I got one of those words from God yesterday that went straight to the heart of my struggles and set me back on a path of life. When I tell you, some of you are going to realize I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed — but others of you are going to see that you have the same issue as I did, and might also find the same breakthrough that I did… So I’ll tell you: I have spiritual needs. There, I finally admitted it.
I was thinking that not wanting to admit my needs might be a guy thing, but I had a conversation with a female friend, and I am convinced it is not exclusively a guy thing. You see, oxygen, food, and warm shelter in the winter were the only needs I believed I had. But I’ve been in a spiritual funk for months, and I haven’t been able to shake it, and have been feeling kind of desperate. I tried checking in with God, and he seemed happy enough with me. Then I did a self-check on the sin stuff, and nothing was standing out. Realized that my quiet times weren’t as long or as consistent as they could be, and thought this was a contributing factor, but not the whole explanation.
So yesterday, I had a chance to go on a 5-hour silent retreat. These have consistently been spiritual high points for me, and I was pretty convinced that God was a big fan whenever I showed up at one. Yet I was a little scared about this one. Sure, I had to take a day off of work (and will probably pay the price in catching up today). But I was worried that because of my spiritual funk either I wouldn’t connect with God, or that I would come out of it no better (and perhaps worse) than when I went into it.
But I decided that I should go, because of God liking it, and because I had to try something to get out of the funk. Because I was so desperate, I started the retreat on the hour drive to get to the retreat center, you know, just talking with God in the car. When I was almost at the center, it hit me: I need God. Not just for salvation, but I need God to impart to me life, on a daily basis.
It had been so subtle, I didn’t even notice. I started coming to God to give: to worship, to honor him. That’s perfectly good, but I had not really been coming to God to get. And by allowing me to enter into such a spiritual funk, where I really felt out of sorts and, how to say it — cranky all the time — God was trying to get me to acknowledge how much I need him each day to fill me up.
Now, you ask, where is this in the Bible? Well I’ll tell you, and I’ll give you only one verse (though I’m betting I could find more): when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Lots of people know that verse, because it is the famous Lord’s Prayer that most believers learn in Sunday school or church. I’m sometimes overly literal, and while I didn’t actually think this was only speaking of bread, I think my mind had only expanded its meaning to include physical needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But surely when we are talking to the Lord, don’t we need more than that? I can be so stupid sometimes.
This revelation has changed my life in two ways. First, by acknowledging that I have needs other than physical needs, I can go about making space in my life to meet those needs. When I am hungry, I make space in my life to have a meal. So when I am spiritually hungry, should I not also make the time and place to satisfy that need? Second, since Jesus mentioned that we need to ask for our “bread” each day, I can freely ask God to fill me up each day. When I acknowledge that apart from him filling me up, I will be empty, it helps me better connect to God, better get what I need, and it gives me something else to daily be thankful for.
I think this is how the faith life is meant to be lived. It is certainly the principle behind the idea of having daily times with the Lord, but by explicitly acknowledging my need, it is less a discipline to get a badge for my spiritual achievements, and more an acknowledgement of my real dependence on God for my deepest needs.