Recently, I was reading a book called The Sacred Year by Mike Yankoski. It is a book filled with spiritual wisdom and insight. It was hard-earned though through a rediscovering of his faith and reigniting the passion that had seemingly fizzled by the demands of being a sought-after Christian author and speaker. Yankoski quoted Tolkien to try and put words to it by saying that he felt like he was butter scrapped across too much bread. Anytime someone quotes Lord of the Rings they are speaking my love language. Isn’t that the truth though? The dryness that he felt in his faith was something that I could resonate with and I have a suspicion I’m not alone. It may only last a day where the endless tasks just seem to pile up and you just go through the motions. Other times it lasts for a season or a season of life. You realize intellectually that you want your faith to be at the center of your life, but there is just this dryness that you can’t seem to shake. Been there, done that. Yet isn’t there something that stirs in us that says that it’s not supposed to be this way? That a life of faith is supposed to be vibrant and filled with joy and anticipation. What are we do with Jesus’ statement in John 10:10 that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly? Are we missing something?
There was a meme that floated around the internet a while ago that I think captures an important point here.
The truth is that for many of us, it is relatively accurate. We have spent so much of our time invested in social media and in technology that we have detached from the rest of the world. I find it interesting, however, that the image on the right immediately makes people think about the walking dead. Let that sink in. Our obsession with technology and our compulsion to be on our phones has caused us to lose that abundant life that Jesus wants for us and instead we have traded it in for a life that feels like, “butter scrapped across too much bread” or, in the case of this meme, like the walking dead. So what do we do? How do we change our lives to feel that passion again?
Yankoski offers this word: Selah. It is a Hebrew word we find in the Psalms that Yankoski translates as, “Shut up! And pay attention!” The meaning is clear regardless, we are called to stop what we’re doing and to truly pay attention. In other words, we need to savor that moment. We need to slow down and to practice the spiritual discipline of attentiveness. For many of us this is a hard thing to do. We are so busy and so rushed that we become task oriented and seek to cross things off our to-do lists as quickly and efficiently as possible. Yet perhaps if we slowed down to truly savor moments we might begin to have a clearer view of what God is doing. Think of it like drinking a nice glass of wine. To truly appreciate the glass of wine, you need to let it swirl around in your mouth and allow the tongue to taste all that is there. In other words you need to selah.
The spiritual practice of attentiveness goes back through the centuries. It is the practice of slowing down for the purpose of seeing what God is doing. Those of us who are always doing something may feel guilty for slowing down because it feels lazy but there is a purpose behind it. It is to see what God wants to do in your life and where he may be leading you. This can be done in any number of ways. Inspired by the book, I decided to engage in this practice of attentiveness in a slightly unconventional way. Each week, I am now baking a loaf of bread from scratch. It forces me to slow down. Instead of simply buying a loaf from the grocery story I have to mix the ingredients thoroughly. It teaches me patience because the dough requires hours to rise and then again more patience as the smell of baking bread wafts through the house as it bakes in the oven. Yet the finished product is worth savoring. It is far better than the typical loaves of bread that I buy from the grocery store and I even just enjoy it by itself. Yet more than all of that, when I allow that time to be filled with prayer, I’m again humbled by God. The dryness lifts and God’s refreshing spirit fills my heart.
So maybe you’re feeling like you’re in a dry place right now. Maybe you have been going a mile a minute and you feel like you’re missing out on that abundant life. Perhaps like Yankoski and Bilbo, you feel like butter scrapped across too much bread. Consider the practice of attentiveness, begin to savor life. Selah.