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Although I have a reputation for being organized, I also have a strong streak of absent-mindedness. The other day, I left in one car to pick up another I had left at the shop. Only when I was halfway there did I realize I needed a second driver if I was going to end up with two vehicles at home. It’s not unusual for me to forget to bring the lunch I packed at home with me to the office. When I do the laundry, I have to set a timer to remind myself to switch it from the washer to the dryer, or I’ll simply forget that I’m in the middle of a load.
I also forget to drink water. On work days especially, I’m so focused on the task at hand, that hours will go by before I even notice I feel thirsty. Even on my lunch break, I will sometimes forget to grab something to drink.
When I’m at the office, this tendency is even more striking, because there’s so much to drink available. We have one of those swanky fridges with lots of beverage options: water bottles, LaCroix, diet soda, and my favorite: Sparkling Ice. But I still forget.
Spiritually, I think many of us find ourselves in the same kind of situation. We have access to the “living water” of Jesus’ presence (John 4:10, John 7:38), but we forget to drink it. We are preoccupied. We have a lingering thought that we should hydrate more, but it doesn’t feel like the consequences of not hydrating are all that bad. It’s not like we’re dying of thirst. We feel thirsty, but it’s easy to forget about it in the rush of more pressing priorities.
If I’m honest, being a little physically dehydrated is probably my normal state of being. And being a little spiritually dehydrated is, too. Sometimes more than a little.
So, what can we do? What are steps we can take to drink deeply, and regularly, from “the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3)? I would like to offer three suggestions:
- Ask Why You’re Not Drinking More
- Make It Enjoyable
- Listen to Your Thirst
Together, these simple steps can help us get the spiritual hydration we need.
Ask Why You’re Not Drinking More
Let’s start with my workplace dehydration. Why don’t I go grab a drink more often?
For one thing, at the office, work is my focus. That’s one reason I’ve liked going into the office, even though my company allows working from home. It helps me to have an environment that’s totally oriented to what I do while I’m there. But there is a kind of “focus” on work that actually backfires; a myopia that involves ignoring other things that matter, too. Like water.
Digging more deeply, it may not just be that I like to focus on work while I’m at work. Could there be a more significant emotional driver for my behavior? Indeed—sometimes I neglect taking a break, even a short one, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get all my work done. I switched roles at work a couple months ago, from an overwhelmingly intense role to a more manageable one. I noticed, after the switch, that I was drinking more. In the more demanding role, I was rushing from one thing to the next for hours on end, to the extent that even lunch breaks were often an afterthought. That fear that things would fall apart if I stepped away for a moment was dehydrating me.
That same fear can spiritually dehydrate me. If I take time to pray, to talk with a good friend who can encourage me, to go to church—will there be enough time to get everything done?
Think about the things that help put you in touch with Jesus’ life. We can “take a drink” by practicing spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, and reading Scripture. But more informal things count, too: spending time in nature, enjoying the company of loved ones, celebrating with good food and drink. If we receive these things with gratitude, they become gifts that renew our connection to God’s love for us.
If you’re spiritually thirsty, what is getting in the way of drinking deeply?
It may be something that seems relatively benign: absent-mindedness or distraction. Or, there may be a deeper emotional driver, like my fear that things will fall apart if I step away. See if you can identify what’s really keeping you from the practices that could refresh your soul.
Make It Enjoyable
When we think about spiritual practices, it’s easy to think they somehow “should be” a form of drudgery. We may be tempted to think that, if we’re really doing them in order to grow, we shouldn’t be concerned about how fun they are.
The problem with this view of spiritual practices is that human beings can only handle so much drudgery. We tend to avoid things that don’t provide some kind of in-the-moment reward. It is true that as we grow in maturity, we “level up” in our capacity to choose good things that are no fun at all. That’s vital. The way of Jesus is the way of self-sacrifice, the way of the cross. But we don’t get some kind of spiritual “extra credit” for making something no fun just because. Many spiritual practices are meant to be enjoyable, and we’ll do them more if they are.
Take how we engage Scripture. For some people, curling up with a Bible, away from digital devices, is a beautiful experience. You can feel the texture of the pages. You can underline or highlight different passages. If you get one of those journaling Bibles, you can make notes or draw in the margins. For other people, sitting down with a physical book is almost always a struggle. Using an audio app like Dwell and going for a walk can transform the experience. Regardless—choosing the approach to Scripture that you enjoy isn’t somehow cheating at the spiritual work; it’s a wise way to get into the work.
Along these lines, establishing a set aside space and place for prayer can be helpful. Just like I prefer to work in an environment that cues me into work, I can benefit from an environment that cues me into prayer. You can arrange a “special spot” in your home for times of solitude. Make it your own, a place that you look forward to inhabiting. Perhaps you can keep a selection of teas that you love nearby, or latch onto a window with a lovely view. Alternatively, see if there’s a church near you that leaves a sanctuary or prayer chapel unlocked throughout the week. There is a special beauty of praying with the people of God, even if each person is engaging quietly in their own place.
Listen To Your Thirst
Part of my problem with dehydration is that it takes me a while to even notice I’m thirsty. I’m not always particularly attentive to the signals of my body. This is true of our souls, too. If you get quiet long enough, your soul will speak up. It can let you know that it’s thirsty. But it speaks quietly enough that it’s often easy to ignore.
There are times when our souls speak up a little more loudly. A difficulty or an extended time of suffering can sharpen our awareness of our needs. For me, I know that I need Jesus’ life when I feel weak, run-down, and inadequate. If you’re in a time like that, let the trouble itself drive you to Jesus. One of the ways that suffering shapes the soul is by surfacing the true needs that were already there. In this way, even difficulties can become a gift that connects us to Jesus.
On the other hand, during times when things are “going my way,” my soul can feel less needy. It’s easier to ignore my spiritual thirst. Good times can “get the better of us” if they cause us to loosen our grip on Jesus. But we don’t have to let that happen. Instead, we can use the good things that are occasions for happiness as a catalyst for gratitude. Thankfulness is like a rocket booster for the rest of our spiritual life. It binds up every good thing and lets us return it to the Lord, drawing us even closer to him. In that way, we keep drinking deeply, whether things are difficult or delightful. Or, as is often the case, when they’re a little bit of both.
Jesus once said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). When you’re thirsty, you don’t yet have what you need. Jesus says that’s our starting place for righteousness. We don’t have it, but we need it. And he can provide it.
“The river of God is full of water” (Psalm 65:9 ESV). Come and take a drink.
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