This weekend many will celebrate a special holiday with a significant other (or is it a significant holiday with a special other?).
But perhaps just as many people will loathe that upcoming holiday.
Let me share with you a poem inspired by Valentines Day that I wrote when I was a student at SDSU:
It’s come and gone this day of Cupid.Here I sit alone and stupid. I wonder if the day will comeWhen Cupid’s arrow pricks my thumb.
That one won’t be appearing in your literature class any time soon.
It’s a silly few lines, but perhaps they represent the feelings of many students.
A second group of students is wondering “what does she want for Valentines Day?”
A third group of students (equal in number to group two) is wondering “Will the idiot give me something I want this year?”
I hope what follows is helpful to all three groups.
There is a story about Jesus in John 4. If you are in group one watch for the emptiness that can exist in relationships.
If you fit group two notice that you can see what women really want.
And for those of you in group three try to think past your wants and grasp what you really need. It’s a long story so I’ll summarize briefly.
Jesus and the disciples were traveling through Samaria, home of a people despised by Jews. Jesus sits down by a well and sends the disciples into town to get some lunch.
A Samaritan woman approaches. This woman has a troubled history of 5 marriages and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. She doesn’t want to talk to the women of her village, and certainly not a Jewish man.
Jesus had a remarkable conversation with this woman that began with “Will you give me a drink?”
She hesitates, confused by the brazenness of this Jewish man.
In response to her hesitation Jesus says “If you knew … who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
He goes on to say “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”
Now that is exciting!
Perhaps her physical needs can be met without laboring under the midday sun.
However, Jesus isn’t speaking about water that satisfies the body, rather water that satisfies the spirit.
To get her thinking about deeper needs Jesus makes a request that points out her life’s pain and disappointment: “Go, call your husband and come back.”
Next the conversation reveals that Jesus knows much about the woman’s personal history, and she acknowledges him as a prophet.
In an effort to deny the pain and move on she attempts to distract Jesus with a theological question dealing with the Jews’ and Samaritans’ centers of worship.
Jesus is not distracted but again invites her to think about spiritual needs by answering her question and defining true worship.
After facing her failed relationships being confronted by her unsatisfying spiritual life is just too much. She has one final hope of ending the ordeal.
“I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Jesus replies, “I who speak to you am he.”
She believes. And she goes on to tell the people of her town-the same people she was desperately avoiding only moments before. And many of them believe, too.
The woman in this story wanted to be loved, but I don’t think she knew just how deeply she needed to be loved.
I think many of us are like the Samaritan woman. We think we know what we want, but we don’t recognize what we truly need.
We seek satisfaction, belonging, success, comfort or a hundred other things, and we seek them in the physical realm.
Look at the things university students pursue-alcohol, sex, physical perfection, extreme thrills, fast cars and high paying careers.
In a decade or two those pursuits might become recovery from alcoholism, a new flame, grasping youth, expensive thrills, expensive cars, high profile careers.
And if you ignore the spiritual needs in your life both now and in decades to come you will never be satisfied. Peace, joy, contentment, they will become the stuff of fairy tales, unbelievable “happily ever afters.”
So as you enjoy (or eschew) the activities surrounding Valentines Day, please don’t allow your wants to distract you from your needs.
And if you begin to recognize in yourself the kind of spiritual thirst found in the woman at the well, consider trying the living water offered by Jesus.
Jeremy Hamiton is a campus staff member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. You can e-mail him at [email protected]