While human relationships are critically important to our flourishing, other people can never fully satisfy our thirst to be known for two reasons. First, humans hurt each other even (especially) when they love each other—and thus we can never completely let our guards down. Even in our most intimate relationships, there is a need to manage perceptions.
Second, and most essentially, the ultimate reason for our existence is to be known and loved and included in the life of the triune God. It's important to remember that we were not created because God was bored or lonely or wanted to try a science experiment. We were created because the Father, Son, and Spirit had so much love and fellowship and mutual affection and glory between them that they wanted to share it. We are built to participate in that glory—to swim in those waters—and nothing else will do.
The Samaritan woman became truly alive—maybe for the first time in her life—because her thirst to be known was finally quenched by the living water only God can offer.
We all have default "water pots"—ways of trying to fill ourselves. Some of us try food or sex or alcohol or drugs. Others of us attempt to make work, ministry, homemaking, or relationships our ultimate source of fulfillment. "Most of us haven't gone through five spouses," acknowledges M. Scott Barnes in his book, Sacred Thirst:
"… but we have gone through five jobs, five moves, five weight-loss programs, or five churches—and still the insatiable thirst continues. We will never find what we are looking for in the things we pick up along the way. Not even the religious things. Not even important things like relationships. All of these things will leave our souls empty if we try to force them to satisfy our thirst. The true object of our search is nothing less than an encounter with the Holy One."
Two millennia later, we still have a tendency to use self-made cisterns that leave us empty. But the offer of living water still stands.
Adapted from TCW article "Obey Your Thirst" by Carolyn Arends.