"The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian."
My son, Steven, brought his little girls to Mimi's for a brief visit last Thursday. While they were here, my husband brought in his and my lunch, two Mandarin Chicken Salads from Wendy's. Steven, Olivia, and Ella had earlier had their meal, but of course, as I found a comfy spot on my sofa, where I could sit and eat my dressed greens, both babies quickly made their way to me. Seeing them lick their lips, jump up and down, and open their mouths like little birds told me the obvious, so I searched through my salad to find something to suit their sweet little taste buds.
Olivia, who is two, tasted the chicken, spit it out in a napkin, and before I could stop her, swiftly grabbed some crunchy noodles and sliced almonds from my plate and smacked away. Her two year old finicky behavior has of late affected her eating habits. Isabella Grace, whom we call Ella, will have her first birthday soon, and such being the case, she is still discovering her own little palate, which makes each eating opportunity a festive occasion.
Taking a small, soft piece of mandarin orange, I placed it in her tiny little mouth and she received it, heart, soul, and all plunging into the process. Eyes began to wrinkle. Lips pursed. Jaws puckered. Eyes glared at me. Still, she kept chewing. She then swallowed. Stood. Thought. Then, danced for more, and of course, I obliged. Shortly thereafter, "Daddy" said it was time to go. Olivia took a few more bites of almonds and noodles, and Ella, when placed in her car seat, screamed and kicked and cried in dismay of having to leave the oranges she at first found bitter and considered refusing.
My nagging tendency to see analogies in all later caught up with me, and the necessary spiritual truth in those few simple moments with Olivia and Ella I could not escape. So, I pondered my life as a Christian woman and considered my own frail tendencies to be particular with my spiritual taste buds. I thought about the need for pure doctrine, the need for hungering and thirsting for God's word, how our Master Designer gave us each our own genetic code with particular habits and tastes, and I thanked God for my four grandchildren, Olivia, Caleb, Anna, and Ella, and the precious, joyful, God-given happiness they bring me.
But nestled in that wee bit I spent with my little granddaughters was another lesson just as urgent for me. I found beneath those few beloved moments a plain look at my own nature. I thought of my weakness to shrink from any part of God's word that may not taste as sweet as I like or have the texture I desire. I regarded my own penchant to spit out what I find unpalatable. To only pick up what suits my fancy of the moment. To avoid that meat that can be tough to chew and sticky to handle. To savor those things most that give me delight, yet, pass over passages that seem presently insipid. To ignore unwittingly my need for a spiritually balanced diet.
To be a balanced Christian, I must be willing to taste, to chew what may at first seem a bit bitter, a little sour for my senses. To swallow all of God's word and consider it good and crave more for what I at first lacked desire. As a Christian woman, I must eat what manna He gives me, His daily bread, dine with joy, make each occasion to take in His word a time of festivity. I must hunger for more, cry with thirst, and search, appeal, for further time to hear afresh His voice.
Several years ago, I went through a very bleak time. During that darkness, I lived in the Psalms. They were my meat and drink. The prolific words of those holy scriptures were God's manna for my weary soul; they were health and healing, hope and peace. The words of David and other Psalmists held me up, kept my feet from moving, stayed my heart from fainting. When finally I saw light again, I so craved the Gospels and the Epistles, Isaiah, and other scriptures. And from that experience, I realized my deep, ever present need of all of God's infallible word. While the Psalms were God's answer for a very present need, and sustained me with spiritual breath, He did not want me to lose taste for other areas of the Bible that He also gave for my good. To be whole, mature, complete, lacking nothing, I must be willing to receive both the positive, uplifting voice and comfort of God's promises, and hear, with joy, the solemn, sacred words that convict me of little foxes that can spoil my vine.
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4) is a sure promise that encourages my spirit, but I also must be willing to hear that "godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out, and having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (I Timothy 6:6-8).
The words of David, which tell me God "leads me beside still waters" and "restores my soul" (Psalm 23:2-3) provide such comfort and peace, but I must not lay aside Jesus' faithful words that warn me "if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).
And the Apostle John's words that rejoice my spirit, as they speak so passionately that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (I John 4:16) bring healing to my weary soul; yet, Peter's words remind me not to think "it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4:12-13). Such truth causes me to look in Jesus' face and accept the cross He has prepared for my life.
I am challenged to open my heart, to search daily for His words for my life, and accept each one. I am praying to resist the temptation to keep handy a metaphorical sifter that will filter out unwanted pieces of God's precious, holy, infallible truths. To accept a hearty slice of sourdough bread and chewy sirloin, rather than only craving a slice of luscious chocolate creme pie covered with sweet whipped cream and shards of bliss. I am looking with hope to grasp the full reality of Jesus Christ and God's will for my life, leaving behind me preconceived notions of what I should be served.
Jesus said "My sheep hear My voice," (John 10:27), and with my whole heart, without reservation, I believe, to hear His voice, I must know, must savor, must cling to His word. All of His word. Which is all truth. With all my heart. With all my strength. With all my mind. Savoring each precious piece given me by Christ's own scarred hands. And thus when He calls me, I will hear, and, can answer, "Yes, Lord, speak, for your handmaiden is listening."