One of my kids picks her nose. I don’t want to write her name here because I don’t want this information to live on the Internet forever and ruin her chances of getting into a good university.
I have another child who eats crayons. “No, little buddy,” I remind him. “We eat food, not crayons.” He spits out the colorful chunks of wax and cries.
One morning while I was reminding my daughter of what she should and shouldn’t eat, I realized something.
We’re not too different from kids who eat things that aren’t food.
Out of habit we feed our souls with seemingly harmless stuff. Most of the time it’s mindless; we don’t even realize we’re doing it until someone mercifully points it out.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:2).
Seeing and savoring God is the only way to satisfy our souls. David confessed in Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” In the desolate wilderness of a fallen world the only place we can find what our souls crave is in God himself. But out of habit we reach for that which is not bread and things that fail to satisfy us.
Where I live in the Arabian desert we drink bottled water because the tap water isn’t reliable. We keep 5-gallon water coolers upstairs and downstairs so we can have access to clean water. Each of those water coolers comes equipped with a little plastic container to catch the stray drops of water that leak when someone draws a cup of water. These little containers need to be cleaned regularly because the stagnant water mixes with dust and other sundry items and starts to smell.
Imagine that you come into my house and you are exhausted from the desert heat. You are so thirsty that you feel dizzy and you’ve started seeing spots. It’s obvious to me that you’re close to being dehydrated, so I give you a cup and urgently direct you to the nearest water cooler. But instead of drawing a glass of cool, clean water you take the plastic grill off of the container that catches the leaks and you chug it. You drink the dusty, grimy, stagnant water with a metallic film and choke down the missing Barbie doll shoes that someone stashed in there.
Yet this is what we do to our souls when we fill them with junk from the standing puddles of a stagnant well. We also neglect to drink our fill of God’s living water. “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
Like a dog that returns to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11), I go back to the same broken cisterns to fill up on things that don't satisfy. When I'm unsure of myself then I manipulate people to gain their affirmation. When I'm anxious then I emotionally eat. When I'm insecure about my skills as a mom then I gloat over my children's accomplishments. When I'm impatient and selfish with my time then I nag my husband.
And none of these solutions really work. My temporary fixes at broken cisterns are painfully short-lived because my soul craves so much more. Only God can satisfy my soul.
It’s time to spit out the useless non-food and train ourselves to eat food that will nourish our souls. David said the answer to his soul’s thirst and his body’s frailty was in seeing and savoring God himself. “So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory” (Psalm 63:2).
We see God’s power and glory revealed explicitly in his word, the Bible. In God’s word we can read about the steadfast love of the Lord that is better than any enticing crayon that comes our way.
Feeding on Rich Joy
Next time I catch one of my kids with a non-food item headed toward their mouth then I want to remember this. By God’s grace, I want to be aware of when I’m mindlessly filling my soul with things that don’t satisfy. Then I want to purposefully engage my heart, mind, soul, and strength in feasting on God’s love revealed in his word.
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” (Psalm 63:5–7).