Growing up I’ve always been an athlete, and one of the things that was hammered into my brain was “hydration, hydration, hydration.” Because of years of this reinforcement, for the last decade (or more) you would rarely see me without a water bottle in my hand.
Then pregnancy happened and I was told I was supposed to drink MORE. My first thought was, “You can’t be serious, I already drink so much!” But then I started noticing I was thirsty, and my skin was getting drier. Even though I already drank more than most people, my body needed me to drink more!
The first time I really noticed it was a month and a half ago during Texas’ ice storm. Our water got turned off on Monday and we didn’t have drinkable water until the next Sunday. We had to ration the handful of plastic water bottles we had, and I was miserable wanting more water! I know we were way better off than most people, but I am thankful I’m married to such a good man who could put up with a very cranky dehydrated pregnant lady for a couple of days.
These experiences over the past couple months got me thinking a lot about dehydration. The average human loses about 40 ounces a day of water through urine, breathing, and sweating. That’s about 2.5% of our total body water. When one becomes dehydrated, the first and most common symptom is thirst. As the dehydration gets worse, this can be accompanied by dry mouth, decreased saliva production, and difficulty swallowing. You’ve probably encountered all of these and might be even right now. Drink some water, then keep reading.
When we don’t drink water in response to these symptoms, things can begin to get much worse. Your body weight is ~50-70% water, and your cells make up 60% of that water. So, when your body gets dehydrated, those cells have less water and your tissues tend to shrink in order to borrow water for things like your blood. The skin then becomes dry; your eyes become sunken. Next, a fever will develop. Your body’s main avenue for temperature regulation is through sweating, but at this point in dehydration your body will be unable to sweat, allowing the body temperature to continue to rise. Another factor in this temperature increase is that our main temperature regulatory centers are in the brain, but the brain is 80-85% water, so a deficit in water means a deficit in brain capabilities. Not only can this affect our temperature, but this may also affect mood, attention, memory, and motor coordination.
As I look back on my own (mild) dehydration and what it means for a body to thirst for water, how dire it can be, I’m reminded of a line from the readings for this Friday. While Jesus is hanging on the cross he says, “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
Did Jesus mean physical thirst as he hung on the cross? Probably yes. I couldn’t go a day without water while I was laying on a couch. He had just been beaten and carried a cross up a hill. I’m sure He was physically thirsty.
BUT Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote a beautiful letter about a deeper meaning to this verse. It spoke of His thirst for us. As strong as a need for water when we are dehydrated, that is how much He longs for us to be united with Him. Just as drinking is to us, this union is essential to Him. In His last moments as He is dying on the cross, this thirst for our love was what He was thinking about.
“Why does Jesus say ‘I Thirst’? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words… ‘I thirst’ is something much deeper than Jesus just saying ‘I love you.’ Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.
Let us try in a special way to come as close as the human heart can come to the Heart of Jesus and try to understand as much as possible Jesus’ terrible pain caused to him by our sins and His Thirst for our love.”
(Mother Teresa’s letter to her Missionaries of Charity, 1993)
I know that many reflections during the Triduum comment on how during all of that suffering and pain Jesus went through, He was thinking of you, but I’d like to take it one step further. During all of that pain and suffering He was hoping that it would be enough. It is obviously enough to save your soul, but is it enough for you to believe in Him, to desire Him back? Do you know how much he thirsts, how He longs for you to answer His call? He wants you to choose Him more than anything else. He loves you so much.
Over the next couple days as we go through the readings of the Paschal Mystery, I encourage you to think about this. Was Jesus’ sacrifice of everything, his whole life, enough for you to answer His call, to satisfy His thirst? What is stopping you from committing your whole life to Him in love and devotion after all that He has done for you? Christ has done all of the hard work, but He desires us to answer His call. This Easter, let us all re-devote ourselves with a resounding “YES! AMEN, I BELIEVE!” May we say this with our whole heart and soul and mean it.