After accepting Jesus as my savior, I craved inspirational preaching.
Being reminded that the negative thoughts I have are not from God. Being urged to see myself through God’s eyes. Being inspired to be the best me I can be.
These messages are increasingly important in this day and age when we are inundated with messages that we are not good enough.
Not smart enough.
Not successful enough.
And yet these messages do what pop culture is doing.
Focus ourselves on us.
And certainly we need to be reminded that these thoughts are not in alignment with God but the key is reminded.
They should not be the primary message we are taught about God’s love.
Whether it is buying into the hedonistic messages of our society or inspirational messages, we are focused too much on ourselves.
As a newcomer to Christianity, I look to Jesus as an example.
He didn’t sit around in huts with others, wringing his hands concerned that others might not like him.
He did not commiserate with his hosts about not having the nicest sandals in the village.
He did not worry if he was too fat or too thin or tall enough or short enough.
He didn’t ponder if he was successful.
He turned all his energies to others.
He taught them, fed them, healed them.
Following his example, more than anything else, will save us from ourselves.
When we are focused on our own issues we are less able to help others.
I have an image of a giant banquet table filled with all kinds of nutritious and delicious foods. We can sit off by ourselves eating out of our own bowl that always has the same thing in it, or we can bring our bowl to the feast.
If we give our food away to others and rely upon God to ensure that we are fed, we will be provided with a variety of healthy foods that we otherwise cannot provide for ourselves. While at the same time, what is for us the boring fare that we eat every day, becomes something sustaining to someone else’s spiritual diet.
Service to others will save us from spiritual malnutrition and boredom.
One of the reasons that we are so focused on ourselves is that the government has taken over the role of service in so many cases.
We know that there are government programs to care for the homeless and hungry so we focus on ourselves. Since we are not helping those in need, we might even start resenting them, as they become dollars stolen from our paycheck rather than charity given with a giving heart.
The government has usurped our role as community.
By doing so, it has left us isolated and self-absorbed, increasingly focused on ourselves, our happiness, our well-being, our joy.
So much so that inspirational speakers are having to teach us how to love ourselves because we are losing models of God’s love.
Many of us have forgotten what God’s love feels like or never even known it because we were raised to love ourselves rather than rely on the love of others.
Rabbi Haim way back in the 1800’s taught about long spoons.
Dinners in both heaven and hell are provided with spoons that have such long handles that it is impossible for anyone to feed themselves. Those in hell are eternally starving because they can not navigate food from the bowl into their mouths. Those in heaven are well nourished and joy filled because others feed them and they feed others.
It might be that our spoon handles have grown too long, or that we are trying to eat from our own bowls, or both.
We need renewed hope that there is something better for us. We need to bring our bowls to the community table, have faith that as we contribute our food to the table, others will do the same. We need to feel God’s love as we serve others and are served by others.
Though self-help guru’s of all stripes often have the best of intentions, they are promoting the very self-absorption that promotes spiritual starvation.
We need to a spiritual feast.