Food, whether it is physical or spiritual, can be good for you, bad for you, or rightly balanced for you. An average diet may not be adequate to meet your individual requirements. Some of us have allergies to certain foods, others need additional foods to counteract certain of our physical, mental, or spiritual conditions.
When our spiritual nutrition is out of balance, sometimes we can’t seem to get enough and we binge. We may spend too much time and energy meeting our own needs and desires and too little on others. Or, we may enjoy helping others so much that we neglect ourselves. We may be so richly blessed in our devotional life of study, meditation, and prayer(SMP), that we neglect those around us. When this happens, don’t be surprised if the meditation time begins to seem dry and unsatisfying.
If we aren’t careful to balance our lives, the Spirit will help us, sometimes in ways we would rather not experience. You remember, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert or wilderness. Sometimes something similar happens to us, a loss of enjoyment in our devotional time, and temptations arise from what we have been missing. As we continue in study and prayer, as we endure and withstand temptation, we discover our real mission and priorities in life. In fact, even as we succumb to temptation and return to God for forgiveness, often then our mission or purpose in life becomes clearer to us or takes a new direction.
When we lack balance in our lives, we may binge on things that seem to, but do not and can not provide lasting satisfaction. In fact, they create a desire for more. In the realm of physical food, the binge is usually foods that are fatty, salty, or sweets with refined flour, high in calories and low in fiber. These are often called “Junk Foods” because they are rich in calories and poor in nutrients.
Deficits in nutrition and the periodic starvation (fasting) that often follows bingeing, both, can create cravings that result in further bingeing. Our spirit’s nutritional deficits also may result in food-eating-binges, material-goods-and-bargain-buying-binges, thrill-seeking-binges or even binges with spiritual food and fellowship that we crave and indulge in to an excess.
A balance of food, exercise, work, rest, recreation, study, meditation, prayer, worship, and fellowship is more satisfying than the consequences of neglecting any area of life. God is God of our Whole Life.
One kind of spiritual malnutrition to avoid is “A Sweet Tooth.” We can’t exist on “Sweet Talk” alone. Flattery and “sugary” compliments, “warm-fuzzies” and best wishes are not sufficient to grow on. We need more complex carbohydrates, our “daily bread” with its roughage, vitamins, and minerals essential to health.
With our “daily bread” we need real information about our strengths and our weaknesses. We need the strong fiber of “feedback” that connects our behavior and attitudes to the effects and impressions we produce in other people. We can compare the “feedback” we get from others to our own perceptions of our strengths and weaknesses. We will see “discrepancies” between what others see in us and what we see in ourselves.
Following this revelation we need to be alone with God to draw on spiritual strengths and to heal spiritual wounds as we study, meditate, and pray.
We can compare our habits of living with the habits of people in the Bible and perhaps other Scriptures and see what teachings they were given by God’s messengers. That is the kind of “daily bread” we really need. As Jesus said when he fasted and was tempted in the desert, we “cannot live on bread alone but need every word of God” (Matt. 4:4).
We need the spiritual proteins of life, the “building blocks” of life. We need a variety of skills to build a life in which we grow to our full capabilities. We need some skills in listening, confronting, and accepting constructive criticism so that we will recognize and repair the deteriorating areas of our lives. We need the “meat” of SMP to use in healing our wounds. The protein in our Scars is some of the strongest tissue in our body.
When we have a psychological ulcer and “something is eating on us” we need to repair it. Thorough discussion with the one we disagree with can be a healing experience. Together we can confront the issue without any need to attack each other. We can commit ourselves to helping one another resolve the issues by changes that we can make individually and together.
Any confrontation needs to be palatable, not too tough to chew. The confrontation can be seasoned with positive and negative, not too sweet or too bitter. Thorough “chewing” or discussion improves the digestion, absorption, and use of the information we get when we are using confrontation. Some advantage to each party that can be stored for future use, a little “fat,” makes working through a problem with confrontation a profitable experience for both.
If the confrontation is “too hot and heavy or too spicy” for our palate, we can excuse ourselves and wait until we have thought through some of what has happened in the conversation. We may have offended the other person deeply without realizing it. We need to rethink, restate, or ask forgiveness. Or we may need to stick to our statement/s and let the flak fly.
Remember the saying, “Birds of a feather, flock together.”? There are some “friends” with whom we should not “flock.” Not all disagreements will be dissolved. David and Vera Mace recommend that we allow each other and the conflicting opinions to co-exist. This is difficult to do. The decision to sever all ties, however, is a serious one and should only be done for serious reasons after much deliberation and prayer.
One of our most difficult confrontations is with ourselves and our views of our own sufferings. Paul told some of his church people that he would like them to start eating meat (working on the harder questions of our faith, such as “suffering”) and not just “milk” all the time, so that we can “distinguish between good and evil” in our own lives and our society (Hebrews 5:11-14, KJV; and I Corinthians 3:2). We can build a better life for ourselves, a better church, and a better community.
Many churches serve only “milk” at Sunday morning worship services. To get “meat”, we can attend Church School Adult Study Groups and Home Groups. There we can “cut our own meat and chew it” by discussing and learning from one another in an atmosphere where there is no such thing as “a dumb question.”
During these study periods, we build up one another. When we deny our strengths, saying, “Oh, I can’t do that.” or “I’m no good at this,” we need someone to care enough to point out to us the many times we HAVE done that or something very much like it. Or, they may tell us that we haven’t tried yet, so how do we know that we won’t be good at it!
Oil symbolizes the Spirit. Anointing with oil is traditionally associated with joy, gladness, and prayer for healing.
Oil contains fats. We all prefer living off the “fat of the land.” On a worldwide scale, the American lifestyle–even of tax subsidized citizens–is “bingeing” when compared to the homeless and hungry of our own country and of the Third World. Many religions expect their adherents to share with their poorer brothers and sisters of the faith and with the poor in their land. Christians and some other faiths also expect themselves to help the poor in other nations as well, for we all are created by the same God. Our poverty and our prosperity are best when we share what we have in excess with others.
Spiritually, too, we need our vitamins.
“Vitamin C”–can be described as seeing what we can and can’t do to cure a problem and keep it from spreading. We need the ability to define our own problems and find solutions without taking on other people’s problems unnecessarily, often while neglecting our own problems. Too much “hot air,” boastful talk, destroys Vitamin C.
But as Joel Wade points out in a November 7, 2014, letter a little compassion for oneself helps us from returning to destructive old habits.
The “B Vitamins” are necessary for steady nerves and to handle stress. The more stress, the more B’s are needed. The “B’s” improve our immunity to infections and illnesses. We need to BE what we are and BE willing to BEcome BEtter. As we BEcome what God would have us BE we also BEcome more immune to bitter criticism from others. We BEcome capable of using even bitter criticism as a blessed opportunity to BEcome the BEst we can BE.
Feeling guilty for some of our actions, attitudes, and failure to act is appropriate, but like Paul, we can know we can BE forgiven and can go on BEcoming what God wants us to BE by letting our weaknesses BEcome our strengths. When we recognize a weakness, then we truly have the opportunity to become strong in that area of life. And we can be a praise to God since it was not a natural strength of ours.
The fat soluble “Vitamin A” helps with our vision, our skin and hair. Seeing and understanding people’s criticism and being “tough skinned” enough to accept the fact that not everyone will like what we do and say are qualities that help us maintain balance in our lives. We do not have to please everyone. Pleasing God is enough of a challenge. Keeping that daily dose of Study, Meditation, and Prayer will help us develop vision for our lives and beauty that goes beyond the skin. In many ways we have “milk and honey” and the “fat of the land” spread out to enjoy and use.
“Vitamin D” helps make our bones and teeth strong as well as serving in many other body functions. It is the “Sunshine Vitamin.” “Staying in the sunshine” at least some of the time is necessary to make us strong, so that we do not blow over with every little wind of adversity that comes along. “Staying in the sunshine” is like doing something that makes us happy every day. If we miss the sunshine for very long we can get sour and sad, morose and melancholy. We can actually go into a depression from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that is partly due to a lack of sunshine.
Keeping happy activities in our daily schedule also helps us “get our teeth into” the things that happen to be “tough to take” in our lives. Our daily devotions and listening to inspirational music are other ways of “staying in the sunshine.” They help us in the fight against anger, depression, bitterness, and loneliness as we remind ourselves of God’s love and care for us.
“Vitamin E” helps us circulate the blood to all parts of the body and especially the heart and skin where the tiny arterioles carry nutrition to and wastes from every cell of our tissues. This reminds me that we need Everyone of our Significant Others’ help in being healthy in Every part of our lives. We need their love and care to nourish us and to help us get rid of the wastes in our lives. Sometimes they can see what is waste easier than we can. We need their insight whether we like what they see or not.
Study, meditation, and prayer will help us evaluate their insights regarding us. Just as Peter was wrong when he advised Jesus, so can our advisors be wrong, by judging according to the way people judge rather than by God’s way of thinking. If we find ourselves becoming defensive, becoming angry, they may be correct and deserve our further consideration.
“Vitamin K” helps keep us from bleeding too much. When we are wounded, “bleeding” washes out the wound with all the dirt and poison that might be there. Then fairly quickly we need to stop “bleeding” and begin to rebuild even stronger tissue. The new tissue, a “Scar,” may show in our lives, but it will let people know that we can recover from life’s wounds, grow stronger, and guide others to meet similar challenges in ways that heal and strengthen them.
“Minerals” help us build bones, teeth, regulate our bodies, and keep us immune to many things. Minerals come from the ground. We need to keep our feet on the earth, care for the earth, and not be TOO, TOO heavenly minded. God’s kingdom is in heaven AND ON EARTH. It is being practical and wise about what helps and hurts.
Having the “spiritual minerals” we need promotes “structure” in our lives. They give us principles and values to hang onto in making decisions for our actions and our attitudes. They help us handle things that happen to us that are tough to take and get the most we can out of them. They keep us from having a “Hollow Independence” while developing the “Backbone” we need to face our own imperfections, seek God’s help, and cooperate with others who would like to help us.
WATER OF LIFE
We need water, lots of water. Without water, things get compacted, constipated, and stop moving. Water helps wash down what we don’t like. It washes out things that are bad for us. It keeps us from drying out, wrinkling up, and blowing away. Water promotes and maintains life. It is difficult, but not impossible, to drink too much water.
Water, as well as oil, in the Scriptures symbolizes the Spirit. Water also symbolizes the Word of God. While oil is for anointing, gladness, and healing, water symbolizes washing and cleansing, and also eternal life forming “everlasting springs that keep bubbling up in our hearts and stream outward to sustain others.” (John 7:37-39).
Perhaps now you see why I think nutrition, both physical and spiritual, is basic in order to live life and grow into whole, healthy, fulfilled persons who achieve our full potential.