Cultivating Theological Imagination: Thirst by Tania Runyan

Cultivating Theological Imagination: Thirst by Tania Runyan

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“Thirst” by Tania Runyan

Drifting in and out of fever, the child dreams of water.
Not the brown puddles twitching with mosquitoes

or the lukewarm dripping from the Red Cross pouches,
but the melted snow tracing diamond paths

down the mountains of his grandfather’s stories.
He dreams of walking among the bongo

on the bamboo slope, spreading apart the reeds
and finding a stream. He crouches, cups his hands.

water rolls through his lips, washes over
his gums, sinks into the grooves of his teeth.

He wakes crying for this stream to live in his body,
this water that once shimmered at the top of a peak

after falling through the sky, after shivering into snow,
after living in a cloud with a god somewhere.

One way to really know ourselves (or others) is to become aware of what we (they) achingly yearn for. Our deepest desires say more about us than almost anything else. In fact, ancient Christians have suggested that our real desires are our truest prayers.

The longing for God is a thirst that can ache in the depths of our soul. And if we are truthful, this longing is often left un-fulfilled. Again, ancient Christians who pondered this suggested that the desire itself is a gift from God.

The reasoning is that we cannot hunger for God unless he gives us this desire. It is not a natural human yearning. When our desire is seemingly unanswered, and the resulting intensified desire awakens, then a gift has been bestowed.

And then sometimes, just when you least expect it, a deep sense of knowing comes over us, a Presence that floods with peace and joy. Mature spirituality is able to live gently in expectation and quietly in absence.

Psalm 131 says, ‘My soul is like a weaned child.” Content and trusting. Waiting and at peace.

Tania Runyan is the author of A Thousand Vessels (WordFarm), Simple Weight (FutureCycle Press) and Delicious Air (Finishing Line Press), which was awarded Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature in 2007. In addition to blogging for Tweetspeak, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many publications, including Poetry, Image, Atlanta Review, Indiana Review, The Christian Century, Willow Springs, Nimrod, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, and the anthology A Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare. She was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship in 2011.

Dr. Marilyn Elliott is Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and adjunct faculty in the area of Spiritual Formation. Marilyn and her husband Steve have four children and six grandchildren.


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