October 27, 2008

    “Living A Bite-Size Lifeâ€?
by Pastor George Van Alstine

We try to swallow life whole.  Through experience, we learn (or we’re supposed to learn) that we can’t digest that much.  Wisdom is learning how to take life in small bites.

Think about happiness, for instance.  It tastes good, so we want it continually, and we want all we can get.  Of course, we’re not equipped to handle so much sweet stuff, and we become nauseated from over-indulgence.  True happiness can only be savored in small bites, thoroughly chewed and swallowed slowly.  One of life’s most important lessons is to experience happiness in bite-size chunks.

And then there is sadness, happiness’ alter-ego.  Sadness can be seen as the absence of happiness, and happiness as the absence of sadness.  Sadness, too, can be nourishing, but only when we take it in small bites.  Too much all at once can make us gravely ill.  Wisdom teaches us that if we discipline ourselves to enjoy happiness in small bites, this tends to break up large blocks of sadness into bite size pieces.

Then look at Paul’s famous big three of 1 Corinthians 13– faith, hope and charity (love). We think of faith as a big leap we may some day be called on to take giant-killer faith,  or mountain-moving faith. But faith in small bites is what makes God’s work go forward, and it’s also what makes your life a journey upward toward his purposes for you. It’s the faith you often don’t even see as faith – the little decisions for good, the small steps into unknown territory, the tiny risks of trusting God – that fuel the engine of our spiritual life. Bite-size faith.

Hope also is best experienced in bite-size pieces. It’s fine to have an ultimate goal, a picture of what we can be and do, a high standard. But sometimes the distance between here and there seems immense, and we become discouraged. Discouragement is the opposite of hope, and it can kick the wind out of us. But spiritual wisdom will teach us to feel hope in small pieces, rather than in its most grandiose form. Yes, eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for his people. That’s our glorious destiny. Be we also need some mini-destinies near at hand – looking forward to a time with the family, anticipating Gospel Choir rehearsal, waiting for the answer to our prayer for a friend who is under the weather. These are examples of the bite-size hope that can keep us going from day to day.

Of course, love is also best experienced in bite-size pieces. I know we all have fantasies (and maybe a few memories) of great lavish feasts of love, as we share our deep mutual affection, with the one-and-only love-of-our-lives. But this is much more common in Harlequin romances than in real life. And if we do experience this kind of love, the next morning often brings other feelings. What’s more, the intensity of erotic love is just about impossible to maintain over time. So let’s  hear it for bite-size love – the smile of a baby, a special meal made by a wife for her husband, the offer of a stranger to give your car a jump-start, the sharing of a friend’s painful parenting problems, seeing a child you’ve taught in Sunday School go forward at the pastor’s invitation after the sermon.

Some people experience a dramatic conversion that radically changes their lives over night. Others grow spiritually, but in fits and starts, sometimes feeling high, then falling into a pit, with other mountains and valleys making up the pattern of their lives. I’ve noticed that the people who grow most consistently and surely into the image of Jesus are those who have learned the lesson of experiencing all of the Christian life in bite-size, digestible, nourishing pieces.