strength to reach the summit that day. We were able to complete our task and accomplish the goal—even after things seemed to be most hopeless. We peered down and marveled at how far we had come, and affirmed, like the Apostle Paul, that we had “fought a good fight… finished [the] course… kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). We called to mind the Scripture from Isaiah 55:

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:1,6-9)

The Rest of the Story
A few weeks after this trip, and at the end of three months of unemployment, the Lord did indeed miraculously provide me with a new job, just as He had told me. One day when I was walking down a hallway in a building on the local college campus a man yelled out at me from his desk in an office, “Hey! Are you looking for a job?” He happened to be the roommate of my former boss, the one who had asked me to resign, so he guessed I might still be unemployed. He insisted that I take a typing test, and let me take it over and over again until I finally passed the required minimum words-per-minute.

The next day I received a phone call from a lady who started the conversation by bluntly asking me, “Well, do you want the job?” She then proceeded to tell me that I had the job even before I went to interview for it! I didn’t even know what the job was so I had to ask her. It turned out to be a clerical job that, in addition to a salary, provided free tuition which would enable me to start graduate school. I had felt the Lord’s calling to do this, so this was an amazing confirmation.

Waiting upon the Lord also had resulted in other benefits—rewards that were totally unexpected. My new job placed me in an office location where I immediately encountered my future husband, Lynn. We married a few months later. I now shudder to think what might have happened if I had gone ahead on my own strength and will, trying to work out my own future without obeying God.

Meditating on the Scripture in Isaiah 55 describes our experience with the glass of water on the rock. God offers life-giving water that has no price. His water is pure and uncontaminated by the world. It “satisfieth” and is “good” (vs. 2). In fact, my experience with the glacier ice water seemed to be described by verses 10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it.” The water of the Lord’s Word is pure and restores the soul. Truly it just as the Lord promises:

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace:
the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing...

(Isaiah 55:12a)



This article is another testimony in an ongoing series to encourage readers to boldly persevere in God’s holy faith.