Any seafaring person knows what this old saying about water refers to—not being able to use all that salty seawater to quench your thirst.
If you’ve ever been out in the middle of the ocean without anything to drink, you can relate. We all saw what Tom Hanks had to do for four years as a castaway on his remote island, cupping leaves in the rain and drinking the runoff. For too many in today’s world, without access to proper sanitation and clean water, the hard life of a castaway seems tame by comparison.
Yet in developed countries we sell water like it’s, well, water, and the water with fancy labels isn’t that cheap. The advertising claims for spring water—Pure! Natural!—can seem ridiculous, as if all water doesn’t come from rain in some fashion, especially the natural water in aquifers. I remember at the office when the director learned that our large-bottled water fountains were fed by those dubious claims. He had me ask the bottling company in fact, whose ultimate reply was. “It’s guaranteed natural,” as if all water wasn’t natural. So out went the big water coolers!
We all need water to survive. Just like our natural need for water, though, we all have an innate thirst for the water of spirituality, the water of love, the water of life.
In this day, as in every day of past ages, the prophets have rained down the fresh water of the word of God on everyone on Earth. The water of the spirit quenches the thirst of souls of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, creeds and beliefs. Those Words created civilizations that have, in many ways, elevated humanity’s condition on this planet—and in others have set us back to the stone ages before the Word could be fully understood or properly implemented.
The Baha’i teachings consistently ask us to drink this pure water of the soul, which comes from the divine rain of revelation, those “life-giving showers” of faith:
Now, the reality of prophethood, which is the Word of God and the state of perfect divine manifestation, has neither beginning nor end, but its radiance varies like that of the sun. For example, it dawned above the sign of Christ with the utmost splendour and radiance, and this is eternal and everlasting. See how many world-conquering kings, how many wise ministers and rulers have come and gone, each and all fading into oblivion—whereas even now the breezes of Christ still waft, His light still shines, His call is still upraised, His banner is still unfurled, His armies still do battle, His voice still rings sweetly, His clouds still rain down life-giving showers, His lightning still streaks forth, His glory is still clear and indisputable, His splendour is still radiant and luminous; and the same holds true of every soul that abides beneath His shade and partakes of His light. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 173-174.
Sometimes, though, we don’t welcome the rain; it interferes with the outdoor wedding we planned that day, or the summer picnic. The rain of the word of God can be like that, the admonitions and laws guiding mankind’s behavior toward his brother and sister sometimes seemingly restrictive, a nuisance, unwelcome and inconvenient.
Usually we accept the rain, making do with our umbrellas and rubber boots until it ends, understanding that it gives everything life. What else can we do? We realize we have no control over the weather, the clouds, the system of causes that create precipitation in one town and not the next town over. But sometimes the rain causes floods and damage, even death to those caught unaware.
The rain of the words of the Prophets can be like those hard physical rains, sweeping away and drowning out ignorance, untruth, hate and cruelty. The rain of the word of God can expose them for what they are—man-made not God-made constructs, deeply flawed and based on faulty and specious ideas. That spiritual rain sweeps away the detritus of winter and brings us a new springtime.
Rain gives life. Without water we will die. Without the word of God we would have died—literally have destroyed ourselves—already. Yet it seems we have not yet decided to drink from the clear spring of the word of God and refresh and cleanse our bodies of all infirmities:
Ye are even as saplings in a garden, which are near to perishing for want of water. Wherefore, revive your souls with the heavenly water that is raining down from the clouds of divine bounty. – Baha’u’llah, Tabernacle of Unity, p. 69.
It’s easy to teach the Word of God to those who want to hear it, just as it is to rain on those who face a drought. But depending on what you’re drinking, and its source, the taste and contents can enlighten or mask the realities we face today,
Give it a try—take a sip of the clearest, freshest water and feel it quench your soul’s deepest thirst.