By now you may have caught a whiff of something my recent posts have been reaching for: We live a life of worship.
In that sense, life is ritual. Our human existence on this earth is rightly shaped by an awareness of God’s Law Covenants. Those covenants are God’s revelation of His character; they condition the flesh to obey the Spirit. If you embrace the heart-mind level of awareness, you realize that biblical law is parable, and you can dismiss legalism as a fraud. We don’t march parables around as power, but we see them as signposts to seek more of what God has provided.
So consider what you do. Everything is ritual, an expression of faith. Your choice to arise in the morning recognizes a sacred duty to Creation, which includes your body. Eating breakfast is a ritual of thanksgiving, a ritual meal shared with God. You are nourishing and building a part of Creation, interacting to cultivate shalom. This is your faith in action.
A lot of people turn their religion into a legalistic regimen. So we have fitness training that is fanatical and harsh, and while it may bring certain sought after results, it becomes an idolatry. It tries to do things that may not bring any real blessing. It’s just “success” at some obsession. It’s not that having a drive to push hard is wrong, but that allowing such a drive to become paramount in the decision process makes it your god. It pulls the sacred down to something manageable with mere human talent.
It’s also why some athletes rage when something doesn’t come out as their little god requires. The rage is a sign that something fundamental in their souls is very, very wrong. Their obsession has made them into their self-deity, with implacable material demands. Their god is not our God.
The accident that trashed my right knee was not a tragedy. It was God disposing of His assets as He saw fit. I don’t have to hold full factual awareness of everything involved to sense the blessing. In fact, I remain utterly certain that someone out there has missed a precious opportunity to join in shalom on a much higher level in that they didn’t engage me regarding that accident. He nailed my knee, and some of my athletic ability, to the Cross with His Son. There will always be people who don’t kneel at the Cross and acknowledge the hammer and nails in their own hands. I wonder at what must be His sense of disappointment that they waste His precious offering and tread upon His spilled blood.
But His blood wasn’t wasted and my knee injury wasn’t some inexplicable and pointless loss, except when viewed by a limited human perception. It was a sacred act, as is the careful heart-led obedience that brought me this far into recovery. If I recounted for you every little item that comes to my attention as a blessing from God and the heart-led way of living, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Not some imaginary total healing of every imaginable complaint, but God has prospered my obedience to His command that I strive to be physically fit. The standard of what that requires is fluid, resting in the heart-mind, not in some scientific standard. With all His magnanimous generosity in my life, I can afford to live with a damaged knee.
There may yet be some surprising good coming out of it. My mind begs for answers before things come, but my heart is relaxed and can wait for the revelation of all things in due time. The heart doesn’t demand a full accounting of the mechanical, cause-n-effect details laid out, something the intellect would peruse in detail for evaluation of effectiveness and efficiency. God’s miracles don’t have to make sense to my brain, nor is it necessary to impress my brain with awe and wonder for them to be miracles. The definition of things is not submitted for my reason’s approval.
Stopping on one of my long rides to pray is an overt act of worship. The act itself does little to refresh my communion with the Holy Spirit. What matters is that I stop in response to a divine call. Don’t fuss here in your mind whether it was a thundering call of the moment or just a vague sense that I shouldn’t pass up a favorite place of prayer. In a certain sense, I have a constant running background process of prayer and communion with God regardless of what I’m doing. That’s why I tend to stop and pray at all. But we all at least give lip service to the notion that a ritual act of worship does not communion make. It can only express what’s already there. I don’t initiate anything; it starts with God. In all things, He takes the initiative and we respond or don’t.
The same goes for taking a meal; it’s obedience to His call as stewards of His creation. We can easily understand it in terms of the material interaction, but building law from that knowledge is folly. Skipping a meal could be holy, too, just as accepting a baloney sandwich from someone trying to share. I may be careful about what baloney I buy at the store, but I do eat it. And when there’s a windfall, I might go for steak and a beer, or pizza, or whatever strikes me at the moment. It’s not an indulgence; it’s a celebration with God. It remains an act of worship. The action is not ruled by mere considerations of nutrients and absorption. I’m being obedient to the leading of my heart and the results, as men measure them, don’t rank high in my decision.
We could say the same for sex; it’s not meant as a mere indulgence of the flesh, but a holy act of meeting some genuine need. It’s a renewal of the marriage covenant, which is a subordinate clause in our covenant with Christ. It’s not made holy by ritual choices as if I need to worry about God’s divine surveillance and point counting. It’s holy because I’ve surrendered to the guidance of the Spirit in my heart. By the same token, refusing the wrong sexual opportunity is also an act of reverence. God isn’t watching from a distance, nor is He checking the surveillance tapes later — He’s right there inside of me. Wrong sex is wrong because it wasn’t His idea, and so-called “legitimate sex” can also be wrong in some contexts. The valid moral consideration is harvesting blessings. But the deciding factor is not rules that the mind gets to control; the holiness comes from a living flow of communion with God as a Person.
So we have a whole host of Western cultural nonsense that some physical pleasures are “naughty” and we push them into a secular category in our thinking. We carve out this whole swamp of stuff that is fun-but-naughty and we simply must permit the occasional indulgence for any number of excuses. We then give lip-service to how good behavior can be fun, too, but not as thrilling as chasing our fantasies now then. Do you see how that creates false idols in your mind? It becomes a question of idolatry as moral adultery, but God is right there inside you the whole time, forced to endure your shaming of Him.
Stop drawing the image of a cranky old angry god who then throws a tantrum. He’s there weeping because you walked out from under His protection and you’re going to catch Hell for it. You are out of communion with Him, and thus out of communion with Creation, including the people around you. Your pain hurts Him, too.
The act of carrying on in this life is worship, so the question is who gets the glory at any given time. It’s not a question limited to discipline, though it does include at times marshalling the strength of will to push aside the screaming pleading of our fleshly desires. We do that, not in our own strength, but in the power of God’s Presence holding open the door to His rich blessings. You don’t step into a secular moment and break a few rules in “harmless diversion.” You walk out of God’s Presence and fool around with the Devil, who is often masked by heathen idols, and they are in turn often masked by that massive lie that a secular realm exists. It does not; it’s just the prison of Satan with a different paint job.
If you aren’t serving the Lord, you are serving Satan.