A dozen years ago, Wendolyn and I spent a year doing ministry with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. We lived and served in Big Bend National Park, in the deserts of West Texas (ACMNP.com). It was incredibly hot and dry there; you could watch water evaporate most of the time. That made it essential to drink enough water to stay healthy, and enough water is a whole lot more than one might expect. We learned to always have a large water bottle with us and to constantly sip from it.
Keeping hydrated here is every bit as essential, but in some ways it is a more difficult task. In the desert, everything felt hot anddry. You knew that you needed to keep drinking. Here in the rainforest, the air is always moist, and because we are close to the sea we have consistent breezes so that it doesn’t always feel so hot. Yet it is every bit as important to keep drinking water here as it was in the desert. It is amazing how quickly dehydration can affect your body. When Wendolyn got sick last weekend with vertigo and couldn’t keep anything down, we had to take her to the hospital by the end of the second day because she was so dehydrated. It was truly frightening to watch as she lay in bed in the ER and her fingers started curling up and she could not straighten them because of lack of water in her system. On a lesser scale, we have concluded that when any member of the family gets cranky they need to have a glass of water because their bad mood likely comes from being dehydrated. Of course, convincing a cranky 4 year old to drink water is no small task, and surprisingly it is not much easier to convince a cranky adult (myself included)!
Keeping hydrated is not just about drinking water, either. It also includes learning how to drink water. If a hard rain falls on dry ground, most of it will run off rather than soaking in. In the same way, drinking lots of water at once just sends it straight through your system. It takes patience to take small regular sips, but that’s what lets the water do its work.
In John chapter 4, Jesus talks to the woman at the well about living water. He says that anyone who drinks the water he gives will never be thirsty, but I wonder if we hear those words aright. After all, the thirst for justice, righteousness, and indeed for God is at its best when it is unquenchable. We dry out so easily, spiritually as well as physically. Jesus says that the living water will create a spring within us which will gush forth, but the water for that spring isn’t coming from us; it’s from our encounter with Christ, constantly hydrating us to abundance. In other words, we must be immersed in Christ in order for our springs to flow, but too often we get so busy and try to do so much on our own strength. That simply dries us out.
I also think that I have a tendency to try to gulp at Christ. I drink deeply all at once and then expect that to carry me for days, as if I were a camel. I don’t think I am alone in that. I can think of many wonderful and committed church leaders and members that I have encountered that fall into a pattern of trying to “fill up the tank” spiritually all at once and then try to run on that for days or weeks or even months. I’ve talked to some other Americans here who have commented on people here having a greater awareness of the spiritual realm. I wonder if what is behind that is a willingness to sip at the living water, having patience to let it in slowly and consistently until it permeates all.
What about you: do you have ways that help you sip at the living water, or do you get caught up in gulping at it when you run dry?