Cotton Mouth

March 15, 2014

One more thought on the pain management topic, and then I’ll move on.

Morphine is a very fine medicine and effective pain killer. It doesn’t reach everything, like the persistent back spasm gripping my left shoulder blade, but it manages everything else quite well thank you.

Nevertheless, morphine has side effects. The one I want to talk about is dry mouth. When I woke from the anesthesia and my daughters came to see me in ICU, my mouth was completely dry, to the point of sticking to itself. Talking through a wad of cotton mouth was impossible, eliciting polite giggles from K and J who were struggling to catch what I was saying.

“Bribe a nurse, and get me some ice chips, please.” Apparently it was a little too soon after surgery for the medical staff to let me ingest even liquids, but the situation was getting quite desperate. K and J were gone a few minutes and thankfully came back with a precious two teaspoons of ice chips, which they began to feed me one at a time. Relief! Happiness! All is right with the world! Okay, I can do this!

Dry mouth is a little different from thirst, I think, but the reliever is just the same: water. What ran through my head was the Psalmist’s description of spiritual thirst, in Psalm 63:

            O God, you are my God, I seek you,
                        my soul thirsts for you;
            my flesh faints for you,
                        as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Israel, the people of the desert where water is a very precious commodity, would understand the physical craving for liquid across their lips. But David was identifying a spiritual condition, wrought no doubt by trial or even “the dark night of the soul,” in which he craved contact with the Living God. The rest of the psalm is praise to God for being there, for loving, and for remaining steadfast and faithful. But even so, David’s soul clings in desperation to the Lord, because if he lets go, he knows the surrounding desert will swallow him up.

There have been a few times, but not a steady condition, in my life when my spiritual longing was as concrete and desperate as that morphine dry mouth. Perhaps over the years I have maintained some sort of discipline that kept me from dying of thirst, but just barely. I know that many of us feel the world around us sucks us dry. We exert every ounce of our energy to take care of our families, to be earnest workers, to pay the mortgage . . . we go through seasons where it feels like it’s all output and no input. We pour out our lives in these efforts but take nothing back in. All we know is that we are barely making it.

God says, “Come to the waters, and drink of me!” (Isaiah 55:1). Do we realize how close to dehydration we are, spiritually speaking? For me, a headache is the first sign I haven’t had enough water today. Spiritually, my clue is deadened senses to the presence and power of God. What sates this thirst? Time in the presence of Jesus, eating his Word, drinking his Living Water, receiving refreshment from his inexhaustible supply. Or in other words, coming to the fountain and drinking in the Spirit, perhaps starting with a few ice chips but graduating to a full glass of good ol’ Sierra ice melt. This is all figurative language, I realize. But perhaps it might help us get in a healthier habit if, when we take a glass of water (literally), we give thanks for Jesus and his Living Water, too. And ask: “Lord, where could I thirst for you more in the conduct of my life? What part of me is withering for lack of spiritual refreshment?” This is the sort of question Jesus delights to answer, because he is ready to pour into us whatever will sustain us! So, cheers!


One Response to “Cotton Mouth”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    God is great. God is good. And we thank Him for His sustenance. By His hand we all are fed. Thank you God for daily bread and Living Water. In Jesus’ Name.

    And we thank God daily for you, dear Mary, for Bringing the Word to Life.

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