To the Christian, 'spirituality' means developing our relationship with God so that we are aware of His presence, hearing His voice, corresponding to His Word, increasing humility, exercising our spiritual gifts, and representing Christ attractively. Most of us develop these traits through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and Bible reading. For too long, when it has come to developing our spiritual strength, we have generally ignored some very practical measures that remind me of the story of the "magic nail."First Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
The story goes that a travelling vagabond stumbled across a nail in his travels. He pocketed it. As he traipsed into the next town his hunger drove him to knock on a door about lunch time. Opening the door to the vagabond was a woman about to prepare soup for her lunch. The stranger offered her a "magic nail" which would transform any ordinary soup into the most delicious broth imaginable. Somewhat sceptically, the woman allows the man into her kitchen with his magic nail. He once again assures the suspicious woman of the nail's magical power. He places the nail into the water which had started to boil. "You know", he said, "just a few slices of carots really enhances the magic of this nail." As the carots were added he remarked that while the magic nail was clearly doing its magic, the magic would be stronger if he could add some diced onions. After using the same reasoning for adding beef stock, barley, celery, tomatoes, parsnip, mixed herbs, spices, and some salt, the "magic" soup was ready. The woman dished up two servings of the aromatic soup and agreed that the nail had indeed worked its magic!
Thus, when I use the expression "magic nail spirituality" I hope to demonstrate that we can deepen our Christian spirituality by adding certain natural ingredients. The reason for this is that we are a body-spirit composite. That is, God has not merely designed us as spirits with a body. Rather, we have been created in the image of God as a soulcomprised of a body and a spirit. What happens to your spirit affects your body, and vice-versa. For those not used to thinking abour our spirituality like this, the following is going to sound positively unspiritual. But I lay down the challenge for people to put these "magic nails" to the test.
When God created Adam, He would come down in the cool of the day and walk with Adam. More than this, God created Adam to work. We are designed by God for physical activity. Research shows that simply exercising for at least 30 minutes has a direct and beneficial impact on our mental health. The Apostle Paul had more than enough reasons to be depressed - but he was possibly prevented from it due to the enormous physical exercise he undertook in travelling to various outposts of his ministry.
I was fairly sceptical about the impact of diet until we had Ruby. After months of night traumas, uncontrollable sleep fitting, sudden mood swings, we were introduced to the role that diet plays. Through this process we learned that our little Ruby was a super-coeliac - unable to process wheat, soy, corn, gluten, grapes. When we eleminated these things from her diet we suddenly had a totally new and transformed daughter!
Prov. 23:3 And don't stuff yourself;
bridle your appetite.
There are certain things, such as alcohol, which have a bearing on our mental and spiritual health. I'm not even referring to the obvious dietary abuses, such as gluttony, which the Scriptures clearly prohibit. But for those battling with their physical energy levels and coincidentally their relationship with God, you may discover that a change of diet could lead to a very noticeable improvement.
We are learning more about the health benefits of sleep. A lack of sleep, or even irregular sleep patterns, can have a similar affect on a person as being over a blood-alcohol limit can have. We are designed by God to sleep. When we have not had enough sleep, we are grumpy and irritable. When we are well-rested we are calmer, less prone to depression, and more likely to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5.
Psalm 127:2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Don't feel guilty about having naps! It seems that sleep is its most beneficial when it is regular and consistent. If taking an afternoon nap interrupts your nightly sleep pattern, then perhaps you need to find a balance. I certainly know that I have benefitted from taking "power-naps" (to use the manly expression, women refer to these as "nana-naps"). Of course, you shift-workers are amazing how you remain sane with your rotating sleep patterns! But regular, sufficient sleep patterns seems to have a profoundly beneficial affect to our spiritual lives.
We've never lived at a time where being "connected" was more possible. Yet we've never lived at a time when being lonely was more prevalent! The problem with becoming socially disconnected is that it distorts your view of other people. Having what should be key relationships in your life not functioning well leads you to become socially passive. This results in complaining that no-one cares about you, or that no-one reaches out to you, or that others don't follow through on conversations you've had with them. Being isolated is not how we are designed to live. This is why God has designed believers to be connected into a church community.
But the socially isolated believer adopts a "consumer" mentality and sees the church as there to minister to them. They become judgmental of others in the church who never initiate fellowship with them. They even judged the value of a church community by how well the pastor ministers to their social needs! Over and over again we have seen hurting people fail to recognise the help and healing that God is providing them through the Body because they can not recognise they have a distorted view of what connecting in fellowship should look like.
The antedote to social disconnectedness is taking the initiative to give away what you want (time with others and showing an interest in them) and changing your "consumer" mentality to a "contributer" mentality. Contributers look primarily to the Lord for their acceptance, approval and affirmation. Contributers seek to be a vessel of God's love to others ("agape" love) without demanding anything in return.
Proverbs 11:24-25 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
We are designed to be interested. God has made us curious. This is why we all develop hobbies. I once asked a very stressed minister who was on the verge of burn-out what his hobbies were. He told that he really enjoyed wood-working. I asked him when was the last time he did some wood-working? He replied that it had been over two years ago. It may not surprise you that, sadly, he did indeed burn-out - and in process blamed God for not taking care of him!
Someone recently described the sustaining work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life as "very boring" because it involves the Spirit leading believers to eat well, rest well, mix well, play well. Boring? Perhaps. But failing to heed the Spirit's summons to both pray and play, read and rest, meditate and mix (socially) but lead to experiencing the fullness of spiritual dryness or physical burn-out. And if our spiritual options are either boring or burn-out - where boring keeps me physically able to be a better spiritual person, I'll take boring anyday. The magic-nail of vibrant spirituality may well be boring but such boring people end up making the most delicious spiritual soup you'll ever taste.
Psa. 34:8 ¶ Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!