Be honest with yourself, have you been drinking enough water today?
I read somewhere that most of the people on earth are chronically dehydrated. In light of that, why don’t you go grab a glass of water and come back.
Although we could all stand to drink some more water every day, on average we never feel all that thirsty. Our bodies can withstand a pretty substantial drought before they start to let us know that something is wrong.
About a month ago I came down with an awful flu. I tend to be the person who thinks she can power through any illness, so as usual, I waited far too long to see a doctor. The first few days of nausea and loss of appetite were tolerable, but after about a week of throwing up everything that I tried to put in my body, I really began to feel the effects of true hunger and dehydration.
At the time I was an RA in a freshman hall on my campus. Every night one of us had to stay on 24 hour duty to respond to any emergencies in the building. These usually included pulled fire alarms, loud parties, and the occasional trip to the ER. But when I started my night on duty, I never thought I was the one who would be rushed to the hospital.
Throughout the night, I felt worse and worse. I dragged myself to my RA staff meeting, but I was barely present. My mind was in a fog. As I climbed the steps to my bedroom afterward I felt a sharp pain in my back and shoulders from my stiffening muscles. My mouth and throat were so dry, and I would have given anything to drink water, but I could already feel the inevitable burn as I vomited it back up. I was parched. The sensation was worse than anything I had ever experienced before; my entire body was screaming out that it needed water but it could not be satisfied.
I was hesitant to reach out to anyone for help, because I knew that my job would require me to stay in the building all night. But finally, around midnight, I took advantage of our 24 hour nurses’ hotline. She confirmed my fears- this was the emergency I had been trained for. She said that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible, and that if left untreated, I would soon begin experiencing organ failure.
So I made a few phone calls, accepted my coworkers gracious offers to cover my post and headed to the hospital. I could hardly walk, and had to be helped from my building all the way to the hospital bed. (Expect another post about my RA staff and sacrificial love.) They started me on an IV drip of fluids that continued well into the next day. I lost track of how many bags they attached as the hours went on. I was in agony the entire time.
So why did I tell you this story? Well, going through that experience made me realize what true thirst really is. It’s terrible. But it is our body’s way of telling us what it needs. Like my body’s need for water, my soul needs sustenance. Yet, I don’t feel that same degree of thirst in my soul.
Christianity is no stranger to water metaphors. We talk so often about thirsting after God, and being sustained by “living water.” But I found that I view God less as my source of water, and more like living chocolate milk.
As a 22 year old, semi-adult, I am not ashamed of my love for chocolate milk. But while it is sweet and good to drink, It does not sustain me. I would never reach for a glass after a run or a day in the sun. It adds pleasure and taste to my life, but I do not need it.
David writes of God from the wilderness, saying “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 ESV)
I tend to see my love for God as a positive, extra thing. He is good, and a relationship with Him adds to my life. I can be particularly excited to know and serve Him at points, but ultimately I see the relationship for the good it does for me.
But that is not how God works. He is not meant to be a cherry on top, just someone to thank for good circumstances and beautiful sunsets, or an excuse to blast worship music in the car. He is our water. He gives us breath and life. Yet we take this need for Him too lightly, and reduce Him to simply a life enhancement. Without God, we are not just a little bit thirsty- we are painfully, deliriously dehydrated.
Like our bodies crying out for water, we cry out for God. But we often try to quench that thirst with the things that can’t sustain us.
A friend of mine pointed me to Psalm 42:1, which says “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” The deer is created with an instinctual desire for survival. It knows exactly where to go to quench its thirst. Similarly, we are made to know God. Apart from him, we are nothing, dehydrated bodies wasting away. And like the deer, we know exactly where to go to be satisfied.
I know that I often turn to intimacy from other people to quench my thirst, which can only be truly satisfied by the love of God. What do you turn to when you’re thirsty? How do you experience your desire for God?