I sat beside one of my grandchildren. She was busy eating vegetables with what seemed like great enthusiasm.
“Wow, you must really like vegetables,” I said.
“Not really,” she said, grabbing another piece of celery. “Daddy said I could have a piece of cake if I ate my veggies. That piece was really good, so now I’m eating more veggies so I can have another piece of cake.”
“Hmmm. Veggies as a confectionary offset. Is it kind of like buying a carbon offset and paying someone to do a good environmental deed for you when you want to burn a lot of fossil fuel in your private jet or yacht on your way to a climate conference?” I asked.
“What? I don’t have a jet!”
“Yeah. Neither do I. It’s not really my problem is it?”
She finished munching and ran into the kitchen with her plate.
The idea of doing a good deed to pre-atone for a self-indulgent act is not new. In fact, one of the things that provoked the time of societal upheaval in sixteenth century Europe was the sale of indulgences (yes, that’s what they were actually called). According to the people hawking them, buying an indulgence could take years off your time in purgatory. (Exactly how many years off or exactly how long a sentence in Purgatory was expected to last was little hard to pin down). Overzealous salesmen caused several deep thinkers to say, “Hey, wait a minute… That means the rich can get away with more…”
I thought about times when I partook in plain healthy spiritual nourishment without savouring or appreciating its subtle ungarnished goodness because I wanted to get on to something more exciting. I remembered sitting through obligatory ‘devotionals’ at youth group meetings where all the cute guys were because, well, you know, cute guys.
I thought about years of attending church services and that feeling of relief when it was over. I loved the sense of freedom when the religious obligation thing was done, and the rest of the week was mine to enjoy. I kind of left God behind in the building with the guilt accumulated in the previous week.
After a few years, I started to think, “Hey, wait a minute…” Churchianity wasn’t doing it for me. I wanted to encounter Jesus and find out if he meant what he said about grace and healing and knowing the Father’s heart of love and acceptance into his family and being transformed. There were better places to find good entertainment and frankly, the service clubs did a better job of serving. The unspoken rules were getting to me. What was I doing here? Either God was real, or he was not. I had to find out.
I returned to the simplicity of the stories of Jesus on earth, some of it in his own words. The good healthy, nourishing truth of Jesus’ words had more spiritual vitamins and minerals than I knew. Time spent reading the words of Jesus himself for myself was well worth the effort of establishing a healthy discipline of seeking him first. God encounter experiences came later.
Some times a loving Father gives us treats. Sometimes he reminds us to focus on the essentials first.
Creative Meditations for Lent, Prompt Word: Nourishment