We have a saying here in Italy: Appetite comes with eating. (L’appetito vien mangiando.) After long illnesses or prolonged fasts people lose their appetite and have to learn to like food again. Their stomach shrinks and they have little desire to eat.
And we lose our spiritual appetite in the same way.
The less time we spend in God’s Word, the less we feel a need for it. The more often we skip time in prayer, the less we feel drawn to it.
We convince ourselves (even subconsciously) that we’re getting along just fine without them. When in reality, we are heading toward spiritual malnutrition.
The same thing happens when we start doing these things merely out of habit.
For too many years, I read a daily chapter, then mumbled a prayer. Doing it because I was supposed to. But it was lifeless because I was really just rushing to get it done and check it off my list.
Partly because I had never been a morning person. But mostly because I stayed up too late reading, on internet, or watching movies. And getting up late, meant racing to get everything done. I raced to get the house straightened, raced to get lunch ready. And even raced through my quiet time.
Until one morning Psalm 63:1 gripped my soul. “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” Psalm 63:1.
That’s me, I thought. It’s talking about it me. I was dry and weary spiritually, in need of life-giving water. God seemed far away, and I had lost my joy and peace.
It happens to most of us sooner or later, I think. But what do we do about it?
Often, we do just what I was doing. First we try not to think about it, convincing ourselves it’s really not that bad. And second we think (or at least hope) that things will somehow straighten themselves out.
Maybe God will grant us some great mystical experience, or life-changing miraculous happening. Surely things will change — somehow — someday. We just need to give it time.
But we could sit and wait all our lives, hiding our heads in the sand over our spiritual condition.
When it really boils down to making right choices.
My life presents a different picture now. As the sun peeks out over the horizon, the sound of tractors fills the air. Farmers shout out greetings as the roosters crow. And I’m already in my corner, keeping my time with God.
Gone is the morning rush. The harried feeling of not having enough time. And the guilt over not doing the things I should. I have the peace of knowing that all is right in my world.
It’s not that I was leading a sinful lifestyle before, or doing bad things in and of themselves. But they were keeping me from better things. Making God seem far away, and my soul dry.
No mystical experience ever came. I suppose God could have done something like destroying our TV with a lightening bolt. But why should he, when all I had to do was hit the off button?
And probably had the TV been destroyed, we would have just replaced it anyway. I needed to get to the root of the problem. And it wasn’t the TV, the books, or the computer.
The real problem was my lack of self-control and commitment.
What I learned is this. We need the Lord’s help to change. But he expects us to do our part too. He’s not going to reach down and switch our TV off.
It comes down to choices.
We can choose TV, internet, social media, reading, shopping, sleeping in, or whatever… Or we can choose to become serious about deepening our walk.
No one else can do this for us. Just as no one else will pay the consequences, or fully reap the benefits of the choices we make.