My dad, my brother and sister were busy elsewhere, so my mom and I settled in front of the one TV our inn boasted. Up in the mountains, reception was sketchy at best; the only channel came from Poland Springs, Maine. On this night, it was airing a Billy Graham Crusade.
I still don’t remember what city Mr. Graham was speaking from or the response of the crowd. I can’t quote you the text of his message. I can tell you that sitting on the worn, red leather sofa in our deserted lobby, listening to Billy Graham clearly present the Gospel, I was all ears.
Attending church had been a pretty regular part of my short life. I may even have heard some of the same Scriptures Mr. Graham shared, but that evening my dry, 12-year-old soul stirred as the Holy Spirit began to pour His living water over and into me. A holy God, my sin, an impossible gulf between them–it was the worst news I had ever heard. But then Mr. Graham began to proclaim the message of the Gospel. Good News. Good News about the gift of Jesus Christ, who at the cross became my sin and gave me His righteousness.
As George Beverly Shea sang “Just As I Am,” my mother and I headed to my bedroom. While thousands stood at the front of the stadium where Billy Graham had preached, I knelt at my bedside and poured out my prayers to God. The Holy Spirit helped me turn from sins of fear, worry, selfishness and pride. More than that, He poured faith into me. I knew my sin separated me from holy God, but now I believed Jesus’ death was for me personally, that I was becoming God’s child and could live for Him.
As I finished praying, my mother directed my attention to the sink in my old hotel room. It had a perennial leak, which plink, plink, plinked day and night. The incessant sound had always irritated me, but not on this evening. Pointing to the sink, my mother spoke words that God used to teach me an essential spiritual lesson. “Lynne,” she said, “tonight God has planted His life in your heart. To grow strong in Him, you’ve got to keep the water running.”
Her words rang all too true in the following years when life seemed to dry up all around me. Within a year, my parents’ marriage dissolved, and I dealt with the emotional fallout of betrayal and rejection. Two years later, my mother (now a single parent) lost a leg in a tragic car accident. The oldest of three children and responsible for more than most teenagers, I needed to know God was with me and for me.
He always came through. God sent life-giving spiritual water through the ministry of a faithful church who cared for my family and me in each of these crises. He connected me with other young Christians at a summer camp where I learned to serve and worship. He protected me from a lot of teenage foolishness–and forgave me each time I chose my way instead of His.
Six years later I attended a liberal women’s college and was one of a handful of believers on campus. Through my involvement in the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I became rooted in God’s Word and thrived in the midst of a spiritual wasteland. God further established my faith during three summers on the mission field in drought-ridden Kenya and prayer-powerhouse Korea.
Ten years after hearing Billy Graham’s message, I married a young man headed for the pastorate. While Rob enrolled in seminary, I entered the public school classroom. By day I taught literature to high schoolers; by night I shared Christ with them through the ministry of Young Life. God gave me many opportunities through the years to give “a cup of cold water” to thirsty kids (Matthew 10:42).
Today, Rob, our two teen children and I are serving in our third church, located in Covington, Ga. Every year Rob and I travel to Eastern Europe to offer soul care to a group of missionaries serving in Slovakia. I also teach women at conferences around the country, carrying God’s living water to women who need Him as desperately as I do.
My speaking and writing ministry, Daughters of Freedom, equips women and girls to stop building their identity on the lies they hear every day (such as, “I am what I look like,” “I am what I accomplish,” or “I am what others say I am”) and start walking in the freedom and rich identity that is already theirs in Christ. We ask women, “Are we united by faith to Jesus?” If we are, we have the freedom to embrace a whole new perspective regarding our worth and identity.
If we are thirsty to know who we are, the promises in God’s Word will help us possess our true identity: I am a new creation; I am God’s workmanship; I am a temple of the Holy Spirit; I am righteous in Christ; I am a light in Christ; I am complete in Christ; I am more than a conqueror in Christ; and I am a chosen and beloved child of God.
Have I always stayed spiritually hydrated and healthy? Of course not. A few years ago I came close to burning out, pouring out more than I was taking in. Like a lot of people, I felt the pressure of a packed schedule, increased job demands, growing family and ministry responsibilities, ongoing temptation, and a deep desire to get away from it all. But instead of granting me a hiatus in Hawaii, God started to refresh me in the midst of life’s craziness.
God had actually allowed the stress to get my attention and to bring me to the point where I knew that without Him I couldn’t live the life He was calling me to. He used my dryness to develop a deeper thirst for Scripture. Wonderfully, He invited me to drink deeply of Him, just as He had so many years earlier. “Come to the waters,” urged the Holy Spirit. “Keep the water running.”
A deep shift followed. Instead of a religious duty, my quiet time became a response to God’s invitation to meet with Him at the well, like the woman in John 4. Meeting there with Jesus continues to be my source of life. I drink deeply of His forgiveness, joy, life, cleansing, wisdom–whatever I need most that day.
Thirty-five years after I gulped that first drink of the Gospel, God’s living water keeps flowing. Drink by drink, day by day, I am still experiencing the truth of God’s promise in John 7:37-38: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him'” (NIV).