Deciding where to drink

Tales From the Unending Story

June 15, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 12
Joshua Penfold | Columnist
Jesus and the woman of Samaria at the well. (Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Wiki Commons)

Would you rather drink from the fountain of youth or the fountain of life?

Why is our culture so obsessed with the many iterations of the mythical fountain of youth? Is it a desperate desire for more time, or a chance to do over what’s past? Or maybe it’s a way to avoid a fear of death and a fear of aging, though I’m not sure which one is more feared? Or are we simply enamoured with the fleeting physical beauty of youth, having lost sight of the many other facets of beauty refracted in this incredible and invaluable diamond we call life?

As we continue to advance in science, like many other things, the idea of the fountain of youth may just transition from science fiction to science fact, but I’m not putting any money on it.

Admittedly, as I enter into what I think can be considered middle age, I am beginning to understand some of the allure of the fountain of youth. Beyond just the desire to shed the wrinkles and grey hairs and reclaim the beauty of youth, there’s also the prospect of fewer aches and pains and pounds.

Psalm 36 speaks of a different fountain, one that doesn’t promise youth, but something even more valuable.

“They take their fill from the fare of your house

and from your stream of delights you give them drink.

For with you is the fountain of life.”

How much more powerful a potion to dispel the fear of death, the fear of aging, the fear of time wasted, than a fountain of life? A fountain of youth may turn back the clock in some capacity, but it’s only delaying the onset of your fears.

The fountain of life, however, opens you to see differently the reality before you. God’s fountain of life need not transform your body and magically disrupt your physical nature. Though it may satisfy a deep thirst, it doesn’t unnaturally reverse the reality of time.God’s fountain of life provides a physical, spiritual, mental and philosophical transformation allowing us to acknowledge and embrace, the already beautiful reality of our current selves and live fully into this life, shedding us not of years but of fears.

The fountain of youth avoids our fears; the fountain of life abolishes them.

This fountain imagery carries into Jesus’s ministry, when he offers living water to the woman at the well. Jesus offers water that not only forever quenches true thirst but becomes a spring of water welling up to life. And not just life but eternal life. This is not an attempt to reclaim the lost years of youth, but a promise of abundant life in the ongoing present.

Perhaps the day of long-lasting youth is around the bend in the not-so-distant future. But seek not the fountain of youth which merely promises a previous shell; instead drink from God’s fountain of life, which offers something less flashy but more potent, less popular but more meaningful, less instantly gratifying but ultimately more fulfilling and long lasting. Choose life, that you might live. 

Joshua Penfold lives in New Hamburg, Ontario, and can be reached at

Read more Tales from the Unending Story:
Paths of kindness and truth
What more could I want?
Within a shadow of doubt
A shielded sleep
When inadequate is enough

Jesus and the woman of Samaria at the well. (Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Wiki Commons)

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