Last week I told the physical affects of ailments I’ve had recently.
But what about the non-physical?
There we were several weeks ago, a full three months into COVID sheltering at home, having navigated post-operative doctor visits and an emergency room visit, both for Dear Husband. I was hoping I could get through this pandemic with minimal needs for healthcare.
Just that week we had learned hospitals were allowing immediate family to accompany patients in the ER. So in a moment of extreme pain I agreed to go to the hospital.
Making that decision gave me permission to feel all my pain. With my high pain tolerance it’s like I have a barrier between me and pain, and I’m pushing with every bit of strength to keep it from breaking through and overwhelming me.
But it did.
By the time I was in a room I heard bits of what was said, but not all the substance.
After initial questions and decisions on what tests they would run, we were left alone. In the quiet my thoughts were wandering from trying to remember what they’d just told me, to what day was it (late Tuesday/early Wednesday), and the topic I wanted to explore in my blog that week (that never happened.)
Now, after getting back my energy (one step forward, two steps back for weeks), I’m amazed at my planner entries for that Wednesday following our wee hours return from the ER.
“strawberries began!” and “8 qt.”
See, strawberries are a big deal in our house. Last year I only put up five batches of jam, none in the freezer.
So that first day I processed those 8 quarts for the freezer.
And after a couple pain-free days getting an ultrasound and talking to a surgeon in case the results of the scan pointed me to surgery, my entry for Saturday was 10 more quarts that also got frozen.
Then early Sunday, a return trip to the ER with hallucinations. Side effects from the drugs.
Again, I knew the answer in my head. Quit taking them. But the fear of the pain returning after I’d had several “normal” and productive days?
It was enough to convince me. I needed to know what to do if the pain came back.
In the ER, I heard the same opening line.
“You’re severely dehydrated.”
Why did that sound familiar? Oh yeah, they said the same thing a few days before, but it didn’t sink in.
Over the next week my life revolved around how many ounces of Gatorade I managed to get into my body.
And while I vegged out I spoke very little.
But I thought a lot.
Then there was the mental agony of the poison ivy reaction I was having.
There is a deep, painful, unquenchable itch that is poison ivy. Seven weeks after exposure I still have bruises from the intensity of the scratching that needed to happen to deal with this demonic itch.
I spent a lot of my in-and-out-of-coherent-thought time sipping the nastiness that is Gatorade, pondering the importance of water.
You see, I only started with the Gatorade because the discharge papers from both ER visits, and my primary care, told me it was the fastest way to rehydrate my body.
And I so badly needed to replenish those fluids.
At first the thought of drinking anything, after coming off almost a week of nausea, was unpleasant.
And in my in-and-out state of mind, I kept going back to a passage in John 4. The one where Jesus sits down by a well, and asks a woman who comes to draw water for a drink.
Even people who have read little or none of the Bible have possibly heard the reference John 3:16. Seen it on a piece of cardboard at a sporting event, heard it at a rare occasion in a church, maybe a funeral or a wedding or something else not really church related.
So in that famous verse we learn that Jesus is a gift. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” To us. For us. Because of our great need for him.
Yet in the next chapter he’s asking for water. He had a physical need, a thirst, and it needed quenched.
It’s a universal need.
Jesus listens as the woman questions him, and he sees the great need she has for true, soul refreshment.
She lays it out for him, the reasons she can’t believe he’s asking her for water.
He’s a Jew, she’s a Samaritan. Jews don’t speak to Samaritans.
He’s a man, she’s a woman. Men don’t ask women for help.
And if anyone saw them? It just wasn’t done.
And here’s a part of the story that I’ve heard dissected many times.
They are there alone, a traveler whose companions have gone into the town looking for food. And a woman who doesn’t feel free to come and draw water when other women are there drawing theirs.
She has come at noon, when everyone else is busy.
And Jesus knows why. He knows everything about her, including her greatest needs.
But before he lets on that he gets everything about her, he makes an outrageous statement: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
It’s quite the conversation that follows. You should read it for yourself.
Or better yet, have the conversation with Jesus.
As I sat, unable to do much more than refill my glass and hope I could produce some saliva soon, and enough urine to reassure me that my kidneys were getting back to normal, I thought a lot about water.
The liquid kind, and the Jesus kind.
I had let myself get so desperate for water that I couldn’t yet stand to take in much of it. I had to turn to a substitute, a concoction that would technically keep me alive, but did nothing to relieve my deep thirst.
A thirst as deep in my body as the itching was in my skin.
I longed for water, but had to settle for electrolytes and sugar. Thankfully for only a short time.
And that poor woman in John 4? She saw something in Jesus that she hadn’t found in her other efforts to satisfy her own thirsts.
He had told her that everyone who drank from that well would be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water he gives them will never thirst. His living water would become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Her answer was one I really related to. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Then Jesus revealed that he was already seeing her deeper need, not just for a drink, but for the quenching of her soul-sized thirst for love and acceptance.
He told her the ways she had tried to satisfy those needs with inferior things and relationships, that seemed to hit the spot for a while, but were not lasting.
I was so happy the day I could stop drinking Gatorade and switched to all water all the time! After weeks of an inferior substitute, one I could not possibly keep up for much longer, that kept me alive but didn’t satisfy my real thirst, didn’t cleanse my mouth, didn’t refresh me, I was eager to refill my water glass again and again.
And as I thought about the living water Jesus offers me, and the things I used to try to quench my soul-deep thirst with, I’ll never go back to the old substitutes.
Not when I have a spring welling up in me that will never leave my soul thirsty again.