For many years, I made lunches for our daughter, Shannon, to take to school. As a vegetarian, she sometimes had few options provided in the school cafeteria, and packing her lunches was a good way to make sure she had something she would eat.
Shannon graduated from high school in 2012, and by that time, I had added lunches for Jack to my daily routine. For each, I made sure that the lunch contained a healthy balance of items: one main item (like a sandwich or wrap), a veggie, a piece of fruit, chips and a treat.
Some might question if that is, in fact, a healthy balance; I say yes, given some of the alternative choices we face. As a junk food junkie myself, I know the temptation to select the quick and the easy. I don’t want that for my kids (we’ll talk about me another time), so I’m happy to pack the lunch each morning.
For whatever reason, this morning got me thinking about each of the items in the lunch, and how living a faithful life also requires us to select from certain ‘food groups’ every day (or at least every week). Let’s take a look at the lunch items and see if we can determine an equivalent for leading a faithful life:
- The Sandwich: being the main portion of the lunch, this item keeps us filled and fueled until the next meal. What’s a sandwich in our spiritual lives? I’d suggest that worship fills this role. Once a week, we come together with others to hear a message, learn more about God and our relationship with God – to praise and to proclaim that which we know is good. With lunch, some choose turkey over pastrami; some choose a veggie wrap over chicken tortilla wraps. With worship, some people choose traditional, some like modern or contemporary. Some prefer live streaming, some come in person. Whatever the choice, the meaningful service hold us over until the next week; but alone, it’s not enough. What else do we need?
- The Vegetable. Yes, I know. Many of us would not choose to include a vegetable for our lunch. Yet, each day, I make sure I put carrots, or green peppers or cucumbers in Jack’s lunch sack. Vegetables are those lunch items that need a little more chewing; they are often crunchy, needing more time to digest than some food items. The equivalent in our spiritual lives, I think, is bible study. No, not because the Words is hard to digest; when we read and strive to understand the Word, we are pondering and listening, and learning. Reading the Word, and understanding it, takes time – just like eating the crunchy vegetables sometimes takes time.
- The Fruit. You’re waiting for me to make some kind of lame connection to the apple, aren’t you? Instead, I’m going to point you to Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Packing a piece of fruit in our lunch reminds us that there are ‘fruits’ we gain from living a faithful life.
- The Chips. Let me be the first to say, this is a hard one for me. I often go overboard on chips. But adding chips to the meal brings a variety, and adds a bit of tasty salt to the mix. Wait – you ask – isn’t salt bad for you? Yes, it can be, but not the way Matthew uses it in The Message, MT 5:13. In that verse, Jesus says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?” Using salt – and chips – sparingly when we pack our lunch, that’s the key. We add chips and salt to flavor the rest of the meal – the worship, the bible study, the fruits of the Spirit.
- And finally, the Treat. This morning, I packed the Boy Scout Trail’s End brand of chocolate covered popcorn. Soon, I’ll switch to Girl Scout cookies. Often, I pack graham crackers and nutella spread. The lunch just isn’t complete without that last item. In comparison, I don’t think a life of faith is complete without relationships with other people. We read in Genesis 1:18 “It is not good that the man shall be alone.” And so God created humanity, and gave Adam a partner to share life, and it was only after God created humanity that it is written “and it was very good.”
That treat in the lunch is not meant to be eaten alone; when we live a life of faith, we want to share the joys of that life with others. We share by faith and by actions – loving others, serving others, loving God, serving God.
That’s what I call balancing a faithful life. And I think about it every morning, when I pack Jack’s lunch.