“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Brillat-Savarin was a nineteenth century lawyer who gained his fame as a connoisseur of fine food. Was his statement true? Can we tell who people are by what they put in their bodies?
Yes, we can, but it has nothing to do with meats, vegetables, or beverages…
First, let’s do a quick refresher on the way in which our bodies work. What we see or hear goes straight to the brain, which immediately processes the information that it has just received. The brain filters out that information and sends messages to every part of the body to respond accordingly.
What’s the end result? Hands are raised in defense if the brain senses danger. Smiles are registered on faces where there is happiness or joy. Stomachs churn if there is anxiety or stress.
Funny…hands forget the danger, faces forget the joy, and stomachs forget that there was anxiety, but the heart? It holds the danger, and the joy, and the stress. The heart, much like the brain, never forgets, because the two are so connected, so closely linked, that the lines of communication between the two are always open. If you’ve ever wakened from a nightmare to find your heart pounding, you know this quite well, don’t you?
Two personal experiences come to mind that illustrate the connection between the brain and the heart, and curiously enough they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum; one is about life, and the other is about death.
I remember the first time that I held both of my sons, Brian and Christian, in my hands on the day that they born, thirty-five and thirty-two years ago, respectively.
Conversely, I remember the last time that I held my Dad’s hand just before they closed the lid on his coffin almost ten years ago.
My hands don’t remember holding either of my sons, or my Dad’s hand, but all three events will be etched in my mind’s memory banks forever. And my heart? It will always carry the feelings associated with the joy of life, and the sorrow of death.
What if our hearts stored pretty much everything that our minds processed?
Listen to the words of Jesus.
“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:18-19
What we “eat,” what we “take in,” through movies that we watch, music that we listen to, books that we read, conversations that we have, and what we look at on our computers goes directly into our minds and our hearts and remains there. What remains in both is evident in what we say, how we act, and what we do.
Do you want to know who someone is? Spend some time with them. Listen to what comes out of their mouths. Take a close look at how they treat others, at how they treat themselves. Watch their actions. Look at their walk in life. You’ll know who that person is.
Feed your mind and heart with the Word of God. Listen to worship music. Don’t watch questionable movies. Hang with people who know Christ. Install “firewalls” on your computer. In prayer, ask for the Mind of Christ. Ask for his heart. Seek to be filled, not by the garbage of the world, but by the Holy Spirit.
People will know who you are by the overflow of your heart. More importantly, so will God.
Today marks the ninth day of Twenty-One Days of Prayer and Fasting at the Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. This is the third Prayer and Fasting that I’ve taken part in since my wife Jackie and I began attending Highlands in 2009, and this one has already been more impactful for me than the first two combined. I attribute this, not to the fact that I’m praying more, eating less, and abstaining from caffeine, but from the expectancy that I had going in.
The concept of fasting for a given period of time isn’t new to me. Throughout my life, as a child, an adolescent, and as an adult, I fasted every year during Lent, which is the period of forty-days leading up to Easter Sunday. To be honest with you, I wasn’t really sure of why I was fasting, other than the fact that everyone in my family and my church did. I guess I figured that fasting was just something that I was supposed to do.
I realize now that fasting is a way for me to get closer to God, just as Jesus did. During each of the previous Twenty-One Days, I’ve had some amazing revelations (or revies, as my friend Amy Leigh refers to them) about myself and about God. Now, rather than dreading the fasting period, as I had done in the past, I actually look forward to it with anticipation and expectancy.
The first day, which was Sunday, came and went, and my biggest “take-away” from that day was the massive headache which was the result of caffeine and sugar withdrawal. As much as I wanted to, I certainly didn’t feel any closer to God. The same could be said for Monday and Tuesday.
When Jackie and I rolled out of bed on Wednesday morning at five o’clock to make it to the prayer service at church by six, I knew that something was still missing, and to tell you the truth, I was a little frustrated by it. I mean, I was giving up caffeine and sweets and bread and snacks for twenty-one days to get closer to the Lord, and it wasn’t working! Undaunted and as determined as ever, because I know that God is faithful, I slid into the car with Jackie and we headed for church to join the hundreds of others that would be there offering their petitions to God.
The prayer service began with a short message from one of the pastors, which was followed by a song performed by the worship team. Even as I was singing I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it; I seemed to be simply going through the motions, which only served to dampen my spirits even more.
The end of the worship song marked the beginning of thirty minutes of personal prayer, which would be followed by everyone coming together in corporate prayer, led by the pastor. With the sounds of pre-recorded worship music filling the large sanctuary, personal prayer began, and I left Jackie in her seat as I stepped away and began my “prayer walk,” as I refer to it. You see, sometimes I like to pace the floor when I walk, for various reasons that I won’t go into right now.
My initial prayer to God was for a “revie”…
“Lord, I know that something is missing here; something that’s holding me back, that’s keeping me from drawing closer to You. If there’s something that I need to feel, let me feel it. If there’s something that I need to see, let me see it. If there’s something that’s hidden from me, please reveal it. Could you help me out here? Could You give me a revie? I’m just not satisfied with where I am.”
It took less than a minute for me to “get it.”
What’s your favorite food? I mean something that you absolutely love to eat? At this moment, because I’m still fasting, there’s nothing that I’d like more than a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a cup of coffee! Under normal circumstances, it’d be a nice medium-rare steak with a baked potato and a side of sautéed mushrooms. Quite simply put, I have a passion for a great steak.
But what if I’m not hungry? If I’ve just finished two cups of coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a guy comes up and offers me a nice, juicy steak, I’m gonna decline his offer. While my passion for steak is as strong as ever, I’m just not hungry for it.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
My passion for God is as great as ever. The fire that burns inside of me for Him is white-hot, all consuming, never fading. That passion is most evident when I get to share what’s my heart about God, with believers and non-believers alike. There’s no shortage of passion, to be sure.
The problem is that somewhere along the way, between Jackie, family, business, the prayer room in our salon, Christmas, and church, I lost my hunger for God. I lost the fervor to seek Him, to get into His Word, and to know more about Him. I even lost the joy of writing about Him.
It all boils down to this: When we’re not hungry, we don’t eat. When we don’t eat, we don’t grow. That’s exactly what happened to me.
You see, I had grown complacent in “getting after” God. I was feasting on an explosion of spiritual growth that I’d had a couple of months ago, and I guess that I foolishly thought that it would just last and last. Quite obviously, it didn’t.
If you’re old enough, you probably remember the closing line to an ad campaign on television years ago that made the quite simple, yet quite true proclamation that “There’s always room for JELL-O.” True, that is, as long as you were hungry for it.
GOD is the same way. There’s always more of Him to feel, to learn, and to experience. Even when you think that you’re as filled with Him as you could possibly be, there’s always room for more. Always.
You just have to be hungry for Him. And all you have to do is ask.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
I asked. He answered. I’m hungry!
Patience is a virtue that I’ve struggled with all of my life, and especially when I was younger. Come to think of it, both my impatience and the anger that accompanied it were prevalent constant companions until I began the spiritual journey that I’m on just over five years ago. Since then, I’ve learned (after a great deal of prayer, practice, and self-reminders) to be more patient in most every situation. I’ll be honest in telling you that waiting for God to open doors for me to share my heart with others in the area of ministry has become the last bastion of impatience in my life. I’m ready, willing, and able to go, but apparently He doesn’t think that it’s time. What’s He waiting for? J
I was doing some research the other day and read in the Bible that Abraham was 100 years old and his wife Sarah was 90 when she gave birth to Isaac, the son that God had promised them some twenty-four years earlier! Twenty-four years! Yeah, I know that God’s timetable and ours are totally different; a year for us is the blink of an eye for Him. Still. Twenty-four years? Can you imagine waiting that long for anything, especially a son? I’ve grown impatient after I’ve waiting for a traffic light to change from red to green after, what, maybe a minute?
You have to believe that having a son was a desire of Abraham’s heart long before he was seventy-six years old. Chances are that we could easily swap the numbers around and envision Abraham dreaming of having a son at the age of twenty-four and having to wait seventy-six years for his dream to become a reality. Wow…a lifetime of praying and waiting for the birth of a son.
What’s more is that God had told Abraham that he “would be the father of many nations.” Genesis 17:4 At the time, Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89, and they were childless. God had to have been kidding, right? Surely the faith and patience of both Abraham and Sarah were stretched to the limit on more than one occasion during their excruciating wait. Still, they remained obedient to God; and God made good on His promise.
Of course, the story gets even better! One day, God came to Abraham and instructed him to take Isaac to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. God knew that He was putting Abraham’s obedience to the ultimate test, because of His love for us. What greater love is there than that of a parent for his child?
The next morning, per God’s instructions, Abraham took Isaac and set out for the mountain where he would sacrifice his son. Once there, Abraham built the sacrificial altar, arranged the wood, placed his bound son Isaac on top of the pile and prepared to sacrifice him by his own hand. At the last moment, an angel of God called out to Abraham and told him not to sacrifice Isaac. Because of his obedience, Abraham would be greatly blessed, as would all of his descendants.
And he was. God was true to His promise.
Consider your level of patience, especially as it pertains to God’s plans unfolding in your life. Do you have the patience to wait a year for a prayer to be answered? How about five years? Ten? Could you, like Abraham, wait for twenty-four years for God to make good on a promise?
I’ve been waiting now for five years. If I follow God’s timeline for Abraham, I figure that I have nineteen more years to wait. That’d make me seventy-eight! That’s okay; like I said, Abraham was one hundred years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac. All I want to do is share what’s on my heart. Patience…
One more thought…
What if you are, or have been waiting for God to answer a prayer for you. You’ve been diligent in your petitions, and while your faith may have wavered a bit, it has never failed. What would your reaction to God be if He finally answered your prayers, then put you to a test that would take away that which you had been praying for all along?
Do you think that you’d pass the test?
That’s a tough one, isn’t it?