Digging a well, I suppose, is a hard doing.
All that earth and rock and going down deep.
All that mustered faith that there will even be water down there.
When everything in you wants to settle, to put down roots and put up roofs, it’s the shovels that are the first to come out.
Thirst trumps shelter, so wells get dug first.
Ancient people dug them right in the middle of things where everybody could see.
It was the drinking washing samaritan meeting place.
It’s the place where vulnerability meets the one true God, human- thirsty and just wanting to talk.
It is the place of real.
Once upon a time a red pick-up truck bounced along ice cracked ground when our lungs breathed frost.
The pipes had frozen again.
Kids huddled tight until we were sprung from the truck’s cab, winter’s bite sinking deep into our faces.
We’d traveled two miles down a frost-heaved road to where a cistern stood holding water that flowed from a pipe shoved into the side of the earth.
The cistern was four feet high and three feet in diameter and the water spilled cut diamonds. When I peeked over the edge I could see clear to the bottom. Not a leaf, not a twig swirled upon the liquid mirror.
My sister and I made quick work as we helped our mother bring down the large plastic barrel from the bed of the truck. We lifted it up over the lip of the cistern and bent one side of it to fit under the pipe. The water spread quick and I watched it gush into the barrel and I hated it.
I glanced at the dented pickup, its hazard lights warning and it leaning cock-eyed to one side of the road like a drunk trying to stand up straight.
I turned back toward my mother, little in my dad’s barn coat, struggling to keep the barrel steady.
I saw my sister barely tall enough to hold up the back end of the barrel, mouth fierce and eyes declaring resolve to hold steady against the weight of the water filling filling filling.
Does anyone not care that we are on a main road heading into town where everyone we know will see us for what we are, beggars at the side of the mountain?
I was ten.
I was desperate for invisibility.
I was a little girl all too aware of the difference between the working pipes people and the broken pipes people.
The haves and the have nots.
I was a little girl who did not know her desperation was in the wrong thing; that it needed to be in the wanting of the power of a holy provision and that being poor sometimes means you end up getting the very best.
No water from a faucet could match what came out of that iron pipe. One drink and there was no denying the jolt of purity, the rush of cleanness coursing through every part of my body.
I did not see then that broken pipes and no money to fix them meant I got to drink from the best water in the county.
I did not see that I was broken pipes rich.
I recently went back to that cistern with my mother. Our samaritan place.
Empty now but still sacred, like the tomb after the Resurrection.
Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.
I went back to the cistern place where I first learned that when you don’t care about how poor you are, then your thirst is able to trump the shelter of pride, the shelter that kept me from receiving God’s best.
I was pretending that day by the road. Pretending I didn’t have a need when my need was so clearly on display. We cannot hide who we truly are for very long.
It was on another mountain where Jesus stood up and declared, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Poverty, my need for all things God, is not something to be despised, but celebrated. When I embrace my poverty, that I am nothing without Jesus, then I get Him.
I get all the cleanness and purity heaven has to offer.
The cloak of invisibility slides off and I drink deeply.
I am broken pipes rich.