by Scott Nelson
“That’s it! Life is too busy right now! There is too much on my plate. I am not going to eat. I am just too busy this week”. This sounds strange, but this is exactly what I hear almost every week as a pastor. We don’t neglect eating for very long because the consequences are fairly obvious. Yet the consequences for spiritual malnourishment are also severe: restlessness, bitterness, apathy, and more. Our spiritual health affects every single area of our lives: relationships, self-awareness, finances, intimacy, and prayer. We lie to ourselves (it is fairly easy to do so) and pretend that missing a spiritual meal or two won’t hurt much. Soon it is a month, then six…then we are upset at the church. We are starving…yet upset at the restaurant that we won’t attend!
God is the fuel and food for our souls–and many of us are spiritually starving. We need three parts of our meal. The center is our love for God (worship, Bible reading, prayer, reflection). Next is our connection with God’s people (church, groups, serving, mentoring). And finally is our living out God’s love in the world (evangelism, serving outside church, listening, helping). Discipleship, Fellowship, and Mission. All three are important parts of our spiritual “diet,” and our souls need the nourishment of each one of these vital dishes. Even Christians who are faithful in one or two of these may suffer from a lack of vitality because the third biblical ingredient is missing from their diet.
Eating is one of my habits. Honestly, it is one of my favorite habits! In the pandemic, I found some new restaurants with amazing food. One of my kids learned to bake, and I learned to eat more (OK, I already had that skill). Now I have to increase my workout habit! I love my spiritual habits, too. Our spiritual habits determine our spiritual health. I can’t skip eating for long and pretend my body will be OK. No matter how much I love food, believe in it, or know the importance of it, I still have to ACTUALLY eat! Faith is a relationship; it is more than knowledge or good intentions. It is possible to have habits without love, but it is not possible to love without habits. I can’t just have a heart for my kids, I need to spend time with them, listen to them, and invest in them.
In past times of national crisis, Americans ran to church. The pandemic was different. It lasted longer, and most church buildings closed. Americans took their faith (even more) private, and 30% of prior church attenders have no intention of ever returning. They are taking the food of their plate…permanently. Those who have returned have learned their lesson: they know the danger of spiritual malnourishment and the importance of worship, connection, and presence. Those who have returned are very consistent. The question is, will the consistency continue? As the crisis (hopefully) comes to an end, I wonder if Christians will go back their pattern of spiritual malnutrition. Hopefully, we will remember the lessons of spiritual habits, consistency, and nourishment.
Every day, two to three times a day, our bodies remind us to eat. We can rush through this or slow down, sit down, and enjoy the moment. We are more than the rush, and skipping meals doesn’t help us. It is the same for our souls. Let’s eat!