Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Living frugal water

So, a week or two ago, my pastor preached on John Chapter 4-something, the woman at the well.  This is the passage where Jesus tells a Samaritan woman (not an one of the Chosen People, but one of those, y'know, other people) that he's Living Water.  And that anyone who drinks of Him will never go thirsty.  And he suggests pretty strongly that she ought to get the recipe for this drink, and she agrees and essentially posts it up to Pinterest.

As my pastor was preaching along, I doodled in my church bulletin, in the white space reserved for taking notes about the sermon.   I'm pretty good at listening, but I'm really pretty awful at taking notes, and I admit I sort of drift into half-listening while half-thinking-about-math.  Ducks apparently sleep with half of their brains as they keep guard with the other half; maybe that's what I'm doing in church, too.

What I doodled sort of looks like a building with floors and no walls, drawn in two-point perspective. but it has geometric applications to something called Steiner conics. You don't need to know the details; suffice it to say that what I was drawing was actually kind of related to my research (kind of sort of), and that I could doodle it while being my own species of Theology-Math Duck.

Math is where I go when I'm bored.  Math is where I go when I'm curious.  This past year, when I was swamped with work on a deadline-intensive, paper-work-heavy committee, I procrastinated by doing math.  And so now, even when I'm sitting around in a pew on Sunday morning -- worshiping and praying and then waiting to hear my faith expounded in a new light -- I worship while doodling math.

The sermon made me appreciate this nerdy side of me all the more.  My People, when we get to this chapter of the New Testament, we love to quote how John Piper described an answer to his own questioning 1988 prayer about why the heck Living Water didn't make him somehow stop being thirsty. The answer he got as he knelt was this:
When you drink my water it doesn’t destroy thirst. For then what need would you have of my water after that? When you drink my water it makes a spring in you. A spring satisfies thirst not by removing the need you have for water, but by being there to drink from when you get thirsty. Again and again and again. 
Not that the Lord of the Universe is the same thing as Steiner conics, mind you, but there's some wonderful parallel there about promising to be there to satisfy and refresh you exactly when you need it.

A friend of ours has had her daughter move back home recently.  The daughter is/was married to a guy with a heroin addiction.  Heroin is not, I think, Living Water.  The daughter coped with her situation by online shopping for Every Wonderful Thing, and she is now broke, surrounded by piles and piles of things she has no room for, and facing bankruptcy.  Online shopping is also not Living Water, I'd wager.

Neither is projective geometry the same thing as Living Water, I have to admit.  But as I did my Duck-listen to the Sunday sermon, I couldn't help but think about how glad I am for the kinds of desires that people can have that nurture us, rather than destroy us.  And how many of those build-you-up-and-feed-you desires are really frugal at heart.  I'm thinking of
  • going running with friends, and
  • memorizing poetry, and
  • bike riding (for my husband), and
  • playing drums (for N-son), and
  • reading books, and 
  • creating art out of plain stuff and fancy imagination, and 
  • a really good quiet time (praying or meditating or walking or such).
How wonderful it is to practice these things that ground us, that fill us, that make us stronger and happier and fill our lives (and maybe those around us) with richness.  

I have no idea what my pastor would think about this.  Maybe it's sacrilege to draw these kinds of parallels between that which is Holy and that which is earthly.  On the other hand, it was the Son of God Himself who compared his divinity to one of the most mundane and familiar molecules on earth, so maybe it's not so horrible that the ducks and I paddle around half here, half elsewhere.   I dunno.


  1. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing! By the way, TopDad and I went to see "Hidden Figures" and I thought of you and math. It is such an unfamiliar language to me, so I'm really grateful for those who understand it and can put it to use. Keep up the good work.

    1. Oh, cool! So glad you liked the movie. It's not often you can see Euler's method become a plot device in a story.

  2. A student once asked me if it was ok to think about statistics in church. I told her I thought God would understand.

    1. I'm pretty sure I agree. And since geometry is even more pure than statistics, that must *clearly* be on the Fine-by-Him list!