Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2a (Common English Bible)
In the heart of Colorado, Boulder lies nestled against the base of the Rocky Mountains like a puppy sleeping nestled against its mother. The downtown area is home to many coffee shops, breweries, vegan and gluten-free, friendly restaurants, and a large variety of specialty shops. In the heart of the downtown sits the Hotel Boulderado. From the outside, this hotel appears to be like any other place of business, but stepping inside makes me feel as though I have somehow stepped back in time. From the towering central staircase and the registration desk with its little postal boxes to the staff-run original “Otis” elevator complete with accordion gate and bell-button, this hotel gives the feeling of being captured in an old Cary Grant movie. It seems surreal with its 1940s jazz playing in the background … that is, until the reality of Boulder’s elevation sets in. As I climb the staircase to the 4th floor, I am reminded by my lack of air that I am indeed more than a mile above sea level, and my lungs aren’t adjusting very easily.
Life in downtown Boulder is a little different. The roads are pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, and Boulder touts itself as being one of the healthiest cities in the U.S. Someone said, “There’s a difference between being ‘fit’ and being ‘Boulder-fit’.” The shops sell the top of the line in sports equipment from rock-climbing and mountaineering gear to bicycling and running clothes and equipment. People here want to dress well and look fit, and fitness does have a way of creeping into the lifestyle here in Boulder. It’s easier to eat well when the restaurants don’t cater to the “fast-food” mentality of “eat and run.” Even business professionals are laid back enough to take time for a leisurely healthy lunch. In general, people seem healthy and happy.
As I ponder the Galatians 5 passage from our sermon series, I am reminded of the shop owners who seem patient and kind, taking time to talk with customers and taking time to be helpful and friendly. Then, I think of other cities and wonder why they all are not like Boulder. People here seem to live in peace with one another, accepting one another’s differences. Even in religious circles, people seem to live in peace. Just next door to the United Methodist Church sits the Buddhist Meditation Room, and just down the street in a coffee shop, “Sacred Space” provides a space for peaceful dialogue among the “spiritually aware” and those who profess no spirituality at all. All are welcome and all are accepted in Boulder. But like my panting lungs, I find myself panting spiritually for more than the façade of a healthy spiritual lifestyle.
The Psalmist says, “I thirst for you, O God, as a deer pants for the stream.” I think of my breathlessness and my utter exhaustion at reaching the 4th floor, feeling as if my heart will burst and my lungs will collapse, and I realize that I have felt the same feeling spiritually. Sometimes, we go through the routine of “doing” church – going to worship on Sunday, participating in Bible study once a week, and saying prayers before meals and bedtime, which on the outside may look like a spiritually healthy lifestyle, but oftentimes leaves us panting and thirsting for something deeper – something more. Even David, King of Israel, who lived on top of the world in many ways with his wealth and influence, went through periods of his life when he felt spiritually depleted and exhausted. But when we come to the end of ourselves, we are ready to completely rely on God’s Spirit to pick us up and fill us up. Turning back to the Psalm, I find the depth and strength I am looking for: “But I remember these things as I bare my soul: how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs—a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God.” Psalm 42:4-5 (Common English Bible)
Are you thirsty for God? Hope in God! Spend time praying and reading God’s Word and let God’s Spirit renew your soul so that you can continue to be an effective disciple for God.
Rev. Jan McCoy is the Associate Pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.covingtonfirst.org.