Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Living Water Versus Only Dreaming You Quenched Your Thirst

I ran into two different scriptures in different places that I felt provided a really interesting contrast when juxtaposed, so I wanted to point them out.  One is on blessings of keeping the commandments, and the other is on the consequences of fighting against Zion. They are linked together with imagery about water.

But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life. (D&C 63:23)

I love that image of a well of living water springing up. I can’t remember where I learned this, but somewhere I heard that “living water” is a term the ancient Jews used to refer to fresh water that hadn’t been stored in cisterns. Living water was river water, well water, and rainwater. It’s moving and alive, not stagnant.  If you have a well of living water that springs up, you essentially have an artesian well.  You don’t have to let down a bucket; the water presses to the surface and comes to you.

My dad has an artesian well in the basement of his second orthodontic office. The office was built over the top before he bought the building. There is a bowl-like basin in the cement basement floor about two times the size of a wedding-reception punch bowl, and no matter how he tries to pump it out, water keeps trickling in because the pressure on the ground water from surrounding stone forces it up.

It’s rather troublesome for him in reality. But if you think about this spiritually, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we could each have a well of living water springing up in our lives with refreshing mysteries of God to instruct us?  The above verse promises we can have that. We can have these amazing revelations come to us if we will just keep the commandments of God.

Now, contrast that with this other verse:

And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision;
yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty;
or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite;
yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.
(2 Nephi 27:3)

This is a little difficult to parse because first it seems like those who fight Zion will be like the dream itself (and dreams end), then it seems like they will be like a person having a dream who thinks they have eaten and drunk, but then they awake and find they are still hungry and thirsty.

So which is it? 

It’s probably both, depending on the degree of opposition to Zion.  Those who are wicked will be ended like the dream.  But then there are those who have tried to nourish themselves with falsehoods or even lower-priority pursuits who will find when the dream ends that the satisfaction they thought they had ends too.

But too, I think this also gives us a warning about empty time-wasting pursuits of this life—that they aren’t a real source of satisfaction.  We need wholesome recreation, yes, but we should also beware when on a regular basis some semi-addictive activity pull us into a dream-like flow state for hours, but leaves us feeling vaguely unsatisfied and with nothing actually accomplished that makes the world better.

That kind of thing doesn’t fight against Zion like a screaming mob with torches and pitchforks would. But on the level of choices between alternatives—good vs. better vs. best—we could be fighting against Zion indirectly simply by a regular, deliberate turning away from “best” for a while. 

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if there is anything we’re doing that feels real while we’re involved in it but leaves us feeling unsatisfied. I’m not free from these problems myself. For a curious person (like me), the internet represents a massive temptation to learn and read about all kinds of things, for hours and hours..  Heck, I used to browse encyclopedias for fun when I was a kid, so you can imagine what happens when I get into Wikipedia..  One way I deal with it is by trying (emphasis on “try”) to confine my searching to real problems I need to solve in my life.  I have to be very careful on Facebook.  And Pinterest?  I haven’t gotten into that because I know it would suck me in.

Anyway, there you have it—two different scriptures that tell us the consequences of different choices.  We can keep the commandments and have a well of living water springing up in us of the mysteries of the Lord’s kingdom, or we can get caught up in what Isaiah (as quoted by Nephi) might warningly call “living the dream,” thinking we're quenching some sort of thirst and then wake up to discover we’re unsatisfied.

Living water spring up sounds a whole lot more attractive.