One of the practices I find great joy in doing is writing reflections. (You may recall a few months ago I shared an Advent reflection about what it means to go home for Christmas.) This process of writing reflections is helpful for me because it allows me to see scripture in a new way, by spending time with one small passage and thinking about what it’s really saying, the memories and associations in conjures, what I can learn from it–but more than that, I find it helpful sharing reflections with others and reading their thoughts, especially from people I know. I’m always surprised by the meditations of my friends and family who’ve done this practice and shared their words with me. It’s allowed me greater insight, not only into the Bible and the way in which others have interpreted and processed scripture, but also about the members in my community. I really treasure these things.
For this reason, before the season of Lent I helped curate a daily devotional for Redeemer Church (to be read from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), and for the upcoming season of Eastertide (from Easter to Pentecost), I helped curate a daily devotional for Sanctuary Church. The reflection appointed for today from the Lenten devotional is one I’d like to share because I don’t remember writing it.
I mean, I remember writing it, but none of the details stuck with me. And that’s usually indicative of having supernatural help.
I don’t know if it will speak to you in any way, but I’m willing to take that risk by putting it on the internet. As we approach the final week of Lent, I hope this offers some insight as to why people fast, or have been fasting, these 40 days. [Actually, there are a lot of reasons, but this is one way to think about it.] Someday I’d like to write more about fasting because it has radically shifted my life, but here’s just a taste.
Next time I promise to write something lighthearted. But for now… I give you March 23rd, 2018.
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil,
to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers;
let me not eat of their delicacies. Psalm 141:4
As someone who loves food and loves being around a table with a group of people sharing conversation, dinner, and drinks, these lines stood out to me immediately. The words of King David present a very clear request from him to God—almost a warning for me as a reader—that involve dining with evildoers, but not just that, eating of their “delicacies.” There is something serpentine in this phrasing, something that harkens to the Garden of Eden, the promise that whatever this is, it’s not simply food.
And surely this isn’t a psalm about avoiding, say, escargot. We know from Jesus that what goes into a person’s mouth isn’t what makes him or her unclean, but rather what comes out. “Out of an overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). However, in our wonderful Western world, we’ve adopted a new saying that speaks to our rather unhealthy perspective of food, which is “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Therefore, I’m led to wonder if what goes into our mouths (and our stomachs) might somehow affect our hearts?
The verse just before this asks the Lord to “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips,” and at first I took that to mean, “Don’t let me say something bad.” But now I’m not so sure if the psalmist is referring to something going out of his lips (words) or something going in (food). Perhaps neither is as important as the real issue: “let my heart not be drawn to what is evil.”
For some reason this makes me think of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, in which the evil White Witch entices young Edmond with Turkish Delight, a sweet dessert presented to him at a time when he’s cold and alone and very hungry. But it’s not just any Turkish Delight; it’s enchanted, making whoever eats it crave more of it. The memory of this Turkish Delight causes Edmond to betray his siblings and seek out the White Witch for more.
I believe these are the types of delicacies of which King David speaks: the seemingly harmless sins that begin as a rare or exotic moment and conflagrate into an ungodly and unhealthy lifestyle ruled by lust and our fleshly desires. I think one antidote to this problem, in a very physical sense, is “a guard over my mouth.”
Lent is a good time to exercise control over our “flesh,” as Paul refers to it in the New Testament, our physical cravings. By putting limitations over our food—dare I even suggest fasting—we do more than simply not eat delicacies; we begin to expose our desires and allow God to change our hearts. Then we can rest assured that when the day comes and we are presented with the choice to take part in wicked deeds, the enticing lifestyle of evildoers, we will not be drawn to them—they will lose all of their power over us.