In both 2005 and in 2007 I had the privilege of going to South America and specifically the country of Brazil as a part of two teams that were tasked with helping to build and upkeep several churches and a school that our church here in the states, began nearly 30+ years ago. In 2007 I found myself in a sticky situation as I became ill in a foreign country. In reality I wasn't really in a foreign country, I was actually flying over a foreign country.
We had been in Brazil for nearly 10 days working as make shift brick layers as we did our best to assemble the walls of the new school house. If you've ever been nearer to the equator than you find yourself now, you know it's hotter. All throughout the day we would work in the heat, mixing mortar and laying bricks, mixing mortar and laying bricks, mixing mortar and laying bricks, mixing mortar...you get the idea.
By mid morning, the guys would be shirtless hoping to receive some relief from the heat, but none would ever come. Our host missionaries attempted to enforce strict rules about our water consumption fearing for our health, but there was a problem. Right across the street from our work site and home away from home for 10 days, was a little Brazilian convenient store.
If you've ever been out of the country you know that you are immediately drawn to anything and everything that reminds you of home. You're searching for the familiar and when you find it, it's tough to let go. Say hello to little glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Orange Fanta. These things were amazing. Ice cold little gems that not only reminded me of home but refreshed me like no bottle of water could, or so I thought.
Even in the midst of the ever wandering eyes of our missionaries, I would find myself sneaking into my room, digging thorough my luggage for a few coins and making my way to this little oasis of refreshment.
What I should have known was that while I was feeling refreshed on the surface, my body was actually dehydrating. While I was sucking down bottle after bottle of that liquid goodness, my body was in need of something different.
My lack of real refreshment caught up to me on our plane ride home. We were en route from Belem down to Sao Paulo in one of those massive 11 seats across type of jets. I was tangled up in one of the Spider Man movies when suddenly my body just froze. My arms began to tingle, my chest started hurting, I started sweating buckets and everything started spinning. Now, I don't know if you've ever had this type of experience in general, but let me reassure you that everything changes when you are 6 miles above the earth. Unsure of what to do and really having no other options the flight attendants brought me to the rear of the plane and connected me to an oxygen flow. Thankfully, we were only minutes from landing.
As soon as we landed, my journey through: hospital infirmaries, ambulance rides at lightning speed through the streets of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo hospital emergency rooms (the use of the term 'hospital emergency room' is in no way connected to anything I had ever experienced prior), and eventually a long plane ride home several days later, began.
Landing back on American soil was an experience that I will never forget. Seeing the faces of my wife and sons and being re-introduced to things that I had once taken for granted was surreal at best.
I tell you this lengthy story for a reason: Often what we believe to be refreshing, is really killing us. There is really only one source of true refreshment. God. Whatever it is that you are trusting for your refreshment is a far cry from the real deal. You may feel refreshed for a little while, but the longer that God isn’t really your true source, as long as God really isn’t the "trunk of your tree", the weaker and weaker you will feel.
So what happens? When we're not really being truly refreshed, we fall into what I like to call, "The Cycle". Much like my Coke and Fanta binges in Brazil, I felt refreshed temporarily and then like clock work, I would come crashing back down. What I failed to understand is that each ride on the cycle resulted in yet another drop in my overall refreshment.
That’s exactly what happens in our spiritual lives. We attempt to make a lot of things the source of our refreshment: church attendance or involvement, just being a good person, money, status, relationships, you fill in the blank for you. It really doesn't matter what we try to substitute, the results are all the same. What God desires from each of us, and what each of us truly needs, is an intimate, passionate, personal relationship with God Himself.