How do we feed our souls? What are those meal times like? Some friends of mine were reflecting recently on how easy it is to start a busy day and to get on a conveyor belt of activity that ceases when our heads hit the pillow. In which there is no time for pausing to feed ourselves spiritually. This being busy suburban London the temptation is for this to be the general pattern of life, day in day out, and for our spiritual mal-nourishment to be masked by the relentless pace. Perhaps we grab a spiritual morsel on the tube during the daily commute in the way we might dash down a cheeseburger on the run. But the idea of taking a regular, leisurely gourmet lunch, French-style, to enjoy and savour spiritual food with no other pressures is rare indeed.
Maybe we can identify some different spiritual eating habits:
- Never eating at all. Spiritually emaciated, but with so little taste or appetite that we don't know what we are missing. Isaiah's vision of the Kingdom of Heaven being like a feast of fine meats and aged wines is an alien concept
- Snacking on occasional fast food. Give me spiritual wisdom in bite-sized accessible chunks that will give me enough energy to get me through my day. The purpose of eating is to empower all the other things, not to enjoy the feast. The faster I can get it down, the less it distracts me from the real business of the day
- Once a week feeding time. I expect to get all my spiritual nourishment from church on Sunday. It's the only time I have, but at least it's a regular half hour of Bible input once a week. I don't feed myself, I need someone to do it for me. Let them put in the effort in the kitchen and I will happily receive the benefit of their preparation. But I probably won't digest it properly. If I did, if I let the food nourish me and make me grow, I wouldn't remain in infancy, only ever expecting others to feed me
- Daily meals, maybe family meals. The diet might not always be gourmet, but its regular. And because its regular it sinks in and works its way through my system. I might still have to dash, but giving thought to knowing God every day works like spiritual Readybrek, warming me through and lighting me up
- 5 course banquet. The real deal. Sitting down with no other thought than savouring goodness and spending a long time at it. Giving it time to digest and fully nourish my heart and body. Talking about it for weeks afterwards, so wonderful was the experience and company
I guess most of us live on some combination of the first four and allow life to prevent us from experiencing the last one except on the rarest of occasions. Seasons of prayer and fasting, leisure to spend time in the Bible with no distraction, extended opportunity to reflect and worship seem so at odds with the demands of contemporary living. Maybe there is a peer pressure too – the person who takes the time clearly doesn't have enough to do when all the rest of us are running ragged.
Was it C.S.Lewis who said "the devil is busyness"? Busyness is a very modern excuse for living spiritually withered, malnourished lives, and disguising it with the trappings of suburban success.
What would it mean to reorient the life of busy western Christians and busy western churches to allow for real, regular, deep spirituality in our busy western world?