Have you ever just craved nourishment? How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually? Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment. Will you come along for the journey? We will meet here every Thursday until the posts run out. Have something to share about nourishment? Contact me and we will set a date!
“Why would you settle for hamburger when you could have steak?”
I had asked a good friend his opinion of Eugene Peterson’s The Message, and received the above response. My time in Scripture seemed to have grown dry and stale. Others had recommended trying a new paraphrase or translation to keep God’s word fresh. I had grown up in a church, however, which considered any other version than The King James to be a per-version, so I was wary of trying something which seemed so conversational, casual, and hip. Sadly, some versions of Holy Scripture do seem to have an agenda; they twist God’s words to satisfy what itching ears long to hear, becoming the spiritual equivalent of junk food.
I grew up in the seventies, a decade I associate with the introduction of all sorts of unfortunate foods. Perhaps because of increasing industrialization and rapid advances in food packaging techniques, or maybe because of discoveries made during the space era, all sorts of foods were canned, packaged, and frozen which never should have been.
I grew up thinking fish sticks were seafood. I thought Dream Whip was real whipped cream, and Tater Tots and instant mashed potatoes were real potatoes. Somebody decided it would be a good idea to invent a gelatin dessert that separated into three layers, and sell peanut butter containing bacon bits. And don’t even get me started on Hamburger Helper. I grew up thinking I hated lasagna because the only kind I’d ever eaten came out of a Hamburger Helper box. And that four-fingered gloved icon on the packaging still kind of creeps me out. Maybe because I grew up as the daughter of a meat-cutter, and because I grew up eating such awful food, I like my theology the way I like my meat—rich, red, hearty, and rare. I prefer steak to hamburger.
Scripture, being the very word of God, is given to us as nourishment for our souls. Christ tells us that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4, ESV. If I want to live, and live well, I want to nourish my soul with food that comes from as close to the source as possible, having no artificial colors, sweeteners, additives or fillers. Give me the rich, red meat of God’s word as organic as possible.
Because I don’t read Greek, Hebrew, ancient Sanskrit or Aramaic, however, I need to use an English translation. I prefer the English Standard Version (ESV) because it claims to be an essentially literal translation. As an English-speaking Bible reader, The ESV seems as close as I can get to the Source. It’s my red meat.
And I can be kind of a theological food snob.
As much as I prefer good, hearty, red meat in my diet, there are times I’ve been so hungry I’ve settled for a drive-thru hamburger. At other times, I’ve been sick, weary, or weak, and have needed to limit my diet to bland foods and broth. In the final months of his life, my father received life-giving nourishment from a can. None of these foods is ideal, but they feed and sustain in crisis.
Several years ago, I was in crisis. I felt distant from God; broken, weak, and sick. Despite my friend’s cautionary words, I began reading from The Message. Eugene Peterson, a pastor, doesn’t presume to offer a literal translation of Holy Scripture. Instead he offers in print what he has offered to his congregations from the pulpit. In my soul sickness and weariness, I was grateful for pieces of living bread, broken off and handed to me in order to nourish my soul. I felt myself learning to chew again, being nourished by the old, old story I had learned to love so well.
The apostle Paul rebuked the church of Corinth, claiming they had lingered too long with milk when they should have moved on to solid food. It’s important for followers of Jesus to grow in their knowledge and understanding of God’s word, to move on from elementary teaching to rich, hearty, red meat.
But I am so thankful that when I am weary and sick, God continues to provide nourishment for my soul.
Taste and see that He is good: What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens. Your truth never goes out of fashion; it's as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever; that's what you ordered—you set the earth going. If your revelation hadn't delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came. But I'll never forget the advice you gave me; you saved my life with those wise words.
Psalm 119:89-92, The Message
Psalm 119:89-92, The Message
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