Forty years ago, this month, I had a delicious meal of beef sirloin with champignon sauce, green beans amandine, a baked potato and chocolate cream pie. It was the menu for our Junior Senior Banquet, a fact I discovered searching random high school stuff. It got me thinking about food. I estimate I’ve eaten 60,000 meals in my lifetime…probably 20,000 sandwiches. So why do I eat? Why do you? I asked a group recently. Hunger. Tastes Good. Feeling Faint. Nervous. Habit. Mom made me.
No one says, “I eat so I won’t die,” though this is very true. After days without food, your immune system diminishes. Lack of vitamins opens you to diseases like Rickets. Without food, eventually you die. It gives some context to an important word from Jesus:
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4, NIV
Jesus says: You don’t just need food in order to live. You need the Word of God to live. Put more bluntly: If you don’t eat food, ultimately, you will die. Likewise, if you don’t get a diet of God’s Word, you will also die. You are not simply a body that needs physical nutrition. You are a soul that needs spiritual nutrition. You need the Word of God. This is a common picture in the Bible. In 1 Peter 2:2, God reminds us to crave His Word like an infant craves milk. Have you seen a baby when it is in the vicinity of a milk source? Yeah, crave the Word like that.
We need the Word to live. We need the words of God recorded in the Bible. We need the living Word of God, Jesus. We need the Spirit of God speaking into our spirit. We need time to read/hear the Word, reflect, meditate, pray, listen, and hang out with Jesus. We need the Word. We need it at least as often as we need sandwiches or milk. We need daily meals.
So why do we skip meals so often? Sometimes we’re not hungry. Jesus taught that people who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed and filled. Blessed, Jesus says, are those who are tuned in to their spiritual hunger. I realize now that I have often misdiagnosed the hunger as something else. Sometimes I feel empty or lonely or bored. Sometimes I feel the pull of pornography. For many years, I was not tuned in enough to realize that in these moments, my soul was feeling hungry. I thought I needed entertainment or an adrenaline rush or busy-ness or some new experience. I did not recognize it as a hunger for the life that comes from time with God and absorbing His Words.
There is another “misdiagnosis” that keeps us from good solid meals of God’s Word. When we read God’s Word, when we pray, when we pause to be quiet with God, most of the time it feels like nothing is happening. Mundane. Ordinary. Blah. I say most of the time because every now and then it is different. You may remember a particular life-changing insight. Or that moment you were unexpectedly moved to tears sensing God’s presence. Or that random time when something you read was EXACTLY what you needed that instant. Wow! But most of the time, we read and we pray, and we sit in silence, and we feel nothing exceptional. This is most of my meals with God. And we believe nothing is happening. And we stop having the meals.
I owe a key line of thought here to Tish Harrison Warren. In her excellent book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, she writes: “Word and sacrament sustain my life, and yet they often do not seem life changing. Quietly, even forgettably, they feed me.”
Over the course of your life, you have had tens of thousands of meals. You will be lucky if you remember 20 of them. One time, 40 years ago, I had steak with champignon sauce and green beans amandine. One time, a friend grilled some marinated swordfish. I have eaten steamed lobster that was pulled from the ocean that very day. The vast majority of my meals and yours, however, were ordinary, forgettable meals like a bowl of oatmeal or a bologna sandwich. But here is the reality. Every single one of those meals has nourished and sustained the life we now enjoy. If the meals we remember were the only meals that provided any nutrition, we’d be dead today. Yet we’ll skip meals with God because they’re ordinary, even forgettable. Really? It is like refusing to eat unless the meal is filet mignon or lobster.
Every single time you or I sit down to be with God and ponder His Word, it nourishes us, feeds our souls, nurtures our growth. We see none of this happening, just like we never see the vitamin C in our ordinary salad fending off disease in our body. It feels like one more ordinary meal, but it isn’t. That 20 minutes with God today may be more grilled cheese sandwich than beef sirloin with champignon sauce, but it is feeding you in ways that you cannot see or feel. Stay hungry, my friends, and keep eating. Your life depends on it.
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Roger, thank you so much for these powerful words that remind me just how much I need THE WORD, and how important those “ordinary” meals are!
Thank you, Paula. It’s funny how often I drift away from the important stuff! I needed the reminder myself.
Roger, I recently told a friend that I do not see that my faith makes a bit of difference to my family. I have not been able to pass on a need for anything Godly to them. Perhaps they see no difference in my life due to my faith….the existence in things unseen…they must think me crazy.
So trying to maintain a relationship with Jesus, God the Father and Creator, and craving the Physical Presence of the Holy Spirit is more about the subtle, the whisper, the ordinary?
Deborah, I really appreciate that last line of yours, and a great deal of the powerful work of God happens in “the subtle, the whisper, the ordinary.” I love that word combination. Of course, He works in very pronounced ways as well, but focusing simply on those works, we can miss so much of what He is doing behind the curtain.