There’s a call button above every seat on commercial airplanes. In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve ever used it. I’m not sure if that is due to shyness or to pride, as there have certainly been times when I acutely needed help while seated.
While traveling recently, for example, I endured some delays and was thirsty. Yet I waited to ask for anything until the plane reached 10,000 feet, when the flight attendants came row by row to grant our drink requests. I didn’t press the call button. It always seems more courteous to wait.
Travel can be an exercise in rediscovering our dependence on others. I don’t mind helping others, but I don’t particularly like having to ask for help. I’ve learned some helpful insights from all the “codependent no more” writings that were popular a few decades ago. But the reality is that we wouldn’t survive without each other. Humans are fundamentally interdependent.
I notice my need for others especially when I’m sick or when I am traveling with small children. I notice it when I’m in a new city, when I’m reading a map—especially if I’m in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.
In his 33 years on this earth, Jesus boldly trusted his Father God to meet his daily needs. He practiced this, asking his Father for provision. And he knew what it meant to be thirsty, just like us.
As Jesus hung on the cross, one of the last phrases he spoke out loud was “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). This three-word inclusion in the Gospels is a subtle yet significant acknowledgment of Jesus’ human need. His thirst dignifies our humanity. He offered up this holy complaint, a declaration of his physical need. He pushed the call button.
Scripture records that the people plunged a sponge into a nearby jar of sour wine—perhaps cheap wine meant more for sustenance than for pleasure—and raised it with a stick to Jesus’ lips. The drink Jesus received was not anything special, but it was something. In contrast, by faith, this same Jesus offers us springs of living water (Rev. 21:6).
I recently led worship at a small, midmorning service in Nashville. Most of those gathered were new friends from all over the country, each with different church practices and preferred worship styles. At the end of the service, an Anglican priest served Communion.
As the priest lifted up the elements of bread and wine, he invited us to receive Communion. He offered up a few words about what it means to take and what it means to receive. This humble verb in the phrase “to receive Communion” is a subtle contrast to many Christian services, when we often use the phrase “to take Communion.”
Jesus, when giving the Lord’s Supper, gave this instruction: “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matt. 26:26). And again in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25, Paul reminds us of Jesus’ instruction to “take, eat.”
Both of these verbs have theological merit. There’s a physical difference between the gesture of reaching out to take the bread and opening your hands to receive it. There’s a mysterious space, a line drawn between passivity and submission.
Active and passive postures are both described throughout the Scriptures as essential for our spiritual, physical, and emotional flourishing. In the worship service that morning, as I raised my open hands to receive the Communion bread, I felt the difference, my open palms lifted in an expectant posture of trust.
God is the one who is responsible to supply our needs (Ps. 23:1; Phil. 4:19). Jesus invites us to participate, to receive, and to ask. Sometimes we are to ask and ask again (Luke 11:9; 18:1–8). In my own prayer life, when I clamor for control, I disrupt the harmony of obedience. Control is a devotional roadblock. We cannot demand or coerce the movement of the Spirit in our hearts or in our lives. Laying down our will in prayer is the faithful practice of waiting for him to speak, to invite, and to guide (Isa. 30:21). “Your kingdom come. Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10).
Jesus invites us to hit the call button. And he invites us to wait for him, sometimes well beyond when the plane has reached 10,000 feet. Ask and wait. Hope and receive. The springs of living water that he gives will never run dry.
Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville. Follow her on Twitter @Sandramccracken.
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