“O God, my God, my soul thirsts for thee…”
I have heard that in the Grand Canyon National Park there are signs along the trails that read, “Stop! Drink water! You are thirsty, whether you realize it or not.” In that arid climate, the humidity is so low, the air is so dry, your perspiration evaporates so quickly, you can become seriously dehydrated and not even know it.
But even here, in humid South Louisiana, where most of the year the air clings to you like a warm wet blanket, the same thing can happen. Experts tell us that very few of us drink enough water, that most of us live in various degrees of dehydration, though we do not recognize the symptoms: fatigue, headaches, dizziness, bloating, vertigo, dry mouth, dry skin. We misdiagnose all those symptoms all the time, trying to address them with medicine or other treatments, when what we really need is water. Sometimes we even mistake hunger for thirst, and we reach for something to eat, when what we really need is water. We are advised to drink 8 tall glasses of water each day, but if you are like me, you choose anything but: coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, all of which, ironically, only make us thirstier.
I read Bob Harper’s book, The Skinny Rules, The Simple Non-Negotiable Principles for Getting to Thin and it is his #1 Rule: Drink Water. Drink 1 large glass when you wake up in the morning, 1 large glass before every meal, l large glass before you go to bed, 1 large glass when you wake up in the night, drink 1 large glass when you exercise. Add water.
When Kirsten Melberg and Stephanie Sonnier taught their session on Diet and Exercise in our Women and Wellness Class, they drummed it home: HYDRATE.
The last time I went to see my doctor with a sinus infection, after she examined me, made her diagnosis, wrote the prescription, she came over to me, tapped me on the cheek, and said one thing, HYDRATE. And so I try. I tell myself, “Callie, think about it: this has always been your favorite recipe: Just ADD WATER.”
Remember the true story by journalist Michael Finkel, Here Be Monsters, about the group of boys from New Zealand who, one night, on a drunken dare, seeking a little adventure, stole a dinghy and foolishly set out to sail the Pacific Ocean. And what did they pack for their trip?–a jug of vodka, 2 bottles of milk, 20 coconuts, and a mayonnaise jar of water. By the 7th day, on that vast ocean, with no land in sight, under the brutal blazing sun, they were drinking sea water, by the 51st day they were emaciated, bald, very near-death, seriously considering cannibalism, if they’d had the strength to kill each other. How far did they think they could get without water?
As it is with our bodies, so it is with our souls. Stop! Drink water! You are thirsty whether you realize it or not. Psalm 63 nails it, “My soul thirsts,” David says. This is a man who knew not only the desert of the Judean wilderness, but also the desperately dry spells we can experience on the vast landscape of our inner lives, the Sahara of the Soul, when you have gone as far as you can go and cannot take another step, when every oasis turns out to be a mirage, when all your best ideas have dried up, the things you are doing day after day bear no fruit, when we not only come to the end of every day drained, but we start out every day drained. Call it burn out. Call it thirst. Call it spiritual dehydration.
My soul thirsts… for what? Most of us don’t even know what that inner longing, that nagging dissatisfaction, that strange emptiness is about. How many times have I heard someone as if in desperation, “I need a drink,” when what they really need is a break, a place of peace, a little solace, a hand to hold, a friend to care. “I need a drink,” they say, and what they really need is a reason to believe that the future can be new and different, a faith that works, a love that can last, a little hope, something solid to stand on. “I need a drink,” we say, when, in fact, we are spiritually dehydrated. Just as surely as we misdiagnose the symptoms of physical dehydration, so do we misdiagnose the symptoms of spiritual dehydration. We try to address it with all sorts of things, anything—a new car, a new computer, a new career, a new companion, a jug of vodka and twenty coconuts, and how far does it get us? 7 days and we are drinking sea water.
Fred Craddock tells about going to see a woman in his church who was hospitalized, who was facing major surgery for a life-threatening illness. She was freaked out, a bundle of nerves, at the end of her rope, an emotional basket case, in a total panic about what was to happen. He held her hand, comforted her, encouraged her, stayed with her, prayed with her. As he prayed he bowed his head, looked down, and couldn’t help but see it: her reading material, what she’d brought with her to the hospital, a stack of magazines by her bed, you know the kind, CTrue Love, Star, Mirror, Hollywood Today, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, stuff about movie stars and make-up and fashion. She had a stack of that stuff and she was a wreck. He said, “there was not one calorie in that whole stack to help her through her experience. No place to dip down into a reservoir and come up with something to sustain her. Just empty.” If I were her doctor, I would I tap her on the cheek and say, HYDRATE. Stop. Drink. You are thirsty whether you realize it or not.
David realized: “My soul thirsts for YOU, O God, for your steadfast love is better than life. My soul clings to YOU,” he says, when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep because of some nameless longing deep inside. “For you have always been my help, and your right hand upholds me, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.” This is a man who knew he could not live without a sense of God’s presence and power and every minute of the day, something solid to stand on, a hand to hold, a reason to believe, a faith that works, a love that can last. ME NEITHER! How does that song go that I love to hear our choir sing: “In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus. When I am alone, give me Jesus. And when I come to die, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.”
It is a simple recipe. It is my favorite recipe. I am learning to follow it more faithfully every day: ADD WATER. You too. Stop. Drink. You are thirsty whether you realize it or not.