Dangerous Heat


Today: Expect a mix of sun and clouds with a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms, mainly over the high terrain. Winds light and variable. High of 88 F. Heat index approaching 100 F in spots. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 40%.
It has been hot lately. And that means one thing: I’ve been complaining about it.
I despise the heat and I love to bicker about it. I know, we mountain folk don’t experience the oppressive heat that our other southern neighbors experience. One friend of mine in Mississippi described the summer heat and humidity this way: “When you leave Wal-Mart at night and walk out the front door, the heat assaults you as though someone has taken an afghan quilt, immersed it in boiling water, and then flung it over your head.”
When I lived in Tucson, Arizona shortly after seminary I discovered that people simply didn’t go outside until the sun went down. Even then the temperature was well-over 100 F. “But it’s a dry heat,” some will say. Yes, just like an oven.
Social psychologists, researchers and scientists alike have been studying the effects of heat on people for years. Most of us are aware that heat waves are more than just a nuisance, or cause for people to hydrate and care for their pets. We know that violent crime spikes when the temperatures rise. We know now that the riots during the summer of 1967 coincided with heat waves on the east coast and in the Midwest. A well-documented study from the mid-1990s found that “aggravated assaults roughly doubled in Dallas when the average temperature rose from 75 F to 95 F.”
And then there’s road rage. One study proved that motorists were quicker to lay on their horns on hot days when cars at intersections were slow at responding to a changing traffic light. In another study involving our nation’s pastime, pitchers on Major League Baseball teams were more likely to throw at, and hit batters in retaliation, when it is hot rather than when it is cool.  
Yes, the heat makes us cranky. But it can also affect the way in which we think or perceive the world around us. As it turns out, we’re far more likely to ‘project’ whatever we’re experiencing in the moment into the future even though the facts don’t support it. Social economists tell us that this ‘projection bias’ distorts our worldview and can make us far more reactive in the moment. To put it simply, the heat can make us overreact to stuff. As you can imagine, this can lead to some very bad decision-making.
In my experience and observation, the results of these studies ring true. Regardless of the setting, I have found a correlation between my own temperament—and the temperaments of others—during the mid-summer heat. Tempers flare more easily in July than they do in February. Disagreements and casual silliness linger longer when it’s 90 F than when it’s 50 F. People fuss and are more anxious in the heat and humidity than they are when it’s crisp and cool. We are more prone to make snap judgements that we will later regret when our internal thermostats are turned up.  
So be aware, people. The experts are correct. Heat is dangerous. It can sap your strength, make you sick, and yes, hurt your relationships.
Both Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well come off as a bit testy when they meet up in the mid-day sun. Jesus is thirsty and requests some water. The woman’s reply seems uncharacteristically sharp and Jesus seems to match her tone with a pointed reply.
“Living water,” she retorts. “Ha! You have no bucket and the well is deep. Where will you get that living water, pray tell? Who do you think you are?”
When Jesus replies that the water he gives will be like a spring of water gushing up to eternal life, the woman mocks him and says with great sarcasm and eye-rolling: “Sir! Give me this water, so that I will never have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus plays his prophetic card and reveals that he knows about her checkered past and why she chooses to visit the well alone during the heat of the day. The woman’s skepticism and cynicism melts when she realizes that Jesus is the Messiah, and she returns to the village to reveal what she’s experienced.
The heat can make us thirsty. And in our attempt to quench our thirst we can be tempted to drink from the wrong sources. Bitterness, anxiety-fueled tirades, and rage do not slate our thirsts—they inflame them. Jesus, however, can cool us off. He can give us the space we need to chill out and to prayerfully reflect on life and the world around us. Whether it’s time up on a mountain with the Father where the breeze is more pronounced, or if it’s immersing ourselves in the cool, truth-revealing waters of Christ’s presence, Jesus is the antidote to that itchy, irascible feeling we get when life’s heat gets too hard to bear.
Stay hydrated these last weeks of summer by drinking deeply from the well of God’s goodness. Like a sip from a good, old mountain spring, Jesus’s presence can make us cool, calm and collected.
Read more about how the heat affects us our sensibilities. Click on this link to read Katherin Milkman’s excellent article in the Washington Post.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/21/heat-doesnt-just-make-us-cranky-it-makes-us-dumb-shoppers/?utm_term=.ef475e1ceab3