Hebrews 5:14 "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
I pondered the health risks of American culture recently, with my kids tucked in the back of my smaller SUV; eagerly anticipating yet another quickie meal from an international food company. Passing deep-fried potato strips to my children to reward them for finishing their quasi-meat patty, I felt the familiar wave of parental guilt. The kids love the drive-through. I find the overall convenience highly enticing.
But, as a mature adult, I know better. I know that a burger and fries aren't ideal for their little bodies. I know that I'm setting them up for poor eating habits as they grow. I know that I should be feeding them organic, locally grown, healthy foods. But I frequently choose laziness. Why? Because I'm too tired, or too bored, or too distracted. Or frankly, unmotivated to cook. So we hop in the car and head off to procure a meal. And while it's not healthy, it is still technically food. It satiates. Hunger subsides for a while. The kids are still growing; they have energy. But this is not how God designed them to be fueled. And as the mature person responsible, I know that.
The Happy Meal Project: artist Sally Davies photoraphed the above food as it sat on her table every day for 137 days. See the slide show here; but don't expect to rush out any time soon for a fast and easy meal.
In a culture where immediate gratification rules supreme, I am not surprised by my tendancies towards the easy life. Even in the context of spirituality. I frequent Bible studies hosted by local churches; my growth housing shelves of workbooks to that end. Each a testament of the video guided curriculum, a semester's worth of instruction in the Word. Someone else's message prepared and packaged neatly for my quick ingestion. But why does it feel like spiritual fast food?
What if I relied entirely on just that for my spiritual growth? For my life? Eventually, wouldn't my system become accustomed (even toxic) to that which initially satiated me? A meal prepared entirely by someone else; to their particular tastes and moods. Convenient ~ yes. A means to procure nourishment ~ again, yes. Though eventually, I believe the spirit seeks more; that to which Hebrews 5:14 refers.
Each believer, becoming more mature in their faith is told to "train themselves" by "constant use" (Hebrews 5:14). This means that as we mature in our walk ("Christianese" for: reading the Bible more, getting closer to God through conversations, and looking less like the world and more like Christ), we are required to dig deeper into God's Word ourselves. This must be a daily practice; not for others, but for ourselves so that we may be able to digest the heavy passages of Scripture alone with the Spirit. We have to be willing to examine the seeds planted by others, to tend them as one does a garden. To identify when they are ready for harvest; and to pluck them at just the right moment. We have to learn how to prepare these truths as one does a delicacy: paying particular attention to the greatest nutritional value. And we have to savor these lessons, garnered not from others but from the literal sweat off our own brow. The nights spent mulling; days exhausted in patiently waiting for fruition. We each are called to figuratively plant, harvest, and prepare our spiritual gardens.
I am not saying that a believer should avoid collective Bible studies; quite the opposite! A mature believer (and you know who you are), should not rely on these to feed your spirit. Whomever the teacher on the video or behind the podium, the Holy Spirit is calling you to a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Filling in blanks in a workbook is like eating hamburgers from a drive-thru. They fill you up; but they do nothing for your health. You are the only one, after daily training yourself on the Truth, who can recognize when the easy, neatly packaged lessons aren't enough. When you have to dig deeper, put forth more effort.
That's when you give up the spiritual drive-thru for a Holy Spirit inspired garden.
Here's an article that explains how to begin a vegetable garden
And just for fun, here's an animated short entitled "What if Wild Animals Ate Fast Food."