This past weekend, my husband and I babysat my nephew, Charlie, for a few hours.
Charlie is about 16 months old and his oral communication in general consists of words like “ball,” “up” and “dog.” Yet, his limited vocabulary did not stop him from saying something that surprised both of us.
As we pushed his stroller to the end of our drive, Charlie began singing to himself. As a toddler, you might expect him to sing a simple song designed for his age or a song of his own creation. Yet after he sang for a few seconds, I stopped and asked my husband if he heard the same thing I did. He had.
We both clearly heard Charlie singing the beginning of “Amazing Grace.” I was amazed. I later asked my sister-in-law about this. She said she sings it to him almost every night but that she had not heard him sing it. Charlie, at this young age, is already sharing what he is taking in.
I believe we give little thought to what we take into ourselves. We often do not think about how what we choose to take in impacts our bodies and spirit. We all know that eating too much unhealthy food results in weight gain, high blood pressure and other health issues. Yet we are somehow surprised when the doctor tells us that we have those negative conditions. What we put into our bodies matters. If you put junk in, you should expect junk out.
We are surprised enough that bad health habits result in bad health. We are downright shocked that the other things we take in throughout our days and lives matters to our spiritual and emotional health. That when all we take in is negative, hateful, violent or just worthless, we find that what we experience and what comes out is not what we hoped for. If you put junk in, you should expect junk out.
Recognizing and making appropriate changes to what we put in ourselves is part of Lent. Too often, our culture focuses only on the physical things like less soda and less fat. I do not believe this should be the reboot of New Year’s resolutions which have already fallen to the side. Lent is about recognizing our own shortcomings and whatever we are allowing to stand between who we are and who God calls us to be.
And God does not want junk. God has called each of us to live a life of love, faith and hope. In order to live such a life, we need to be putting into ourselves what brings us health and vitality. We should be studying Scripture, praising God in worship, helping others and taking time to communicate with God in prayer if we want a healthy spirit.
Further we should seek out spiritual disciplines that speak to each of us. Spiritual disciplines are activities that help us develop our spiritual life and are means to receive God’s grace. Spending time in nature, yoga, fasting, silence or confession are just a few examples of spiritual disciplines. There are spiritual disciplines that are right for you and that will feed your soul.
God is reaching out to all of us with love and grace through Jesus Christ. God is offering us a better version of our lives through grace but we need to make the effort and the choice. When you put grace in, you can expect grace out.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! Already my nephew is taking in the grace of God. What are you taking in? If the answer is not grace, then consider what you should stop taking in and what you should replace it with. Easter is just around the corner and we all should prepare ourselves for that day by putting grace in and expecting grace out.
Elizabeth Ortiz is the pastor at Kilbourne United Methodist Church.