In our American culture, we have an insane tendency towards the incessant “doing” as we all should know by now. It comes to us and is woven into the fabric of our lives before we are old enough to even fully understand it, so it seems. And the endless day planners and self-help gurus are there to remind us in the form of paper trails and varied flickering pixels, that if we can just do more, we will somehow unlock the keys to wealth, and then by proxy: happiness, that will then lead us to some nirvana of fulfillment which will cause us to live somewhere “over the rainbow”.
Christians Are Not Exempt
This same tendency also reaches into the lives of those of who have a spiritual bone in our bodies I’m afraid. And as such, we also work to gain more and more, to please men, and in order to validate our worth before God putting a feather in our religion cap as we go. And as a result, our lifetime is spent checking off these lists, and forwarding to the next day our endless “to do” items, that for most normal people at least, never totally gets done. Nonetheless, it doesn’t stop us from still believing that if somehow, we “do” more, we’ll eventually get it right, and nothing but good things will come from it. And yet also, like the rat on the wheel, we become enslaved to the tedium of forever running in place, when it seems that everyone but us realize that we are actually going nowhere; only very, very, fast.
The Food We Lack
This is descriptive of a scene in the gospel of John, where the crowd of people now growing more and more in number, after having had their full of some tasty loaves and fish, want to now figure out how they can get this buffet line in perpetuity. Jesus it seems recognizes this, and for our thinking today, he says something that at least should cause us some quiet reflection, though we have heard this same story time and time again. He says, “Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life—the food which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27a NET). It is not surprising though, that like us, they are forever hard of hearing, and so they get right back to their rat-race life asking again what they must do to get the bigger, better deal they propose is now within their grasp. And also like you and I, their hope is that the Jesus “genie in the lamp” they hope they have now found, will also do more at their beckon call, and that somehow this will make true believers out of them; even though they still really have no idea what that actually means. And many of us who call ourselves followers on this narrow path, still don’t either. But I digress.
The One Thing…
Now Jesus is speaking about the fact that there is indeed something that must take center-stage over and above all of our to do lists, and to our good service in the kingdom even. For like Martha, who was busy about many, many, even valid things; she missed the exit ramp that offered her the ability to simply stop and sit at the Master of the Universe’s feet for a moment in time, while Mary somehow knew this was what she sorely needed in order to make sense of her otherwise topsy-turvy life. And as you might have already guessed, the food that she needed, as Jesus has reminded us of, is indeed that which remains when everything else we’ve marked off of our lists leaves us empty, unfulfilled, and still endlessly striving for more. In fact, I know a lot of such people. And in retrospect, I’ve often been tempted to be one myself, so I truly have no stones to throw here. For the very American Dream (which I like to now I call a nightmare if not properly ordered) that we strive for, if we are not careful; can actually be the very thing that is not only killing us slowly, but which also can become a serious inhibitor to our steady walk on the narrow path. And this should be no stark revelation to us for inquiring minds who truly want to know.
We see it in our day to day lives at every turn. Yet sadly, we also see it as we shuffle in and out of the average American church, where outside of some religious trappings that make the average Joe appear to be on the right track, most observe what many have called a “moralistic, therapeutic deism” which inoculates us from getting the real thing of those who were first called “followers of the way”. God has therefore been fashioned into our image and fits nicely inside of our creation of Him within the framework of our understanding of what it means to have what we call life, liberty, and some lofty pursuit of an ever-elusive happiness. And though this proposed bliss continually escapes our grasp, it continually propels us onward to achieving it at all costs as it were. And thus, we truly are working day and night. We work our fingers to the bone hoping and wishing upon a star to “win” and get through life somehow unscathed. And while we do so, if we are not careful, we will miss the food that Jesus says we know not of by at least a country mile.
Hidden in Plain Sight
And as I have thought about this, and meditating upon my own pursuit of the hiding God throughout my journey on the narrow path, I understand why most of us never realize what the rat race is doing to us until the Dr. reminds us to begin setting our house in order, or until the undertaker has now been passed the baton. For like the tyranny of the urgent in our lives, the pursuit of the food Jesus speaks of will also cost us everything. An irony to be sure. For sitting at the feet of the Master is a daily practice, rewarded in carefully rationed bite-size morsels oftentimes until it truly begins to “get into us”. And equally, as more and more we realize through many dips and turns, toils and snares, that our broken cisterns actually hold no water to speak of, until His ever patient chisel has forged into us a critical understanding that a mere day in the Lord’s presence is better than a thousand elsewhere. And this slow burn only comes to those who have in desperation grabbed a hold of His garment with an eternal vice grip, and who as a result, eventually come to know it as the actual living water, and the oft missing food of which by daily ingesting we shall never, ever thirst or hunger again!. And though it will not sell enough tickets to the show we’re relentlessly shuffled into, it is the most wonderful truth in the cosmos for those who have ears to hear. And yet, as you might have now guessed, there are actually very few that find it!