Cross and Caduceus: Spiritual Nutrition

Hi, my name is Edwin Leap, and I love fast food! (This is where the readers collectively respond with “Hi, Ed,” and tell me their own stories in our group session.) The problem is that I work as a physician in an emergency room, and, thus, my hours are odd at best. As such, I’m forever stopping for drive-through or some such foolishness. I’m sure that my partners look at me with anxiety, wondering when they’ll be filling in the schedule while I have my cardiac cath.

Edwin Leap

Sitting here, writing this, the barbecue chips call to me. The ice cream in the fridge screams out. Later today I’ll be at work, while my family is home. Since I will miss them, I will likely make some unfortunate attempt to comfort myself by eating something I should not eat.

Mind you, with a little thought and planning, or a simple, “Honey, what do you think I should take for dinner?” I could eat better. But sloth is my nature, as is a little gluttony. And it’s an endless battle – not only because of my native weakness, but also due to the availability of unhealthy alternatives all along any given local highway.

While a reality of my life, this situation also speaks a metaphor. The nourishment of my soul, from prayer and Scripture, is ever available – and all too often ignored. Distractions, like junk food, abound. There are so many books I long to read. There are evening television shows (fortunately I tend to pass out as soon as the glowing box is on and I sit still). There is the ubiquitous and easily distracting Internet in all its wonder. I can, and have, wasted far too much of my life online, searching, shopping, reading, posting and using social media.

Like junk food, these things satisfy for a while. But, ultimately, they leave me intellectually bloated, spiritually malnourished. They leave me with soul cramps. And yet, knowing the truth, I still pass on the devotion I should show to my Father. I still pass over the Word of God and read the arguments and ramblings of rambling people like me – all of us searching, but finding ideas and imagery less than uplifting. All of us hungry for what we know, but too often refusing to ingest into our frequently starving hearts.

It’s a hard battle. Just as burgers are advertised and packaged to look delicious, so are all of our distractions. They are dressed up in exciting music and sex; they are packaged with the promise of ironic cool, the certainty that if we watch, read, engage that we will get the inside jokes, that we will be able to fit in at work, or at school, or anywhere else other starving souls meet to comfort one another. Our media, our entertainment has a flavor of ancient Gnosticism. It says, “I know things, and if you use this, you’ll know them too and be accepted!”

The battle will always be there for me, and for all of us. Yes, of course, the physical one. (I asked one of my sons to remind me to eat better – “so I won’t be a fat papa,” I explained. He said, “But fat papas are cuddly and always buy you milkshakes!”) There is a transient comfort in the way we fall to weakness, the way we neglect our bodies. But it is not healthy in the end.

Just as so, there is a brief pleasure in all of the things that we use for distraction. They are entertainment without thought (though not without consequence). They are too easy on our minds, which, like our bodies, demand exercise and use for health, longevity and utility.

But our souls need the exercise the most. And the routine is rigorous but simple, like pull-ups or push-ups. Kneel, or sit, or lie, or drive, or walk in prayer. And read the Word. (I assume here participation in worship; healthy nourishment is meant to be enjoyed collectively.)

And recognize that the junk out there may give temporal enjoyment, like mass-processed food, but that in the end it is not sufficient to nourish our souls – souls which must be fed well to prepare not only for the day’s work, but also for eternity.