Sunday, July 1, 2012
My first year of college, I didn't take the best care of myself. I was constantly walking: from the dorm, to class, to work, to the computer lab, to the dorm again, and I lived on Mountain Dew. One morning, before my 8am physics lecture, I found myself extremely dizzy and slightly nauseated while standing in the shower. I put my hand on the wall, felt the air pressing in on all sides, and slid down to the floor, water still soaking me, in a greyish-brown haze. After a few moments, when I felt I could stand again, I held myself up, rinsed off, and walked down to the R.A.'s room in my robe to let her know what had happened. I spent the next four hours in the emergency room at the University of Michigan Hospital.
Test after test, they ran -- on my heart, my reproductive system, my blood -- and they came to the conclusion after all that time that I was dehydrated. They gave me water and orange juice, charged my $270 dollars, and sent me on my way back to the dorm with the wise advice to drink more water when I got there. I followed it. I felt better.
It's incredible how, when we don't pay attention to what we're imbibing day after day, it catches up with us. Sometimes just switching out a few glasses of soda for water, or making sure to drink a small glass of water once an hour throughout the day, can make all the difference in the world to our health and well-being. You can go from a darkened haze to a healthy glow in just a few moments' time.
The same is true with a dehydrated spirit. This world is completely overwhelming, that's no secret. With our busy schedules, our fears and concerns, and our stress levels, we tend to push aside the things that really matter for the crisis of the moment. The symptoms of spiritual dehydration are more detrimental than physical dehydration, though. We find ourselves hunched over in tears because we're unable to handle the pressure. We're heartbroken, lonely, vengeful, bitter, and full of rage. We're inaccessible, self-centered, and prideful. We constantly fight for power and control over any and every situation, refusing to humble ourselves. We let people less fortunate than ourselves down because we explain away their circumstances without trying to help. We fill ourselves with "Spiritual Soda" like pithy bumper stickers referring to God, or we pop in to church each week to check it off our list, but at the end of the day? We're still thirsty. We're exhausted of the rat race, we can't fathom having to tackle it all again by ourselves the next day, and we just want to curl up in the fetal position on the floor.
Just like you can't face a day and go through the motions if you're physically dehydrated, you can't let your spirit wither and expect to be all right. We're not all right. You can't expect that, when you're physically dehydrated, you'll suddenly start to feel better without drinking any water, or changing your habits. The same is true here -- you have to figure out what soul-watering nourishment you're lacking and dive in.
Prayer isn't just telling God what you want and waiting for it. It's a conversation -- you talk to God and God talks back. Sometimes HE initiates it, and you need to notice. Sometimes the dehydration is so bad you can't hear this or feel it anymore at all, if you ever did. It's okay. There's a cure for that.
Reading the bible isn't just flipping from page to page, memorizing scriptures, or pointing your finger randomly in the middle of a chapter and verse, hoping God will speak the words you're desperate to hear. It's a way of life, a habit you pursue. You learn in context, with different translations, commentaries, and concordances. Sometimes the dehydration is so bad, you try to read and you can't get more than one chapter in before your mind wanders and you can't focus. It's okay. There's a cure for that.
Spending time with a spiritual mentor isn't just sitting at a coffeehouse picking their brain about your problems and expecting them to solve it all in one sitting by giving cookie-cutter answers. It is watching someone whose way of life you are moved by, seeing how their relationship with God and with other people works, learning over time to incorporate new things into your own life that will bring you closer to God and to others. Sometimes the dehydration is so bad, you spend an hour with a spiritual mentor and you just can't wrap your brain around everything they do all at once, and you can't picture yourself living exactly like they do. Don't worry. It's okay. There's a cure for that.
"Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened for you." --Matthew 7:7 The cure is in the asking, the seeking, the knocking. He told us he would give us fountains, bubbling springs, of spiritual water for the thirsty. That we would never thirst again if we drank from Him. It doesn't mean we won't have problems anymore, or that we won't feel overwhelmed sometimes, or we won't experience sadness, despair, loneliness, or anger. It means that He will fill us with His strength to carry on. He will hydrate us with His words and His spirit.
Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." John 7:37
The cure to physical dehydration is to drink some water. The cure to spiritual dehydration is equally as simple.