Sarah and I were on a dinner cruise, having a wonderful meal at sunset. Suddenly, I was looking up at the sky, and Sarah was calling my name quite loudly. Why?? What was going on?? A crowd surrounded me, peering down on me. Then I realized I was flat on back, and my chest and head hurt. I’ll never forget the fear and concern in Sarah’s eyes. After an ambulance ride and checking into the emergency room, they ruled out what we feared (heart attack) and confirmed what we suspected: I was dehydrated.
It was all quite embarrassing and humbling. But the physician’s advice was (almost!) worth the whole experience. “Always drink before you are thirsty.” I see a message in those words.
In addition to being sound medical advice, there’s a powerful spiritual principle here. How often have we found ourselves flat on our backs spiritually, failing to recognize soul dehydration until it’s too late?
We live in an arid culture that sucks the spiritual moisture from our lives. When we neglect our regular times of reading scripture, prayer, community worship and fellowship, our spiritual reservoirs drain. We lose spiritual focus, waver in unbelief, doubt God’s love and care, and are smothered by spiritual lethargy. The key is to recognize our thirst.
Psalm 42 (NIV)
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Thirst is a consistent biblical metaphor for longing, for desire, for yearning for God. It’s a highly experiential word, especially in the arid and semi-arid climate of Israel. And God promises to quench that thirst.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Jesus’ promise to the Samaritan women whom he met at the well is the most encouraging of all.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”… 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the natural well] will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:10-14 NIV).
Staying spiritually hydrated means abiding in Christ moment by moment, being filled with the Holy Spirit (see John 7:37-40). What does that look like? For me, a primary practice is continual conversation with the Lord, punctuated often with phrases like, “I need you for this, Lord.” “Help.” “Thanks.” “You’ve got this, Lord, right?!” “Give me what you want me to give this person or these people.”
You don’t have to drink in big gulps. The continual sips add up.