Because I have had to eliminate gluten from my diet, I have become so aware of the ingredients that are in our food. Just cleaning out my fridge unearthed a bag full of condiments and other foods that had hidden sources of gluten. I dread the day starting on the pantry, knowing that I’ll find all sorts of stuffing mixes, quick cook noodle dishes and other convenience foods that are heavily laden with chemicals, but are quick to prepare and relatively tasty.
I reflect on this because last night after I had written “toxic sludge” I had a feeling that I had not completely said what needed to be said. Just as the bees went to the colorful chemical laden sugar because it was less work than stripping pollen from the flowers, so too we go to chemical laden unhealthy food because it is less work that preparing meals from scratch. (It isn’t actually but we fool ourselves into thinking that.) That same principle holds true in our spiritual lives as we seek out pseudo nutrition from a variety of spiritual sources. To read last night’s rant, click on this link…. https://tryingtopray.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/toxic-sludge/
So because we fool ourselves and lie to ourselves and accept the lies of the advertisers we partake of the unhealthy. What is needed for me for health reasons, and all of us for many reasons is to clean house, get rid of the junk and keep the healthy…. as long as the healthy still includes chocolate and corn chips, of course.
This same principle is at work in the church, where we lie to ourselves and believe the lies of the world. It’s okay not to read the Bible. It’s okay to miss worship. It’s okay not to pray regularly. It’s okay to only speak with God when you want God to do something for you. It’s okay to make a dream board of the things you expect the universe to bring into your lives. But it’s not okay. We need to be honest with ourselves and get real before God, if we are going to be people of any worth in his kingdom.
Getting rid of the toxic sludge in our lives and in our congregations also requires a good house cleaning. And as I pondered the words in 1 Corinthians 2 last night through a guided meditation it began to dawn on me what was missing in last night’s blog posting. We avoid the hard work of Scripture, Meditation, Prayer, Silence and the other spiritual disciplines because they require internal housekeeping as we come to know not only God intimately, but also ourselves intimately.
The guide for meditation asked that I reflect upon the one thing that keeps coming back to mind as I read the passage. What phrase or sentence did my eye keep going back to?
But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.
The context for the words that I prayed over through the night is important, because knowledge of God and knowledge of self are completely interwoven by our interaction with the Holy Spirit, and our openness to hearing the Spirit speak within. The phrase that captivated me–For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?
The hard work of the Spiritual Disciplines demands a spiritual housecleaning as we work together with the Holy Spirit and clean out our hearts, our thoughts and our wills. This is hard work, but it is necessary to clear out the toxic sludge from within our own hearts before we can even begin to work with our congregations, family members and friends to help them know themselves and God more fully. What is that Jesus said, “you can’t remove the splinter from another person’s eye, without first removing the block from your own.”
When I first struggled with the call to ministry I identified myself so much with Jonah, running away from the Spirit of God, and being hauled back and thrown on the beach. I think that is the reason why I avoided the Spiritual Disciplines for so many years…. they made me look at my own life and the storms of my own disobedience and that made me uncomfortable.
Yet over the years I have learned that uncomfortable is good, if it leads to an understanding of myself and of God and ultimately repentance and a change of heart. As I have submitted to Spiritual housecleaning I have learned what behaviors push my hot buttons and make me have a knee jerk angry reaction. I have learned the secret longings I have to be important and how I have promoted myself rather than God. I have learned about my emotional neediness and how that rather than faith has propelled my prayer life.
Allowing the Spirit of God to interact with my spirit has been uncomfortable, difficult, revealing, and cleansing. Now I realize that I am more like Isaiah…. “I am a woman of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” If I am going to be of any useful service to God here in this life, then I need to keep working with God’s Spirit to know myself and my besetting sins and to know God his grace, his will and his generosity.
I have learned not to be afraid of the hard work of Prayer and Study. I have learned to be grateful for what it has revealed. I have learned to rejoice at how it has brought me closer to God.
Darn hard work….YES…. but the benefits are amazing, truly amazing.