As a one-year-old, my daughter, Chloe, ate a banana every day. I’d mash up that meal for her like cashing in a guarantee: she’d get a solid breakfast to help her grow, no matter what other foods she’d refuse throughout the day.
By two she was peeling and eating the fruit as she toddled in the wake of her big brother and sister. Whatever the mood or the weather, Chloe’s days contained bananas. She loved them.
Until she didn’t.
One morning when she was three, she refused her staple food. Something inside her had changed. It was as if her body told her brain, “enough is enough.” It needed to take a break. So the bananas went away for awhile.
I can relate. When my kids were kids, I ate up Christian scripture like Chloe gobbled her bananas. Each day, I took in the words of the Bible like nutrients for my soul, a daily dose for growth. I loved it.
Until I didn’t.
Unlike Chloe’s sudden loss of taste for bananas, my appetite for studying the Bible dwindled in the span of few years. For decades, I’d heard a sermon every Sunday, read a Bible devotional daily, and often listened to favorite verses on my Bible app. I took in a variety of good theology including books by R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and Tim Keller.
But I seemed to be digesting less and less. I was trying so hard to assimilate truth and see real changes, yet much of life wasn’t turning out the way the sermons promised.
Still, I kept holding out my cup, desperate for any drop of personal touch offered in the Word of God.
Until that one Sunday sermon.
The preacher was parsing a psalm. His three points couldn’t pierce my clogged ears. All I heard was, “blah blah bleh blah, bleh blah, bleh blah.”
The drone of his voice, the mincing of minutiae, the glut of information. I couldn’t take it in. The weight of the words made my head hurt. My throat was tight. I couldn’t swallow another bite.
It was as if my body told my brain, “enough is enough.” Something inside me had changed. I needed to take a break.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the Christian habit of sifting scripture for wisdom.
My habits were the problem.
I had devoured the God-words, waited decades for certain prayers to be answered, for certain promises to have their impact. My striving had not yielded the results I asked for. My chronic pain remained. The peace that passes all understanding had not made its way to my heart.
All of my trying began suppressing my hunger. My efforts misled my expectations. All that remained unanswered had soured my search.
Is my faith too weak to work His healing power in me? Are my physical and spiritual disappointments just thorns I have to live with? Is my analytical grip too tight to transfer God’s words to the unconscious parts of me, the parts where the heart beats on its own and opens to joy without effort?
For years, I’ve been trying to answer these questions.
Take a Break
It’s hard to explain and I do not completely understand what was and is changing in me. Obviously the subject is bigger than this format allows. But it’s a start for uncovering what I have yet to discover.
My recent writing doesn’t contain many scripture references because too many God words auto-fill their definitions. For me, their overuse has drained their power, becoming jargon that crowds out the passageway to my heart.
Like many of the lyrics I’ve written, these paragraphs untangle my past to get my story straight. By refusing to use band-aids, I touch upon some unhealed wounds.
Life is neither static nor settled. The unfinished story leaves room for doubt and discovery.
More than just practical application, I’m looking for a real change. A change of heart. For that, for now, I need to take a break from trying to control my heart’s response. Perhaps I can leave that up to God.
Back to Bananas
“The last thing any of us need is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God.” (Barbara BrownTaylor in An Altar in the World)
My body knows how to digest my food, to absorb the nutrients I need to survive. Thus, I can trust it when it loses its taste for a certain meal.
Chloe eventually returned to eating her bananas. She’d had her break and could begin enjoying the food again. I’m not there yet with my one-time staple although I’ll probably get hungry for scripture soon enough.
One thing I know, God has not changed, no matter my thoughts or feelings. But the vicissitudes of life keep forcing changes in me. So, for now, looking for life in the bigger story includes taking a break.