While many people around the country spent time this past weekend at nearby lakes, headed off to vacation spots or cleaned up the barbecue grill for the unofficial start of summer, our family was parked at the ball field for the Spring Tournament wrap up of Leia’s 6th softball season. Our league plays a double elimination competition which meant that after her team lost the first game on Friday night, they would have to play four successive games in order to come out on top. It was a tall order considering the temperatures on Saturday pushed near 90, and the sun relentlessly baked the team for almost four straight hours in the field. Even though the shady bleachers where we sat were a lot less intense, it was still very warm for everyone.
The team bounced back well from the lackluster last few games of the regular season, played well and actually chalked up a couple of victories. But, after Game 3 commenced and the clock’s hands moved well to the right side of noon, I (along with everyone else) found myself getting really, really hungry. By the time the game was over, (they came in a respectable second) and we got home (8ish hours after our last meal), my stomach was letting me know its opinion on the subject of a missed meal. At that point, I found myself scrounging around the pantry searching for pretty much anything to eat. The food didn’t necessarily have to be the tastiest, most practical, or even healthy, because I just wanted my stomach to stop grumbling. A candy bar or bag of chips? Yes! A Pop Tart or Twinkie? That’d be OK too!
But, standing at the kitchen counter after finishing my second spoonful of peanut butter, it occurred to me that in some ways, our souls and stomachs are much alike.
Just as your stomach aches when it gets empty, your soul hurts when it’s empty too. Whether it be from neglect, abuse, guilt, stress, worry or a host of other things, there are times when the pain becomes so great that all you want is for that inner churning to stop. And it’s at this point that you’re prone to reach for just about anything to make the pain go away. Spiritual twinkies (like illicit relationships, self-sufficiency, pursuit of wealth, materialism etc) may take away the discomfort for a while, but they don’t really satisfy for very long. And just as a steady diet of junk food will surely cripple your health, a steady diet of spiritual junk food will cripple your soul as well.
God pleads with us to make wise choices in deciding what we fill our hearts with… and cautions us to select enduring things that He generously and freely provides that truly nourish and satisfy. In Isaiah 55, He asks us to be honest and assess our foolishness. Verse 3 says “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Many years later, Jesus echoed that exhortation as he encouraged His followers to satiate their inner appetites by developing a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and promised that then (and only then) will we “be filled.” (Matt 5:6)
You know, I could have come home from the ball field and cooked up a meal filled with proteins, carbs, and vitamins that my body really needed, but that was a lot harder and would have taken much more time than spoonfuls of peanut butter and a glass of iced tea. Spiritually speaking, it also takes a lot of time, effort and involvement to cook up a healthy and satisfying connection to Jesus.
But in the long run, a meal of feasting on the richness of a deep relationship with Christ will be the only thing that fills the deep longings of the soul.
I am the LORD your God ….. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. ~ Psalm 81:10