If Any Man Thirst: The Parable of the Hot Sauce

Just after we first moved to the Wenatchee Valley, my wife’s family came to visit and share Thanksgiving with us. We decided to take in all that Leavenworth offers at that time of year and, together, piled into a couple cars for the journey up the canyon.

Our exploration of the downtown shopping district soon revealed a store offering free samples of jams and sauces, including hot sauces. One hot sauce had a cautionary note placed near it that warned: “Extremely hot. Seriously, this stuff is extremely hot. Sample at your own risk.” 

My two brothers-in-law and myself had all served missions abroad, and we each prided ourselves on our ability to eat hot foods. Naturally, we challenged each other to try the “extreme” hot sauce. We brazenly dipped our toothpicks in the overhyped sauce and readied ourselves to meet the challenge. One… two… three…. go!

“It’s just one drop. How hot can it be,” I thought to myself as the drop hit my tongue. And at first, we looked at each other as though it were no big deal. But then the pain began. An intensifying, searing, crippling pain. A pain seemingly endless in both magnitude and duration.

Free samples abounded in the store, but water wasn’t among them. Maybe I could put some jam or something on my tongue to dull the pain? I desperately searched in vain for some form of relief but none was available.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isaiah 41:17-18).

One of my brothers-in-law rushed out of the store to a bratwurst eatery next door and soon returned with an overpriced bottle of water. Sadly, my wallet was as devoid of cash as was the store of soothing liquids. I longingly looked at that bottle and humbly asked for just a bit of the water.

“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (2 Nephi 9:50).

Sweet relief flowed over my traumatized tongue as I savored that small mouthful of cooling water. I held it in my mouth as though it were the most precious thing I could possibly possess. Nothing in the world could have convinced me to swallow or forfeit a single drop. I had never appreciated water as much as I did at that moment.

Although I have never appreciated water in quite the same way since that experience, it did leave a lasting impression on me. For one thing, I have spent the ensuing years knowing there are hot sauces in the world much hotter than I care to ever experience again. But more importantly, gospel references to thirst or water have a deeper, more visceral meaning for me now. 

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).

I want to spiritually thirst for righteousness in the same way I physically thirsted that day.  “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).