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Running Water Is a Holy Thing

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

As everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever. ~Herman Melville

Drip, drip drip… Drip, drip, drip…

Getting water is something many of us don’t normally think about. It’s something many of us take for granted. We turn on the tap, and there it is. For a lot of us, this water has been treated already and is drinkable. Perhaps we’ll run it through a Brita pitcher or some other filter, but we don’t have to wait long, or at all, to get a tall, cool glass of refreshing water.

Our recent move from Washington, DC to a rural setting in Michigan has led to a number of changes, including how we get our water.

drinking03-water-tap-ethiopia_13109_600x450Instead of municipal city water coming out of the tap ready to go, with its treatment of chlorine and fluoride, we depend on well water. Well water can notoriously come with the lovely scent of rotten eggs, due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide and other minerals. To counteract this, our home has a water softener in the basement. A water softener replaces some of the hard minerals through a cycling process involving sodium ions. After this the water has a higher sodium content and a “silky” feel which isn’t bad, but it’s not that great for drinking.

So our water goes through a second process: an under the counter filtration system that runs the water through several filters and comes out through a special drinking tap. Due to all the processes the water goes through, by the time it comes through the tap for drinking, the pressure is low and it comes out in a slow stream—at times it only drips. Just to be on the safe side (water can’t be too pure, can it?), we add a third step and run the water through a Brita filter. Maybe this is just a habit.

As perhaps happens at your house, we don’t always remember to keep the Brita pitcher filled. Sometimes I run to the fridge thirsty and ready for a cool glass of water. But the water pitcher is empty! As I sit there and wait for the pitcher to fill, a process that sometimes takes fifteen minutes or more, I am tempted to complain. To pout. “I’m thirsty, where’s my water?!” “Who forgot to keep the pitcher filled?”

But in my better moments, I see that I have been gifted with a perfect moment to practice contemplation. I can focus on that water flowing slowly(!) out of the faucet and be grateful. I have drinkable water. Right out of the tap. In my own house.

In many places in the world, that is a luxury. And so I take a moment to be mindful of and in solidarity with those for whom water is a major need. I think of those in Gaza whose water supply is now in question after a major power plant was recently struck by a missile. I think of the nearly 800 million people in the world who lack access to an adequate water source. I think of the children who suffer every day due to lack of access to water and proper sanitation. I think of the way we are treating our fresh water sources, which all of life depends on.

I have attempted to use this pause in my day to savor with anticipation the water that will come, to give thanks to the One whose presence is with us each moment, and to consider how I might help or raise awareness for those who need clean water desperately. Water, however we get it, is a needed gift that can invoke wonder and gratitude. After all, it keeps us alive.

As the English proverb puts it: “Running water is a holy thing.”

For more information on where fresh water is needed or needs protection, and how you can help, check out the resources recommended by National Geographic.


Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. You can see more of his writing at pubtheologian.com. Photo by Peter Essick, National Geographic.

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