The Last

 

 

Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
(Actually published October 2011)

Eat Your Vegetables

Planting time has finally arrived! I transplanted asparagus and broccoli into the garden yesterday and, to my surprise, it was not the quick and simple task I thought it would be! Yet while the task certainly had a degree of tedium to it, I thought about how rewarding the time I spent would prove to be when the little plants were ready for consumption. As I was thinking along those lines, I recalled the once-common (now perhaps less so) parental admonition “Eat your vegetables!”

 “But WHHHHYYYYYY??!! I don’t liiike them; they’re yuuucky!”, went the equally common retort—which was followed by the sage parental rationale: “So you can grow up big and strong, like Daddy or Mommy.” And veggies are indeed packed with nutrients that help to build a strong and healthy body: so now, as an adult who values sound nutrition for its health-producing effect, I can appreciate this advice in a way that I couldn’t back then. But as excellent as this advice is, it is not what I really had in mind to discuss, for there is instruction better still than this for us to consider.

In His model prayer, the Lord said we ought to ask our Father to “give us this day our daily bread”. And so we ought. But how often, and how readily, do we limit this instruction by confining it merely to the realm of our physical needs—perhaps overlooking the fact that God created us body, mind, and spirit; and of the three, the soul is foremost in import. (John 6:63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”) Just as the body will begin to atrophy and eventually die if starved for nutrients for too long, so too will the mind and the soul. The nourishment we supply to each may differ. The body requires oxygen, water, energy in the form of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, etc.; the mind requires stimulation in the form of ideas; and the soul requires truth and righteousness. Yet our approach to ensuring we receive the nourishment requisite to each should not be different. In other words, we ought to seek our spiritual and mental sustenance with no less, and in truth, more, passion and energy than we seek our physical “daily bread”. But while the idea of fasting for an extended period of time might cause some to shudder “Oh, I could never do that!” do we have the same sense of dread when we consider a paucity of mental and spiritual food?

We are blessed to live in a country where food for the body is abundant (although increasingly diminished in nutritive value—an excellent reason to begin growing your own veggies, if you haven’t already!). Ideas, both good and bad, are in no short supply: and there are those who, like the Athenians of Paul’s day, spend their time “doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas”. We can find ideas anywhere and everywhere: wherever people are, there you will also find ideas. But we can only obtain nourishment for our soul from one source: the Lord Himself, who is the “bread of life” (John 6:48), and He makes that bread of life available through His Spirit dwelling in those who believe and obey His words. And He also said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener...Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1,4) In this analogy, our relationship to Jesus is as a branch to the vine that feeds it. If you cut off a branch from the rest of the vine, it will die.

The question I would pose then, is this: how can we grow spiritually, to the point where we are remaining in the vine and effectively bearing fruit, when so much of our focus and energy is spent in seeking to provide a livelihood (meeting our physical needs) for ourselves? Is there anyone who would disagree that for many, if not to say all, our careers are filled with far too much stress and far too little time for reflection and building our relationship with God? That is not to say that we should not have a career; but it seems to me that we, as a society, when cultivating the field of our lives, have learned to put the plow before the ox, so to speak.

The Lord commands us not to worry about what we will eat or drink, or what we will wear, yet aren’t these the exact things that consume much of our attention, especially now as the economy has worsened and food and energy costs skyrocket? But when we seek first the Father’s Kingdom and His righteousness, His Son promises that all these secondary things will be given to us as well. (Matt. 6:33) In my own career, I found that I could not wholeheartedly pursue both “success” and my relationship with God—and my career was not excessively demanding in nature, as some are. So I had to make a change, and what I have gained from that decision is precious to me.  Without further elaboration on that topic, though,  I would leave you with  this final point: in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul adjures them to “redeem the time” and to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:16-17). It is only to the extent that we make time for our relationship with God that we will have greater insight and understanding as to what His will and purpose is for our lives, individually. Therefore, I encourage you to, in a sense, “Eat your spiritual vegetables”, and take back or redeem your time, so that you may understand what His purpose is for you; and through that knowledge grow up to be perfect and complete: just like our Daddy.     &

 

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