“Can I have another piece of candy?” Of course this is the voice of my daughter, eyeing the loot from Halloween. We’re blasting through that stuff this year. Maybe it’s a sign of a strong economy but she came home with a bucket of the good stuff. Some of these people passed out full size candy bars, as if to emphasize that I’d left a bucket of cheap old Sixlets by my door with a note that said, “Take some.”
Much to my daughter’s dismay, I answered her question the responsible way. “I know you think you want candy but you’re actually hungry for real food. Have a carrot while I make dinner.”
Oh, this is so much easier said than done. I recognized her frustration, the urge to kick and scream and maybe sneak into the candy while I wasn’t looking. I’d been eating Tootsie Rolls and calling them lunch for days. They were delicious but they weren’t really what I needed. It was like when you have an itch on your back that you can almost reach. You sort of just scratch all around the area and hope that the nerves will be fooled. The candy-eating took on a frenetic edge. They filled me up but left me unsatisfied. So, naturally, I did the human thing and ate more of them. I did this even though I knew that I was actually hungry for real food. My heart was saying, “grab a carrot,” but my hands were plowing their way through a field of candy.
Why do we do this?
Those who are good at quoting scripture would point to the passage from Matthew, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Which doesn’t answer the question of “why” but it certainly lets us know we’re not alone. It’s in the Bible, after all. Thousands of years of human history witnessing to the fact that we are not good at doing what’s good for us.
Last week over at SheLoves, Kathy Escobar explored the analogy between the way we treat food and the way we treat our spiritual life. “When you are spiritually hungry, what do you do to get relief?” She asked. Then she went on to make a list of exactly all the things I do before breaking down and actually reaching for the spiritual carrot.
How many times do we encounter a restlessness in our hearts and try to beat it by flipping on the TV? Gossiping? Reading?
Never? Well, maybe you can teach me because I do it all the time. All. The. Time. Sometimes it’s not even as obvious as TV. Sometimes it’s something masquerading as something good. “I’ll make time for quiet as soon as I get the dishes done…read this chapter…finish this lesson plan…”
I’m so good at avoiding spiritual hunger that I trick myself into thinking I’m being disciplined.
Why do we not listen to our deepest desires, the voice that is calling out for something more than busyness or distraction?
Why do we struggle to make time for the things that will make us truly content rather than the things that will dull the ache?
Honestly, I think its ego. I think that somehow we still think that our minds know better than our hearts. We still think that we can spend time doing what we want rather than what we need. We still think we know better what will make us content and whole. We still think that we know better than a whole host of humans who have gone before us, waving their arms, writing on stones, leaving messages in poetry and scripture saying, “make time to stop!”
We are like frail flowers eagerly leaping toward the sun without first digging deep into the rich soil below. We want so badly to focus on the visible aspects of life rather than the unseen, but more sustaining, inner life.
St. Augustine, who struggled so well with this, once prayed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This is a truth so simple and so profound that will hear it and hear it again without letting it seep into our souls.
We will be exhausted and unsatisfied until we learn to listen to that still, small voice vying for our attention.
Now, I like systems, plans and resolutions. My urge to make a pledge right here and now to engage in 20 minutes of silent prayer each and every day for the rest of the year. That’s only 50 days, which I just looked up and then found so shocking that I recounted for myself. But as much as I love Big Ideas and Grand Plans, I also love the wisdom of doing what you can, when you can, and trusting that God will meet you where you’re at.
Instead of a pledge, here’s an invitation. For today and today only, take 5 minutes to just be quiet with God. Do whatever you want with it. Sit quietly. Ponder a Bible passage. Light a candle, journal or just breathe. Do whatever nourishes your deepest desire for connection with God. Then do it again tomorrow. It’s as simple and profound as that.
The hunger is there for a reason; we might as well might time to feed it.
I’m linking up with #wholemama for the word “Desire.” Follow me over to read more.