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Drinking sand vs. living water

I could watch Michael Douglas as the president of the United States and Michael J. Fox as Lewis Rothschild, a domestic advisor to the president, in The American President every day for a year. Each time for me is like the very first time when I locked eyes and ears on one of my favorite exchanges between the two:

Lewis: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.

Michael J. Fox and Michael Douglas star in The American President.

As I watched it last week, though, one thing was different. This time I began to hear a question shouting in my ear. With my temples throbbing and mind racing, I might have asked aloud what was burning in my heart to ask the church: What are we really thirsty for?

Yearning for more than lunch

The crowd in John 6 had partaken of a little boy’s lunch—five loaves and two fish.

The people were partakers in Jesus’s life of abundance and were in pursuit of more. They followed Jesus to the other side of the sea, clearly hungry and thirsty for more of what they had already ingested.

But what a waste. They might as well have eaten sand. They were so preoccupied with quenching their immediate thirst that they overlooked the living water in their midst. And now, the bread from the meal on the mountain had already been metabolized in the digestive system. The fish had already spilled its iodine into the blood stream. The abundant lunch was as tangible as a mirage in the desert by now, but that was all they were thirsty for—more of the tangible.

But what a waste. They might as well have eaten sand.

Being hungry for God’s gifts

Us, too. We’ve been craving living water, but we find ourselves drinking the mirage of news outlets and memes. Even on our best days, we overlook the living water.

What a true waste—of a loving savior, an abundant grace, and a faithful friend—to reduce Jesus to the confines of what we think we want for the moment. What things are we hungry for? A practiced ritual from yesterday? A small snack for right now? A full-course meal to feed the body and soul?

In Christ we have so much more.

The table has been set, the bread baked, the grapes crushed, and Christ has made all things ready.

The menu on the marquee of the church is as clear as those Plexiglas ones at fancy restaurants. Here in the church, bits of bread are Christ to us. The sips and dips of wine are, too. Christ comes down and invites to come up all who are thirsty for mystery and abundance, hungry for hope and grace. These are the gifts of God for all who are weary of eating the sand.

Denise Kingdom Grier headshot
Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom

The Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom lives in Holland, Michigan, and is the mobilization pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville and Grand Rapids, Michigan. She serves the Reformed Church in America as RCA Global Mission’s liaison to Setshabelo Family and Child Services in South Africa, where 30,000 orphans are finding loving homes within their community. She has been part of the RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership guiding coalition since its inception and has helped give birth to Equity-Based Hospitality, Dismantling Racism, and the She is Called: Women of the Bible studies. Her work can be found