I recently finished a book on the life of Mother Teresa. Her life needs little introduction but I found much more to learn about the Albanian girl who entered an Irish religious order and ended up serving the poorest of the poor in India. Throughout her decades of ministry, Mother Teresa continually went back to the words of Jesus on the Cross, “I thirst” as her inspiration. She would print out these words and glue them to the walls of her ministry homes around the world. Why? Perhaps because she understood the fundamental motivator of “thirst.” Thirst drives a person onward and upward. To be in touch with your thirst is to be in touch with your bodily needs, your existence, and place in the cosmos.
To thirst is to be fully alive.
I am a teacher by profession. I’m not a miracle worker or a missionary in the slums like Mother Teresa or her Missionaries of Charity. But I know that teaching is its own great responsibility and that without a true “intellectual thirst” we’re only forming a generation to memorize answers for a test. I often ask my students if they have any questions. When they stare at my blankly I’m always tempted to leave the room. If you have no questions—if you’re not thirsting to know—than I can’t possibly teach you anything.
I teach theology—the study of God—at an all-boys high school. I’m keenly aware of the struggles our youth are encountering in their age of hyper-connectivity but increased isolation. Social media dictates the tumultuous waters of puberty in ways that many of us never had to deal with. But I also see great opportunity to tap into the existential thirst of my young men: Why am I here? How did this all come to be? Do I have a purpose? Am I made for more than just this?
My job is to get my students to start asking these questions and convey the Christian story in a way that satisfies this thirst. Mother Teresa worked to alleviate physical thirst and bring comfort to those in suffering so that their spiritual thirst for God and need for love could also be met. Our thirst drives us out of ourselves to something much more substantial.
Take and drink! Life’s too short to not admit your thirst for more.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”