I made the mistake of drinking four cups of this strong herbal Chinese tea last night at 11 pm. I didn’t think it would keep me up but oh did it ever. I was still awake at 7 in the morning, so I gave up trying to sleep and started getting ready for church.
Typically on Sunday mornings, I get out of bed approximately a half hour before church service begins, but since I had all this extra time today, I decided to catch up on some journaling. I already knew what I was going to write about – it’s something that has been on my mind for a while now and I really needed to get it out in ink.
Here’s a bit of what I wrote this morning:
God, I really can’t figure this out. Do I need to go to church here? I just don’t feel connected. At this point, it just feels like I’m only making an appearance. However, if I were to stop attending church, would I have any more peace or joy? Would I feel any closer to you? I don’t think so. In fact, I think I would feel even more isolated and frustrated and bitter. I sound kinda selfish, don’t I? Every time I complain about church, it’s because I’m not getting something out of it. That’s selfish. But at the same time- oh how I need spiritual nourishment.
But then… don’t you promise to always provide for our needs? I know You do and always will. So what’s wrong here? I think… the problem is me. I haven’t been making any effort (or much effort) to meet with You. I’m still putting work ahead of You. I’m not feeding myself or allowing myself to be fed. And then… I’m blaming my hunger on You. You provide for me – always – and I just keep refusing to be nourished. No wonder I feel irritated and unsatisfied. The nourishment has been there all along – I’ve just been avoiding it. And for what?
This is why I love communicating with God through journaling. He always finds a way to give me the answer as I write. Right before I left for church, He reminded me of Psalm 23. Never before have these verses spoken so assuredly to me.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He RESTORES my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…
I’ve never noticed how the last verse ties itself back into the first verse. All the days of my life, I shall not be in want. This is His promise.
When I arrived at church, I opened my Bible randomly hoping to find more answers, and I found John 6:27 (The heading that caught my eye was: Jesus the Bread of Life):
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
Of course – this is exactly what needs to change in my life. I’ve been working for all the wrong things – I’ve been searching for fulfillment, peace, joy, and purpose in all the wrong places. Instead of criticizing my church, I should be examining my own heart. It has turned selfish and complacent and it is beginning to wreak havoc from the inside out. I understand now that the church was never the real problem. The real problem was my blindness. You can’t substitute stone for bread, but that is what I have been doing for the past while, which explains why I’ve become so spiritually irritable (we’re all grumpy when we’re hungry, right?). There is only one who gives true nourishment – nourishment that lasts and that sustains.
And he’s been right in front of me all this time.