Would it weird you out to know that I do much of my praying on the porcelain throne? In my house, the toilet is one of the few places I can have some hope of being left alone for ten minutes at a time. My daily devotional book and my favorite bible have pretty permanent spots there. It may seem odd, but really, it’s quite apropos. Allow me to explain.
In the bible, the words of scripture, the words of God and Jesus – the word made flesh – are all compared to food. Jesus tells us to eat of him and we will not hunger. There are verses like Psalm 119: 103 – “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Jeremiah says, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jeremiah 15:16). The connection is made even more explicit in both Ezekiel and Revelation where a prophet is given a scroll with the words he should say to eat prior to being sent out to prophesy against the people.
In the physical world, the whole process of digestion starts with breaking the food down into smaller and smaller bits that our bodies can extract the component nutrients from. We chew, we mix it with enzymes in our saliva, we churn and break it down further in our guts. As it moves through our small intestines, the food we have eaten is so broken down that our bodies can readily absorb what it needs. Eventually, what is left is what our body cannot digest along with wastes from what has already been digested. This material passes into our large intestines as poop. There, if everything is working properly, it leaves the body regularly, easily and smelly. If the process gets backed up, we become uncomfortable and such movements are painful. If our stomachs are upset, food can pass through so quickly that it’s hardly digested and we end up afraid to move more than a few seconds reach from the bathroom.
Our interaction with scripture works in much the same way. We read or hear scriptures and set about digesting it. We will mull it over, chew on it, add in our own ideas to help break it down. We swallow it and start putting it to use. It fuels our actions. Often those actions are difficult and those words we have been given continue to provide us with strength, wisdom, and energy. But not all components of food are used by our bodies. Some are undigestible. Likewise, not all words of scripture are for us at all times. Often there are parts of scripture that don’t make sense to us. Or they don’t fit the context we find ourselves in. If our spiritual digestion is working the way it ought to, we will let those things go, easily and regularly.
Often, however, people are unhappy, uncomfortable and even spiritually sick because they are trying to hold onto words not meant for them. At least not where they are. Sometimes we’re too young to digest them – like an infant given cow’s milk. Sometimes we’re afraid to let go of things we don’t understand and which are not profitable for us because we’ve been holding onto them so long that letting go is hard and painful. So we become spiritually constipated. Other times our spiritual processes are in disarray and the words may pass through so quickly that they are hardly digested and do us little good.
A person who is spiritually constipated, like a person who is physically constipated, will often become ill-tempered and restrict their activities to minimize discomfort. A person with spiritual diarrhea will often become weak and lethargic. We need to learn to process the bread of life like someone with a well functioning digestive system. Then we will always have food, energy and all the good things which the word of God can work in us.
Are there things you are holding onto because they were part of the food – scripture – you have eaten? If there are things which are from scripture but which are not bearing good fruit in your life, perhaps you need to let them go. It may be that your understanding or context is wrong and those words are not for you at this moment in your faith walk.
Are there things which you have always heard, but never made a part of your faith walk? Perhaps now is the time to actually chew them over, let them churn around, add your own ideas and see if those words don’t begin to feed you spiritually.
See? Spiritual truth can be found everywhere – even in poop!