Scripture: Psalm 23
Like a good millennial, the first solid food I attempted to feed my daughter was a mashed avocado. She was unimpressed, to say the least. The mushy green fruit felt strange against her tongue she shoved the fruit out onto her chin as quickly as I could offer small spoonfuls of it.
During Lent emphasis is often given to fasting–abstaining from food for a period of time as a spiritual discipline. Often fasting is framed as a means of realignment, of identifying that it is God who ultimately sustains, and not us. But I wonder if perhaps we need realignment in recognizing not just who or what holds the power to sustain, but recognizing what nourishing sustenance looks like?
I learned to look for Christ in concert halls and arenas, amid loud worship anthems and in sanctuaries fitted with smoke machines. God’s presence and faithfulness swelled like emotion in my chest and spilled onto my cheeks. I believed for a long time that if I sang “it is well with my soul” loud enough and long enough eventually my soul would feel as though it were, in fact, well.
I don’t believe that’s how it works anymore.
The hyped, on-fire, tears-falling-down-my-face in worship way of encountering God reminds me of a really lovely dessert, or like my daughter’s formula-only diet during her infancy. It goes down easy, soothes the senses, and doesn’t provide long-lasting sustenance. More and more must be consumed at regular intervals to keep us filled and content. Perhaps this is why the prophets decried religious festivals and implored the people to practice justice and mercy, compassion and neighborliness as evidence of their devotion to God.
In these Lenten days, many of us are observing an enforced fast of worship-as-usual. We are met instead with a mushy, unidentified substance being offered. Avocado in place of milk. Unfamiliar, but still good. Perhaps it is the perfect time to ask questions about what practices actually nourish our lives, not just delight our senses.
Perhaps we can learn that God’s presence is in the stillness. In quiet mornings when we light candles to hold prayers we don’t know how to wrap words around.
That God’s presence meets us in the first light of the morning, as the sun reemerges from the murky shadows, reminding me that life emerges. Life always emerges. Even when we forget that it does.
Perhaps we can learn to hear the whispers of the Spirit in mundane, everyday spaces. In the carrying on of the bare essentials, and nothing more. Green pastures and still waters.
Perhaps we will encounter Christ, scarred hands and pierced side, in our moments of grief. In moments of betrayal and pain. Instead of a faith hell-bent on escaping our humanity maybe we’ll remember and learn anew that instead, God became flesh, that it is this life that is in fact very good even while being very hard.
Maybe instead of searching for presence that is louder and brighter and newer and more triumphant, we will learn to listen for the gentle whispers, see the subtle beauty amid the grey, see the wisdom in ancient practices, be reminded again that the path to life and life more abundantly looks first like becoming completely undone.