Mark Melluish reminds us how important it is to soak in God’s presence and refresh ourselves
This article was published in the January to April 2024 edition of Rapport magazine.
Our summer holiday this year was partly spent camping by a river and choosing to swim each morning. It was wonderful to slip into the fast-running river at a point where it was deep enough to swim and not touch the ground. Just twenty minutes did wonders for me for the rest of the day.
I don’t want to claim this is a new habit but we do try to swim as much as we can when we are near water and we know that it’s safe to do so. In a small way it gives us a sense of accomplishment. Apparently there are also huge health benefits from swimming in cold water: mood-enhancing endorphins are released and our cardiovascular fitness improves. It certainly makes us feel good.
I don’t know about you, but I like to think that I live a somewhat healthy life. I eat well and do plenty of exercise. However, I know that there is much more to living a healthy life than eating well, sleeping enough and exercising.
Faith and well-being
A life of faith can bring so much to your mental, physical and emotional well-being. In fact, faith involvement is linked to happiness and life satisfaction, hope and optimism, purpose and meaning. Having faith brings us greater social support; where else do all generations mix in the way we do in church life? It’s a wonderful gift.
However … Leading a community that offers all of this can be exhausting. No wonder Psalm 23 says:
He lets me rest in green meadows;Ps. 23:2–3 NLT
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Leading any sort of ministry can be draining. I am sure I am not the only church leader who has been left feeling empty at times, having poured out everything I have for others. Often in the quiet of my room, I have longed for God to come and reveal himself to me, to refresh my soul and give me bread enough to sustain me for the next day.
I relate to Psalm 63, which begins:
O God, you are my God;Ps. 63:1 NLT
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
Running on empty
The life of a Christian is one that is outward focused as we are called to put others before ourselves and be the servants of all, to live generous and selfless lives. And in doing all of this, we can run dry.
Recently one of our children borrowed our little camper van for a holiday with his mate. They took it to Cornwall to surf and loved every moment. However, before driving home he called me and said that a warning light had come on. We then had a FaceTime call so that I could see the light on the dashboard and work out the problem. It was the water light saying, ‘I’m thirsty’. Our little van was saying, ‘I’ve been driving all summer and I need a drink.’
As I reflected on this I thought ‘I wonder how many of us have warning lights flashing but we ignore them?’
The old saying that can ring true in so many of our lives suggests that if our output exceeds our input, we dry up. But if our input exceeds our output, we can blow up. So we need both the outward and inward aspects of ministry. As leaders, our output can so easily exceed our input.
A few weeks ago, after speaking at an event I got home at 11.15 pm, only to fall into bed knowing that I needed to be up at 6.30 am to leave in time for a morning meeting. That particular week didn’t seem to slow down. Not only was there the everyday ministry to attend to but Sunday was coming like a non-stop express train. Talks needed preparing, volunteers needed to be contacted and in all of this I desperately needed to find a bit of space to pray. Does that sound familiar to you?
Finding time to be with God
It’s so easy to be over-busy in any job and it’s time with our Lord that so easily gets squeezed out. Lots of helpful patterns have been shared about how we can find time with God. For me, I find this pattern works …
- Pause daily
- Reflect weekly
- Refresh monthly
- Restore annually
Streams of refreshment
Into this comes water. The passages about water in the Bible are so numerous and I love them. Water is used to symbolise faith, salvation and God’s provision.
Elijah was fed by ravens and kept safe by the brook at Kerith during a time of drought (1 Kings 17:4). Jesus offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10). In Isaiah God promises:
For I will pour out water to quench your thirstIsa. 44:3 NLT
and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
and my blessing on your children.
I love Peter’s honest exchange with Jesus as he is washing the disciples’ feet.
Peter said, ‘You will never ever wash my feet!’ Jesus replied, ‘Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.’ Simon Peter exclaimed, ‘Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!’John 13:8–9
Peter is saying, ‘let me be all in.’
God’s search for us
I believe that the story of the Bible is the story of God’s search for us. He longs to come to us. He longs to find us. He longs to refresh us. He longs for us to dive all in, totally committed. In fact, the words of Jesus issue constant invitations:
Come if we are thirsty.
Come if we are tired.
Come if we are anxious.
Come to God.
I love an invitation and always feel honoured to receive one when going out for dinner or to a wedding or party. An invitation says you’re included, and Jesus was the master of invitations.
I think all of us who love the Lord have a desire for God. We know that we are capable of loving and of being loved and that brings us deep joy in our human relationships. Similarly, by our love, passion and desire for God, we know that we are capable of loving him more and receiving more of his love.
Satisfying our thirst
The promise we have is that our thirst for God can be satisfied. Jesus says, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.’ (John 7:37 NRSV) As the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow out from within him. In discussion with the woman at the well Jesus says, ‘those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.’ (John 4:14 NLT)
Our thirst for God can be satisfied when we respond to the longing that is within us to come and drink from the fountain of life.
So I’d love to invite you to come and soak in the presence of God. Come if you are thirsty and need a rest. Come and be with others who will love and support you. Come and slip into the river of life where your soul will be refreshed and fed. Come and pause with our Lord and allow the Spirit to minister to us.
You will find there are huge health benefits from swimming in the presence of God. Mood-enhancing endorphins will be released and our hearts will be filled up, making us feel fed, healed and restored.
Mark Melluish is the Diocesan Mission Enabler for the Diocese of Hereford and his heart is to raise up and empower
leadership, both ordained and lay, to help shape the church for the future.
At Lee Abbey Devon
Come and drink from living water, with Mark Melluish
20 January – 2 February (Mon–Fri)
Come away to find time to drink afresh from the Living Water of God. We will be using water as a theme for the week and what more beautiful setting could we do this in than Lee Abbey where we overlook the sea, and streams of water trickle down the hills? My hope is that we will renew our first love of God and be refreshed, ready to go and offer Living Water in our different church contexts.
This week is designed for lay and church leaders (of all denominations) only and is offered at a special price to bless those in leadership. Come and relax and receive and reflect together with those in the same boat as you.