Hot and Humid days are miserable. Particularly when the humidity is up to 96%. Our neck of the woods is Erie, Pennsylvania, the record-breaking snow city of the United States. We spend most of our time preparing for winter or dealing with winter, and there is not much thought about summer until the humidity spikes and the temperature rises into the upper 80’s. Then, suddenly, we remember why we thought about getting a pool, or something filled with water, even though they’re so high maintenance and they can only be used for four months of the year. Now, it absolutely seems worth it.
We have two small air conditioners in our trailer, one at each end with a large fan to spread the cool air down the hallway and into the children’s rooms. If any of you have lived in a trailer over the summer, you will understand the need for critical placement of that fan. If it doesn’t hit the walls just right, nobody will sleep tonight. We have popsicles on hand and water toys in the yard so we can find some relief during those Dog Days of Summer. I have a theory that we adapt so poorly because we experience an average change of 100 degrees from winter to summer, and our bodies cannot adapt that fast. The truth is, we are probably just a bunch of whiners.
One of my college courses held a brief conversation about the major environmental differences between polytheistic religions and monotheistic religions. Many polytheistic religions grew out of lush and abundant environments like our own. There are different forces that seem to work together such as the sun and moon, the water, the fire, and the dirt. These elements gave way to harmonious deities who harnessed or produced these elements and other common human experiences like emotions, major personal events, and family growth. The many gods also had human traits, personalities, and disagreements.
Monotheistic religions, however, often sprouted from a desert environment. In a desert, the only thing that matters is water. Everything else is evil and painful. Everything else is a curse. But the water brings all life. If you can find the water and remember where it is, then you can survive in the desert. I have always found this drastic contrast fascinating, as I believe in a monotheistic deity while living in a polytheistic environment. Even to this day, I see many around me struggling with the desire for one thing. That we list priorities with an “s” and tend to strive after many desires. Our environment seems to lend itself towards a desire for harmony instead of a desire for the only water that will quench our thirst. Maybe we are too disconnected to really live in a way that shows our thirst for Christ which leads us to His waters alone. Perhaps a change of scenery would help us to stop looking for other ways to fulfill ourselves.
This perspective shift is drastic, even though it seems so subtle.
We still understand the concept and we get that God wants to be a priority, but we miss the true depth of these scriptures and commands when we place them outside of the environmental and cultural contexts. If we begin to understand the desires we have do not compare to a thirst for water in the desert, like the death that is all around us in this spiritually-deprived land, then we miss the depth that God is calling us to. Christ’s death provided a resource of living water that can quench your thirst, and all other desires are minor compared to our need for mercy.
On a hot day, we are reminded that nothing else matters but water.
Even if the cost is high and the work is constant, the reward of the pools on the hot day are worth it. I would suggest that, likewise, we are in a desert where evil is near every turn and every step. The hard work and the high cost is worthwhile once you are satisfied by the living water Christ has given. Not that the water costs us anything, but the ability to keep it and to give it freely takes submission to the authority (like the firemen and building permits) and the attention that needs renewed after a rough season (like our chlorine and cleaning systems need attention after winter). If we search after His living water, we will live forever under His authority, and all the little details no longer seem to matter.
In Exodus, Moses deals with people moving from a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic religion, and finds that they are horribly whiny, just like us.
22 Then Moses had Israel leave the Reed Sea[a] and go out into the Shur desert. They traveled for three days in the desert and found no water.23 When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink Marah’s water because it was bitter. That’s why it was called Marah.[b] 24 The people complained against Moses, “What will we drink?” 25 Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord pointed out a tree to him. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
The Lord made a regulation and a ruling there, and there he tested them. 26 The Lord said, “If you are careful to obey the Lord your God, do what God thinks is right, pay attention to his commandments, and keep all of his regulations, then I won’t bring on you any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They camped there by the water.
In this passage, Moses and the Iraelites see God’s ability to control water for the second time since leaving Egypt (the first being the parting of the Red Sea). As they continue forward, following God’s pillar of fire by day and smoke by night (Exodus 13: 21), they seem to begin to see that this single god has control over many elements. Maybe they heard stories from the past, but it is likely that the Egyptian religion infiltrated their minds as they were deep in the culture surrounding them. Their first “grumbling” comes into place in Exodus 16:2-3. They begin to complain about their food. Much like us, they have gotten used to comfort, and want it back instead of their freedom and following the true God. Maybe God was still trying to change their perspective to a desert perspective of searching only after one thing. It is interesting that water is the first element they see God use once they leave Egypt, not that I suggest making that a major part of your theology, but it is interesting.
If you read Exodus, you will continue to see a pattern of the Israelites complaining, Moses talking to God, both God and Moses getting frustrated with them, and God showing them over and over again that He can truly be trusted with every concern the people might have. While it can be dry reading after the first couple “grumbles,” there is much revealed about our human character once we are exposed to lush environments, even if we are enslaved by it. We are more whiny than others in a desert climate, and Moses and God both see the true heart behind us whiny people is the rationale that God cannot be in control of everything.
When we begin to feel like God has brought us to the desert, we need to recognize God’s desire to be our only priority, and to allow Him to take care of all the other details. This is why Christ calls us to “Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In this passage, it is clear that “these things” are not superfluous desires, but things we need to survive. Do we tend to separate them because we live in a lush environment that seems to need harmony instead of the true deceit that lurks all around us? We are deceived if we believe that harmony will fix the horrible acts committed in our culture. The only cure is searching fully for the living water found in Christ, so then He might show us He is lord over all our needs and desires.