As you read in the footnotes of my STORY blog last month, I’ve had a new family member enter my life, right at the end of his. Denny Pattyn is my second cousin and dying of cancer. He is a spiritual giant and full of wisdom. I’ve had the joy of “meeting” him and his daughter over technology, yet I won’t actually meet him until eternity. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not lounging in bed, even in his final weeks, as weak as his physical body has become, Denny continues his pursuit of getting others into Heaven.
Over our month together, as I’ve peppered him with questions on faith and family, I’ve wondered why more people don’t race after God the way he does. I’ve lamented this question with my dear friend Beth, who responds by smiling and answering “spiritual milk.” Beth knows my heart well. She understands my hope and desire for others to know the Lord. By saying “spiritual milk,” she is using our code words referencing Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. She is reassuring me that our friends and family might need to take baby steps to start their journey with Jesus. As much as I desire for them to run after His truth and salvation, they are infants in the hands of the Creator:
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready”. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2
Denny brought another perspective of an ongoing, four-year conversation between me and Beth. It seems we’ve had an increasing number of opportunities to discuss spiritual maturity during COVID, as friends experienced less-than-thriving situations in their marriages, children, workforce challenges, or (fill in the blank), while navigating work, school, and activities at home. I contemplate, maybe the answer is the same for all, with the question, are we properly fueling our body, soul and spirit?
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil”. Hebrews 5:11-14
God desires to nourish us through His Word. He is our source of peace and strength. Yet in order to reset from unhealthy habits, many of us resort to cleansing diets, supplements, the elimination of alcohol, and challenging workouts. Nothing is wrong with pursuing these options. In fact, many are found in scripture: limit sugar, don’t overeat or overindulge on alcohol, even encouragement that God will provide for us and sustain us. What would our results be, if we used those same efforts to consider the spiritual components of ‘cleansing’ and ‘strengthening’ our bodies? Would we have longer-lasting results, if with the same efforts of replacing processed food with nutrient-dense options, we go to the well of living water and seek the elementary truth of His Word?
I wonder if part of the feeling of discontentment during “the February blues” is not from the lack of vitamin D and sunlight, but because we were created to thrive, not to be malnourished. I relate to apostle Peter’s encouragement below – we were created with a spiritual appetite to crave pure spiritual milk, and of course, once we taste something delicious we desire more!
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good”. 1 Peter 2:1-3
What if during this Lentin season, as we “give up” items, we add a spiritual fast to deepen our time spent with God? With each grumble of stomach and desire for dessert, we turn to God, humbly repent, vulnerably express our sorrow of sin, and cry out for His wisdom and direction (Joel 1:14)? With each sip of spiritual milk, ounce by hydrating ounce, verse by scriptural verse, day by prayerful day, we would build up our appetite until we are able to bite into the solid food of sanctification and spiritual maturity, or as Beth and I coined another code word, “steak”.
This is how I desire to THRIVE. Not just to be refueling my body for clearer thoughts, but to have the Lord directing my thoughts. Not just to have better memory recall, but to have clearer, more present moments to remember. Not just having clearer skin, but to be glowing from the Holy Spirit. Not just to be living a good life, but to be known by Jesus.
Heavenly Father – You are such a gracious God. Thank You for pursuing me and my family. You are refining my whole spirit, soul and body to want more of You and Your ways in my life. Please continue to nourish my faith, squelch any disbelief and remove any pride that I would want to take the glory for. I have tasted the goodness Peter was referencing and I thirst for more of You! Amen.
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