If you’ve never read Gary Paulsen’s Newbery Award Winner Hatchet, I encourage you to add it to your list of classics. While it does seem better-suited for upper-el kids, there are some fantastic take-aways that should not be overlooked.
You may be interested to know that Hatchet is not written from any kind of a faith perspective; Brian, the protagonist, is stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash, and yet there is only one mention of him crying out in prayer. While my first instinct is to label this “unfortunate,” it spurred a terrific conversation between our family members as to what’s missing in this scenario. We asked questions like, “What are some things you’d be doing to cope with this struggle?”… “What have you noticed that Brian is not doing?” etc.
The excerpt I’m citing below is a wonderful example of how careful reading will unearth deeper truths almost without trying. What comes to your mind?
“But when he brought a cupped hand to his mouth and felt the cold lake water trickle past his cracked lips and over his tongue he could not stop. He had never, not even on long bike trips in the hot summer, been this thirsty. It was as if the water were more than water, as if the water had become all of life, and he could not stop. He stooped and put his mouth to the lake and drank and drank, pulling it deep and swallowing great gulps of it.” [pg. 45, Hatchet]
The moment these words took form in the open space of our living room, it struck me: Brian is utterly desperate for water. He, at this point, has not eaten or drunk anything in a couple of days, and when he finally reaches the cool banks of the lake, he is delirious with need and overcome with the depth of his thirst.
I wondered, What if we responded to Jesus, our Living Water, the same way? What if our parched tongues and burning throats called out for Christ the same way Brian lapped up his literal water?
John 4 says:
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Aren’t we all looking for that water? For something to fill the thirsty spaces in our lives? Something to fill us up so completely that we won’t have to keep going back for more?
Brian’s experience in Hatchet exemplifies this. While he was successful in finding water, he had to visit the lakeshore multiple times a day to drink. His thirst was satiated momentarily, but the gaping needs he faced on a daily basis left him constantly roving for food and water.
Wouldn’t we — wouldn’t I — find that cool relief by turning to Jesus in our trials? In our thirsts? Wouldn’t our minds be put at ease? Our bodies better able to rest?
I’ll admit this is hard for me: turning to Christ alone to quench my deepest needs and longings is not only difficult, it is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. We are bombarded with messages that prop up and applaud independence and self-strength. We celebrate those who really “make something of themselves” or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
In this world, however, we are not to seek society’s celebration or applause, but Jesus. I am reminded of this each day in those moments when I feel the thirst rising. When the longings of my heart bring me back to the Well.
We are “to drink as if the Water had become all of life”…and we find ourselves unable to stop.
May it be so for me and for you today.