When I was in my mid 20’s, I took a group of junior high students on a backpacking trip one summer on the Cumberland Plateau. It was unbearably hot and dry. There was even one moment when dehydration and heat exhaustion became a valid concern. But what I remember most from the trip is what happened when we made it back to the base camp. There was a fast flowing stream nearby that plummeted over a stairstep of rocks covered in moss, creating an inviting place of repose. I remember getting in and lying back in the moss and letting the water run on top of me, over me, and around me—clear, cold water! I have never felt anything quite like it in my life, the utter relief of that waterfall after days of sweat, dust, and grime.
That waterfall has become the key to understanding one of the most puzzling verses in the Bible for me. Here it is: “Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the life He wants them to live, one of staying in His love. He goes on to explain that we stay there by loving others as we have been loved by Him (vs. 10-12). For the last twenty years, I have struggled to grasp what it really means to stay in His love. What does this look like to feel the love the Father has for the Son and then live there? And why is that so hard to experience?
Why? Because my heart has stayed in so many other places: shame, anger, fear, envy, pride, apathy, deadness. It also has been hooked to so many idols, first being seduced and then imprisoned by them. How am I even to approach this life, one that is central to all followers of Jesus? How was I to feel that love and then offer to others? How are any of us to do this?
The answer was the waterfall.
One day while I was wrestling with this verse again, Jesus brought up the memory of the waterfall, and it all connected. Yes, this is how it works. My job is just to stay under the waterfall and let the water of His love keep flowing over me, in me, and through me. Then as I sit there, I am to offer that water to those around me. The image became not just a defining one, but a healing one. I could go there and sit in the water that never runs dry, the water of His presence and love, available at any moment of any day.
But then something else happened. I began to see myself not just offering water to others, but picturing friends and family sitting under the waterfall with me. They too need to be in that waterfall. Whatever we can offer others with our words, time, or gifts is never enough. It’s just a small cupful. Our job is to offer it and then encourage them to get under the waterfall with us.
For we are all dry, parched souls—empty and longing. Our hearts are all distracted, deceived, and seduced. We all desperately need that waterfall, the waterfall of His love.
So whatever you do, stay under the waterfall.
How do you start to do this? Just ask Him: “Jesus, how can I remain in your love?” Keep asking until He shows you how.
Trust me, He will.