Our doctors tell us we absolutely need four things:
- Breathe deeply
- Eat healthy
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly
So #1, breathing, is the most essential. A definitely-not-exhaustive Google search revealed the body cannot survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes.
But what about our spiritual lives? What is breathing to our soul – our connection to God? What does Jesus tell us about his design for our lives that is just not up for discussion?
I call them non-negotiables and I’ve written about them several times (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here):
…”I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
…”Love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
…”Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)
These three essentials, one statement of truth and two clear directives, are the foundation of my Christian belief. I do not for a minute believe that everyone will agree with me or even must agree, for that matter. But I am unwavering: if you claim to follow Jesus, these three short statements are not debatable.
They are the breath of our faith.
I propose, however, that the rest of life is ala carte. When it comes to food, drink, and exercise, we have lots of options that keep us alive and well, and I am convinced our souls and witness have an equal nuance. For example…
I think we can agree: Following the Ten Commandments provides a pretty solid menu for our “3-squares-a-day.” However, it is a little unreasonable to try and shoehorn the multitude of other questions about the current, most popular, and might I say most divisive controversies about lifestyles, choices, political parties, and government into those first seventeen verses of Exodus 20. For many questions posed in and to the Church, I may see them as complicated and unresolved, while others quote chapter and verse to declare there is a decisive thumbs up or thumbs down.
The same is true for physical and spiritual exercise. The world of Peleton probably perceives the rest of us as just a bunch of slackers. In our spiritual practices, it seems those whose mission in life is to steer every conversation straight into the Four Spiritual Laws are just as appalled by those of us who are less direct about sharing the Good News or less consistent about daily devotions.
I see no time soon when our conversations will come to consensus. We will continue to walk though murky waters and difficult questions about social justice, rights, and leadership.
But this is nothing new. Throughout history, some have been willing to get muddy, letting the questions percolate and even remain perpetually and uncomfortably unanswered, while others firmly planted their flag on their chosen right side of each issue. In the 1990’s, many of us thought the What Would Jesus Do? movement would, by asking one simple question, at long last find simple solutions to problems that have plagued the world for centuries.
So far, it hasn’t worked out all that well.
I don’t mean the question is invalid. But it comes down to who’s asking. Just like almost everything else we do, if something works, we circle back to it every time the situation comes up. So, if we already know (or have been taught) the “right” answer to a tricky question, we can avoid listening to anyone else who wants to talk about it by just going back to where we planted the flag. We don’t want to get muddy or appear uncertain. We don’t want to not know.
But, my lovelies, if you are in a position, like me, where you’re knocked sideways by current events and the 24/7 news cycle, you’re asking questions you never dreamed would come up, or you’re being shamed or scolded for not being sure, take heart.
We repeat this simple verse over and over when we don’t know what job to take or house to buy, when we can’t pay the rent or the diagnosis comes back dark and threatening, and when we feel estranged from every one we thought we knew. This one verse is for us.
Cast all your care on [God] because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
I’m claiming this verse right now, even though I have no big decisions to make and I’m not worried about our mortgage. We have our share of “what if’s?” – but we are not in dire straits.
Don’t misunderstand. In light of the state of the States, I recently posted:
“My two current settings are Sick to My Stomach and Tears
and the toggle clicks back and forth often and unpredictably.”
But my deepest cares are not about things that are happening around me. They are about what is happening to me and my soul, my foundation, and my security.
No, I’m not in spiritual crisis. Jesus and I are good.
I am brokenhearted. I think my post about tears and an upset stomach got me blocked by someone with whom I was trying like crazy to remain connected. So I question even my questions. And that makes me even more anxious.
It’s a vicious cycle and I can tell I’m in good company in the whirlwind.
But I will persevere in my quest to identify my soul essentials. I’ll talk to people I trust, speak and write the truth when I need to, let it go when I can, and in the words of the wise, start every day with a little coffee and a whole lotta Jesus.
Breathe, eat healthy, stay hydrated, and exercise the best you can, in every way.
And until we write and read again, I pray for you