Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Food for Thought -- Revisited

I wrote this in 2001, and I struggled this evening with the decision to post it to the blog. I decided to publish it with the hope that the Lord might use my comments at the very end of this essay to help someone. Perhaps it will be you.
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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29)

I should have known better than to pile all that food onto my plate.  I paid for it later that evening as I tossed and turned in bed, trying to find a comfortable position. But it was no use. My stomach groaned as if about to burst. I was too full to lie on my side, my back or my stomach.

I have a problem with food – especially the charbroiled, baked, fried, boiled, glazed, or creamed kind. And chocolate anything for dessert doesn’t make life easier. I wish I could say I’ve piled my plate too high only a few times in my life, but ever since I was a kid my eyes have often been bigger than my stomach.

Unfortunately, the “eyes vs. stomach” syndrome is not unique to my diet. It carries over to other important areas of life. My work schedule, church activities and responsibilities as a husband and a father at times get piled pretty high. When they do, I usually pay for it later with frustration, anxiety and sleeplessness.

You’d think by now I would have learned my lesson. Planet Earth does not revolve around yours truly and nothing I do is of such historic importance it can’t wait another few days while I catch up.
Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus, should provide me some instruction. You might remember the story in Luke 10. The ladies invited Jesus to their house for dinner and Martha busied herself around the kitchen like the proverbial chicken with its head – oh, you know the saying.
And then she noticed Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him speak. Martha was furious.

“Lord,” she blustered, “tell my sister to help me!”

I wonder if Jesus’ answer to Martha’s complaint is similar to what He might say to me as I scurry about trying to finish every responsibility on my plate: “Relax. Leave a few things for later. Come, sit at my feet and listen to what I have to say. There will always be work to do, but you will do it more efficiently if you take some time with Me.”

Like it or not, it’s time I faced reality. I am not as young as I used to be. Years ago I could pile the food on and head out the door running. Today, I pile it on and crawl over to the couch. But if I hope to keep my coronary arteries relatively healthy, I need to say, “No, thank you” when offered another helping of food.

In the same way, if I hope to protect myself from stress ulcers and other problems related to over commitment,  I need to say, “No, thank you” when offered another responsibility piled onto my already burgeoning work and social calendar. It’s difficult to relax at Jesus’ feet when I have so much to do.
If I don’t learn it now, I will learn it later: Seasons turn to decades too quickly and Solomon’s words remain forever true: “There is a time for every event under heaven . . . A time to plant . . .a time to be silent . . . a time to search . . .  a time for peace . . .  (Ecclesiastes 3).

I can’t prove it from the text, but I think Solomon might also have had in mind: there is a time to eat, a time to work – and a time to leave something on the plate.
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As I said earlier, I wrote this some twelve or thirteen years ago. As I reread it, it surprised me that nothing has changed in my life since I wrote this essay.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Actually, lots has changed, and not for the better. For the last four or five years I haven’t been able to sleep a night – not one night – without a sleeping pill. Then, about a year ago my physician told me I have an ulcer. I’ve been taking medication for it ever since. But there’s more. I cracked my tooth in the spring, having weakened it by grinding my teeth together. This past summer I thought I might be having a heart attack right there in the classroom. I frightened my students so badly two of them insisted on driving me home so I could go with my wife to the Emergency Department. It turned out to be an exacerbation of my ulcer.

I struggled with the decision to post this message to my blog because I do not like to admit my faults to the world. But that reluctance is wrong-headed and would help no one.

Although I have walked with the Lord for several decades, the Holy Spirit has only recently shown me – or probably more to the point, I have been only recently willing to listen to Him – He has shown me it is far easier to talk the life of faith, trust, and confidence in God than it is to live it. At least, that is how it has been for me. I used to have little patience with others who struggled with depression, with doubts, with worry, with fear – even with sins. I’d think to myself – not as pompously perhaps as the Pharisee in Luke 18, but think nonetheless “If they only had enough faith – like me – they wouldn’t need medications to get through the day.”

God has taught me a lot about myself in the last 12 months. I don’t like all that I’ve learned. And I have to wonder if, after all these years, if I will ever mature in my faith. Will I ever cut people some slack when they don't live their faith in the way I expect Christians to live their faith? And will I ever become as Mary, doing the better thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus and not busying myself with so many things that really can wait for later?

Life, I am learning from personal experience, really is fragile. And our bodies – and our spirits – can take just so much stress before things fall apart.

4 comments:

Paul Schratz said...

Glad you re-posted this, Rich. I need daily reminders that I can't do everything and I need to rely more on God and prayer. This was today's reminder. God bless.

Rich Maffeo said...

Great blessings on you, too, Paul We do what we can while we can for Him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rich! Of necessity, I am now trying to put this insight into practice. May our Lord bless you and your family as the journey continues. ~ Rosemary in Ohio

Rich Maffeo said...

Thanks, Rosemary. May He help us all to put such things into practice and become more quickly like Him. God bless you and yours. So glad you are doing better!