We humans are about 60% water and our blood is more than 90%. Water is a good thing and vital to life. There are many, many benefits to drinking lots of water. You know that. I know that. But I've nonetheless struggled with drinking enough water. Doctors, dentists, and estheticians have all remarked on the dehydration evident in my body parts, and yet, I just can't make myself drink more water. Mind you, I like water, especially the bubbly variety, and enjoy the (non)taste. I'm not overly fussy about water quality and thankfully, there's plenty of water around here. As I've gotten older, my skin speaks loudly of my lack of water and my vanity suffers this fact. Still, however persuasive, beneficial and intellectually appealing, water consumption elicits baffling resistance in me. Shrug.
Thirsting for better.
At different times over the last few decades as my mortality has overshadowed the invincibility of youth, I've been motivated to drink more water, goaded by visible pores and wrinkles, the latest Mayo Clinic data, tending my speaking and singing voice, fuzzy brain, and water-shaming by other people. I sincerely wonder how I manage to survive my parched state, hydrating mostly with 11 cups of coffee per day.
I want to do better. I really, really do!
Last winter, a fellow mom showed up at a baseball game with a water bottle the size of a small carry-on bag.
"I drink at least one of these by 7 am," she boasted enthusiastically.
I was impressed and inspired and mildly irritated. Not to be outdone, I ordered a similar water barrel from Amazon, complete with a built-in handle so I could really chug-a-lug. This one was emblazoned with motivational messages every eight ounces.
"Go get 'em!"
"Keep it up!"
And so on.
The first day, I filled it right up and sat it on my desk where I could see it. As you can tell, it's quite difficult to overlook. I proudly drained all but 8 ounces and took 11 trips to the restroom. The next day, I came close to my day-one record and persevered, slightly self-righteous at my achievement. Day three, I only managed to consume about half the cistern. I filled that sucker faithfully for about a week after that and toted it everywhere I went. Sadly, the habit never took root and soon that giant tank seemed to glare at me, condemning me for my failure.
I got another, slightly smaller, really attractive water bottle, and renewed my efforts.
Surely, I can do this, I thought to myself.
I want to do this.
It's good for me to do this.
I shall do this!
Once the slimy, green algae formed on the surface, I faced the fact I was not going to drink all that and shamefully dragged the jug back into my kitchen to be washed and refilled. I repeated this process for a while until I came to resent the water jug for taking up valuable real estate on my desk and dashboard. For showing me my failure. Damn water bottle! Enough!
Opinions vary on recommended quantities, but whether it's 4 cups or 400, I just can't cut it. I cannot make myself drink water like I should.
I now carry a modest bottle in my car, which sits half-full most of the time. The best I can do at this time.
Now, in all fairness, there's other stuff I have been able to do, darn it. I'm typically very disciplined about running. I don't run far or fast, but I haul my but out the door at 6 am most days and get 'er done. Go, girl!
I'm also quite disciplined about my client writing deadlines--not so hot about my personal writing goals--but really conscientious when it comes to client work.
Pat on back, please.
I'm religious (sorry) about my morning quiet time, outshining roosters and Tibetan monks with my passionate devotion.
There's other stuff I want to do, resolve to do, and am somehow able to do. Easily.
Can I take credit for any of it? Don’t think so.
Even so, water consumption and a troubling list of other good behaviors elude me. No matter how very much I want to change, to be better, some stuff is relentlessly persistent. Likewise, there's stuff I desperately want to stop doing, thinking, or feeling, and seem utterly powerless to do so!
What to make of this frustrating state of affairs?
I Cannot. Change. Myself.
In the book of Romans (my favorite), the apostle Paul speaks to this tendency with aching honesty, for our benefit:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (7:15-20)
And that’s Paul, people!
Paul explains this sorry state of affairs and concludes with the simple remedy:
"Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (v.25)
All of Romans 7 (and loads of other spots) offers a choice explanation of the quandary. Elsewhere, we're told repeatedly that even while we're completely loved, accepted, and forgiven in Christ, we're also empowered by the Spirit of God to be transformed. In fact, we are already transformed in Spirit, even as we wrestle with our resistance to the essential goodness that's already in us. This paradoxical tension, this futility of lasting self-improvement, points us back to God Himself.
Acknowledging what's right and what's wrong, we can turn to Him in humble gratitude that we're loved and accepted despite our waywardness and sometimes downright criminal wretchedness of thought and deed. We can recognize our need and cry out to God for forgiveness and for healing help. God assures us that He will transform us, even as He embraces us whole-heartedly as works in progress.
Willingness and surrender is the key. Dying to self. Ouch.
Meanwhile, God's grace, Jesus, stands in the gap of who we are and who we're designed to be.
Whether I ever drink my prescribed allotment of water or not.
We can receive and rest in God's perfect love and grace, embodied in Jesus Himself.
Remember: God loves you no matter what.
Grace & peace,