And GOD said, “let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” –Genesis 1:6
Water is a fundamental element of life. Without it life cannot be sustained. In Genesis 1:6-10, GOD deals with water, separating sky from sea and sea from land. In the ancient world, water represented chaos. It was a force both destructive and life-giving. Early humanity believed that the earth itself was founded upon a watery abyss that was deep, wild, and untamed.
Water is powerful stuff. It can be deadly in the form of tsunami, hurricane, or flood. Even the slow steady drip of water will eventually erode the most stubborn surface. Yet at the same time it nourishes, greens the earth, enables us to grow food, and in the water of baptism possesses eternal benefits.
This morning I realized how thankful I am to have access to clean water from the faucet. Yep, what I so easily take for granted is a real gift. Hop in the shower, turn a handle, and I have as much warm water as I need. No schlepping heavy loads from some spring or well far away. I don’t have to worry about water-born diseases thanks to water treatment and additional home filters. Ah, water! How wonderful!
My grandparents had a well. I remember on visits there lifting the wooden cover and peering down into the cool darkness. It was a hand crank operation with a bucket at the end of a rope. Older, not necessarily more mature, cousins occasionally threatened to deposit the younger, more annoying cousins into the deep, dank reaches below. I thought it was pretty cool to draw water from that well for about the first 24 hours. It got old quite quickly. Still, it was relatively easy access to a good source of potable water.
Not everyone is so fortunate. According to Living Water International, 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. That’s about 1 in 8 people without what we consider to be so basic–almost a right.
1.8 million children die each year as the result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. That adds up to about 5,000 deaths per day. Water-related disease is the second biggest killer of children.
Those large containers of water you see women carrying in pictures from Africa and Asia weigh about 40 pounds. That’s equal to the average airport luggage weight allowance.
The average North American uses 400 liters of water each day. Europeans typically use about 200 liters per day. People in the developing world use on average only 10 liters per day for drinking, cooking, and washing.
The average per person spending for Christmas gifts if $723. Multiply that number by even 50% of the population, and the figure is staggering. Living Water International stated that Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas. The U.S. National Debt is more than $15 trillion and growing. The estimated cost of providing clean water to everyone in the world is $20 billion. Sort of makes that last figure sound paltry, doesn’t it.
I’m not trying to lay a guilt quilt over anybody’s shoulders, but I do hope that every person reading these words will be a whole lot more grateful for each sip of water and remember to thank GOD for each hot shower or bath. Next time you so easily turn on the faucet, say a prayer for the many people in the world who must walk miles to collect water or drink dirty water.
GOD’s been doing wonderful things with water since the beginning of time. It’s a gift of the Creator we should never take for granted. Today, and every day, remember to give thanks for water–each precious drop.
For Further Reflection
Today, spend some time reading water stories from scripture and praying in thanksgiving for water. Place a bowl of water beside your candle as a reminder of this precious gift. If it is a warm day, consider going to sit by a fountain or stream so that you will be able to hear running water. Here are some suggestions for water stories from scripture:
Genesis 1:6-10 (Water at Creation)
Genesis 6-9:17 (Noah and the Flood)
Exodus 14 (The Crossing of the Red Sea)
Mark 1:4-11 (Baptism of Jesus)
John 2:1-11 (The Wedding at Cana)
Mark 4:35-41 (Jesus Calms the Storm)
What other important water stories come to mind?
Consider a water tax. For a period of time (Advent and Lent are good options), charge yourself a “tax” every time you turn on a faucet, the shower, or flush the toilet. It could range from a penny to a dollar depending on your means. At the end of that period of time, add up your “tax” and donate it to a water charity so that through your act of “thanks-living,” others may have a better chance to have good water, too.
Say a short prayer of thanksgiving every time you use water today. It can be as simple as Thank you, GOD, for the gift of water that gives life abundant both today and in eternity.