For years, I have been a deep source of embarrassment to my family in Asian restaurants — especially truly authentic ones. It’s not because I rarely eat meat, but my use of the food delivery tool called the CHOPSTICK. They would kindly demonstrate over and over again how easy it is to simply pick up a sushi roll or veggie with these two little sticks. I would give it my all, but inevitably I would find myself making a mess and eventually asking for a fork. And when that wasn’t available, the little kid attachment or rubber band. Honestly, even the kid's friendly devices often left me stabbing at my food, desperate for nourishment.
Over the years my spiritual walk has been aided by spiritual practices. During different
seasons of my life, I have used one specific tool or another to deepen my relationship with the Lord. For years it was the act of service that brought me into the presence of the Lord. Then, two years ago, the Lord asked me to lay down the discipline of service for a season. It was terrifying. I was afraid that if I let it go I would be letting God go. But then came a season of study. In this season God’s presence became palpable as I breathed in His word. I found myself hungry each morning as I opened my Bible.
This fall I entered another “new season” where God is asked me to AGAIN try new practice. And again, I find myself shaking as I am laying down my faithful practice of study to pick up the next one that I am really unsure how to use. I find myself anxiety-ridden as I hold this new tool of contemplative prayer and meditation awkwardly in my hands. So for two months I have been trying with all my might to use this new tool. Some days it is wonderful, as this practice shows me new truths about this God I love. But other days, no matter how hard I try, it feels empty. I feel like my fork has been taken away and I am being told to use chopsticks to connect with the Lord — it’s messing and embarrassing.
Then last week, God’s clarity came in the form of a nine-year-old girl. She was walking through the halls of the school where I work as a substitute nurse, eating noodles with chopsticks when I commented on her skill. She stopped what she was doing and spent 5 minutes, not only explaining to me the importance of holding the chopsticks lightly, but taking my hand and showing how gently to press. Seriously, for the first time ever, I realized that though I had all the movements right I was trying too hard. My tight grip was completely working against me. I learned that when I hold the tool loosely I am able to access the nourishing food sitting right in front of me.
Then I began to wonder why we as Christians hold our tools so tightly. Yeah, I’m taking you all down with me. These tools or gifts can become our God or our false nourishment. Sometimes even causing division in the BODY. Could it be that if we held our spiritual tools loosely we would be all more nourished?