“Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God.”
Psalm 42:1 (Common English Bible)
The philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote that each one of us is born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. Naturally, Pascal was not speaking of a literal hole such as a square hole. The hole he speaks of is an empty space, a deep longing or hunger. We often attempt to fill this empty space with other things or pursuits. Perhaps we seek a relationship that will satisfy this longing, or acquire some material reward such as a new car or country club membership. Each of these may satisfy for a period. Cracker Jacks at dinnertime will satisfy hunger for a little while. But, the satisfaction will be short-lived. After all, if the empty space implanted in our hearts is for God, any substitute will simply leave empty spaces all around it. Our hearts remain empty.
This scripture from Psalms speaks of deer that crave streams of water. What the original readers of this passage know is that many aqueducts in the Holy Land were built with a mesh-like covering to prevent trash from clogging the water supply. Thirsty deer could hear the streams of water, they could see the streams of water, but they could not drink from those streams. The mesh covering that prevented trash from entering the water also prevented the deer access to the water. So the longing to quench their thirst remained. What is important for the reader to understand is that before the deer “listened for” and “moved toward” the sound of streams of water, there was first a thirst.
As the deer experienced thirst, often we experience a spiritual thirst, a spiritual yearning for something more. Sometimes that thirst is noticed when we see others living a deeply satisfying relationship with Jesus. There is simply something about their faith that is missing in our own experience. Other times we simply become tired of acquiring more and more and finding that all of it fails to satisfy our deepest hungers. The emptiness remains. And most of us will try almost anything to fill that emptiness only to be disappointed time and time again. That is because they fail to recognize that only the pursuit of a deep relationship with Jesus through regular prayer and study of Jesus’ teachings can ever satisfy that emptiness.
During my sophomore year of college I had the opportunity to spend the fall semester of study in London. To complete a class assignment, I traveled to Liverpool for a weekend of research. Arriving in the early evening of a Friday – London to Liverpool – by train I immediately looked for an inexpensive opportunity for dinner. Just as I began to enjoy the fish and chips I had ordered to go, eating while standing along a sidewalk, I realized I had lost my father’s professional Nikon camera he had trusted to my care. I lost my appetite, threw away a largely uneaten meal, and went off searching for the camera. Ultimately my search led me to a homeless man, the Cathedral of Christ the King, and Father Murphy, who had my camera. Returning the camera to me, Father Murphy looked deep into my eyes and asked, “Are you hungry?” In that moment I sensed that the question was intended for something much deeper than my stomach.