… they acted contrary to the dictates of common sense, in that they not only changed, but that they changed for the worse, and made a bad bargain for themselves.Matthew Henry
You’ll never be productive when you’re thirsty. I mean really thirsty. Dehydrated. One of the most punishing, physically demanding feats I have ever attempted proved that to me in 2014. It was the “24 Peaks Challenge” in England’s Lake District. The fundraising trek included walking up 24 of the highest mountains of the region, all being 2,400 feet or higher, within 24 hours. I managed to walk all day both days conquering most of the peaks, but I was set back on the first day. My muscles began to seize within the first few hours. I thought I wasn’t eating enough, and the guides did too. So, I stuffed my granola-type snacks in my mouth which promptly turned into a horrible paste and stuck in my throat like great globs of goo. No, goo would have gone down better. I thought I would choke.
Fortunately, a guide had an epiphany and advised me to drink water. Our little tour had started early that morning and sideways rain was our introduction. Like a good little trekker, I donned my raingear. Raingear is like an oven. Mine was anyway. I successfully avoided hypothermia by baking myself and sweating out all my fluids. I didn’t feel it though, because it felt wet and cool outside. So I was oblivious to the dehydration that was sneaking up on me. I lived in the Mojave Desert for over 3 years, visited Tunisia, and other hot places but I had never experienced this phenomenon like that before. I could barely walk. My muscles just would not budge!
I drank a lot of water, hoping an air ambulance rescue would not be necessary (no, I saved that experience for the 2017 motorcycle accident). The guide promised to get me some more water from the mountain streams if I drank more. I did. I’ll never forget him dipping my bottle in the stream at a strategic location (uphill from the sheep and their by-products and near plants that filtered the water a bit). He didn’t think we needed purification tablets up there, but I used them anyway. It didn’t taste nice but it sure was wet!
Before long, after descending the mighty Great Gable, I began to feel re-energized. Production returned, and I was able to climb the even-mightier Scafell Pike. I now imagine all the muscle cells refilling, gaining volume and functionality. I think I will easily recognize the symptoms of dehydration in the future if I’m ever foolish enough to let that happen again. I finished day one of that walk with a lot of energy and was even able to run a bit at the end. But miles were lost and some Peaks were left unconquered.
I told this tale in public to illustrate the need to be “like a tree planted by streams of water” as described in Psalm 1 a couple of years later. Very shortly after that I pulled up stakes and went as far from the stream of water as I could and withered up like a nasty prune. (For more of that, please see my first blog, “Why My Bones Rejoice”). However, since 2017, and especially after having my legs redesigned in a motorcycle accident, staying near to the stream of water in Psalm 1 has seemed like a pretty good idea. More than that, being foolish enough to endanger myself by straying again scares the tar out of me. Why would I want to become incapacitated like that again and feel so horrible?
God repeatedly uses the fresh, life-giving, life-sustaining resource as an obvious object lesson. I’ll only speak for myself, but I wonder if God uses it because I’m so thick (stubborn? proud?). In one of my favourite passages, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that he provides a living water, one that will prevent thirst forever (John chapter 4).
In Revelation 7:17 we read “For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
Psalm 42:1 says “as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”
Psalm 36:8-9, “… you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
But the one that convicts my heart most pointedly is Jeremiah 2:13
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
I’ve heard more than one preacher point out the truth of this verse so I get no points for originality. But ouch. Is he talking about wayward Israel or is he talking about me? Yes. Changing the source of water is a bad bargain. Every time I’ve traded the Living Water for some other hair-brained idea I have found I stink at making cisterns. They never hold water. Even if I were good at it, the water in it would be stagnant and who knows what kind of bugs, vermin and disease would lurk inside. No, not for me. Not anymore. There is a spring of clean, living, loving, life-giving water and I want to stay right there! Incidentally, since God is so big, I like to visualize, not so much a mountain stream, but something like Michigan’s magnificent Tahquamenon Falls. Who could run out of water there?
If you have ever found the Spring of Living Water, please let me encourage you to stay there. Don’t leave Him. You’ll shrivel up and dehydrate, even if you don’t feel thirsty. You won’t have any life in you or be able to function the way God has designed you to. If you have wandered from the Spring, come back! Right now! Joy and satisfaction wait for you. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, maybe you’ve never been to the Spring at all. If not, then the water you find in puddles may seem to satisfy. My prayer for you is that you’ll really feel just how dehydrated you are. Whatever your situation, whatever your place, run to the Spring of Living Water and drink. Jesus is the one who’ll lead you there.