Saturday, January 24, 2015

Eating & The Sun

I’ve been meaning to write more lately…

Famous last words. Ha. My mind is a veritable mess of half-baked ideas and thoughts on this and incomplete diatribes and exhortations on that. And occasionally one (or several) of these comes floating to the surface. I suppose it’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel…the question then remains, at which fish do I point?

I recently listened to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity on audiobook. I love audiobooks. They give me the option of reading the way I no longer have time to do—two hours at a stretch. And since I also love to have not only fingers but also oftentimes full fists (and maybe even an arm) in all kinds of pies, audiobook lets me read while I’m doing other things that are unavoidable…like driving and dishes and cooking and bathing. But I digress.

C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity.

Wow, did that one pack a punch. That man had a mind that just astounds me. And the irony of being a Christian apologist after half a life as a self-proclaimed atheist just stands out as God’s work. He had a way of subtly yet effectively blending logic and faith, the physical and spiritual. Evidence to me that God takes our weaknesses and transforms them, molds them to His purposes and His will—if we’ll only let Him...

It’s been cold here since mid-November; probably longer. The icy blasts of the polar vortices hit us more than once. The temps around here have fluctuated some, though, and we have days of bitter cold and days of damp cold and days of plain old cold. But it isn’t the cold that is a bother.

I have found an honest-to-goodness love for each season in its time. I love a good snowfall as much as a reddening maple, a hot blue sky or an undulating hill of buds bursting into bloom. But during the cold months here, I have noticed that there is one element without which I wither: the sun. Give me a day that’s 20 below and as long as there is sunshine, I’ll snuggle in with a warm cup of something and revel in it. Without the sun, I’m afraid I become gloomy, hermit-ish, achy, tired, unmotivated.

I won’t go as far as to malign the winter. It is no more the fault of the season for being what it is than it is the fault of a table made of wood for being hard and sturdy and the cause of a painfully stubbed toe. Also, as I am learning, God made it and what He made He called “good.” I can hate the way I feel when I don’t see the sun. But I have two choices: I can be sour: sour-faced, sour-spirited, sour-behaved. Or I can be thankful.

And if you’re dubious about thankfulness in the face of something you so despise, allow me to share my current favorite verse that flies in the face of rank ingratitude and teaches us a better way:

One who is full loathes honey,    
  but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.  –Prov. 27:7

I love all of the object lessons and allegories in the Bible built around food. Maybe it’s because I love to eat… or maybe because food and God both sustain and bring pleasure. There is something to experiencing a good meal and experiencing God. The very way He asks us to remember His son is by eating and drinking. The Bible talks about feasts in Heaven. One of the most poignant times Jesus spent with his disciples—his friends—was at a meal.

I, like you, am so limited by my physicality. We experience the world largely through our five senses. It’s one of the reasons I think spirituality can be such a difficult concept for us; maybe even why we lust so hard after doing—it proves something to us. If we can see it and hear it; taste, touch, and smell it then it IS and we have left our mark. But God is spirit. And if we want to worship Him rightly, we must worship in spirit and in truth.

If I am full, I am not hungry, and vice versa. When I am hungry, physically hungry—or, as the original Hebrew root tells it, famished—even something that I would consider mildly unappetizing or unsatisfying would satiate my hunger.  Remember that old guilt trip we heard as kids? “There is a child somewhere in the world who is starving right now who would love to be able to eat what you’re refusing!

We fed our 2 male cats a diet solely of canned cat food for a brief period. It was not the top shelf stuff. And the ramifications were disgusting. It was as if we were feeding them the cat equivalent of Cheetos and Taco Bell…everyday…for every meal. They gobbled it down like it was manna from Heaven every time we fed them. But their bowels were in a terrible state.

Filled up on contempt, rage, bitterness, ingratitude, & complaining like they’re rare ambrosia, we grumble, we judge, we mock, we hold grudges, we look for what we hate and we no longer desire the sweet and satisfying goodness that comes with joy & thankfulness. Our relationships suffer the spiritual waste products.

But the opposite is also true—filled up on joy and thankfulness, we see clearly all that we’ve been given and we feel joy, penetrating & steadfast. Sometimes, joy and thankfulness are bitter medicine. But in thanking God for what seems unthank-able, we find that the bitter becomes sweet. That sounds far simpler than it is. Immediacy is not the way of Heaven but constancy is:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  –I Thessalonians 5:15-16
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. -Hebrews 10:23
Pain is a constant, not a variable in this life. I know that. Yours and mine…they are different. I won’t pretend to know yours. But this way is a better way no matter the type of pain. I have glimpses and moments of an intense & enduring joy that is beyond my comprehension; thankfulness comes easy then. But the other end of that stick is being thankful when I haven’t seen the sun in days (weeks?) because God uses it to show me things about myself. And even the physical sun won’t help me if I don’t let the power of the spiritual Son be made perfect in my weakness. It isn’t pretending that something is good when it is not good but being thankful that God will use what is not good and make it something good.

Grousing is as easy as a 3-minute microwave dinner. But thanking through prayer and the strength of Jesus, though it costs an effort that is often greater than I can muster, presents me with a 5-course feast that leaves me filled and warm and content. This is my sunlamp til the gray-white world melts into the green-gold glory of spring.