Only God can quench our thirst for love and attention

Columnist Lorraine Murray, a Decatur resident, has written seven books, most recently “The Abbess of Andalusia,” a spiritual biography of Flannery O’Connor. Her email is

Our 30th wedding anniversary was approaching, and obviously I was quite excited. When I mentioned the big celebration to a relative, she asked about the date, which startled me, since she attended the event years ago and has also asked me the same question numerous times — and obviously the date hasn’t changed.

Still, I know she has quite a bit on her mind, so I simply answered her question and she jotted down the date. On the big day, I expected her to telephone or perhaps send a card, but she did neither. I chalked it up to forgetfulness, but still it hurt.

Then I realized this is something I do time and time again — and perhaps you do, too. I call it going to the dry well.

Frankly, I have never fetched water from a real well, but I imagine it can be rather difficult. You have to lower the bucket and then pull it up, ever so carefully. If the bucket is full, it will be heavy and you have to be careful not to spill the water.

And what if the well is dry? Then you go home with nothing, and surely you feel very downtrodden indeed. After all, in countries where clean water is hard to come by, a dry well can be life-threatening for the whole family.

Some people are a dry well in our lives. They may be our spouses, our relatives, our friends, our coworkers — and even our pastors and rabbis. We keep going back to them, but they are too busy, too forgetful or too self-absorbed to quench our thirst for affection, attention or affirmation.

Sometimes, all we yearn for is a nice “Atta girl” or “Atta boy.” Sometimes, we long to hear someone declare, “I’m proud of you.” Sometimes, it’s just a phone call saying, “Congratulations.”

It may be a new job, a wedding, a baby, a birthday. It isn’t that we expect that much, but for some reason we get nothing. We go to the well and it is dry. And often we promise ourselves we won’t go to that well again, but then we do. We assure ourselves we won’t let this person fail us again, but then we allow it.

There’s a scene in the Gospels where a Samaritan woman goes to a well to draw water and meets Jesus there. He tells her he can give her a “spring of water welling up to eternal life” — and she will never thirst again. She is understandably excited about this. “Sir, give me this water,” she says.

There is a huge lesson here, one that is difficult to truly grasp. Only God can fill the empty spaces in our hearts. Human beings, even those closest to us, will disappoint us. Often, it is not intentional, but simply because they are so absorbed in their own lives they forget to look around and notice others. And so they will let us down this year, and then next year, too.

On the cross Jesus said, “I thirst” — and was given vinegar, not water. His thirst wasn’t just for water but for our love. Let’s pray that we will quench his thirst by loving him — and being more mindful of others. Let’s pray to forgive the people who are dry wells in our lives. Let’s remember that, in the end, the only true and everlasting well is God.