Talking about God is tricky, but talking about one’s relationship with God is trickier still. I’m not bringing up the topic to convince anyone of anything since the only conviction I have about God is that beliefs in Him, Her, or It, one way or the other, are an entirely personal matter. What interests me most is whether your belief, disbelief, or indifference is serving you, helping you . . . nourishing you in your life.
Religions and churches offering convenient pre-packaged belief systems, rules, and codes of behavior still serve to bring people together by offering a much desired sense of connection and fellowship with like-minded others in their community, those with similar spiritual palates. For some, a homogenized, standardized spirituality served up as an uncomplicated and easy-to-digest “food” may provide all the spiritual calories required to feel satisfied and sated. It seems unfair and judgmental to regard such a church’s offering as “junk food” or “empty calories” since even a fast-food hamburger provides proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and trace nutrients that the body, in all its remarkable bio-wisdom, will make productive use of. The soul’s digestive system has its own wisdom as well.
Some spiritual communities are not and never have been fans of complicated, supposedly-gourmet “dishes” made with exotic, complex ingredients, prepared and served with so much pomp and circumstance that it’s the chef – the pastor or minister – who garners attention. We’re supposed to be impressed by the slam-bang of dishes and flailing knives, the showy, over-exaggerated hyper-activity, the wow factor of the flaming pan . . . My, my . . . look at him go! But when do we eat?
Sometimes the food – or even the chef’s preparation methods – can make us feel uneasy, dissatisfied, like something’s a little off. Too much sugar? Too spicy? Too bland?
Sometimes we just want a turkey sandwich or some bacon and eggs; something simple, familiar, well-prepared and nourishing. Sometimes what we’re hungry for isn’t on the menu that day, and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re hungry for . . . we just know we need to eat.
The “spiritual restaurants” of this world each have their own recipes, menus, and service staff. The appeal and nutritional value of a given menu item in one church can vary greatly from the next, depending on the quality of the ingredients, the method of preparation, and the manner in which it is served.
If churches are spiritual restaurants, then God – the Divine – is the food being prepared and served. The pastors and priests are the chefs, the congregations are customers who may or may not leave a tip, or tithe, when meal time is over. The degree to which anyone feels satisfied with their dining experience will largely be determined by how the meal was prepared and presented, what a person’s dietary needs and restrictions are, and how picky they tend to be about what’s put on their plate.
In the end, after years of tasting and sampling a wide variety of spiritual offerings, I’ve come to know which spiritual foods support and nourish my soul, and which ones cause disease and illness. There’s been a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, and these days my spiritual diet is a mostly-quiet and simple affair.
God makes for a pretty good stock, and I always keep a bunch on hand when tinkering and tweaking in my spiritual kitchen.