Sad to say, the people who seem to lose touch with themselves and God most conspicuously are of all things ministers….Ministers give preeminence to all books the Bible whose absolutely central and unifying thesis is that God makes himself known in historical experience. In other words, a major part of their ministry is to remind us that there is nothing more important than to pay attention to what is happening to us, yet again and again they show little sign of doing so themselves. There is precious little in most of their preaching to suggest that they have rejoiced and suffered with the rest of mankind…what it is like to love Christ, say, or to feel spiritually bankrupt….Ministers run the awful risk…of ceasing to be witnesses to the Presence in their own lives….Their sermons often sound as bland as they sound bloodless….
(Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets, pp. 36-38)
I think he is right. It really is possible to ignore what God is doing in our lives. It is possible to ignore what God is doing in our lives as we walk with Him. It is possible to open the Bible and pay little or no attention to what God might want us to hear and how he might want us to respond.
Sometimes I think we are like people who come to a meal but never really taste or enjoy the food that is in front of us. This time of year, I like to grill. I often grill chicken, beef, or fish. Suppose I were to grill chicken one evening. We all sit down at our kitchen table to eat. We bow our heads to pray and just after the "amen" someone asks, "What are we going to eat tomorrow night?" Tomorrow night? We haven’t even tasted what we are about to eat tonight.
Yet, I think that ministers and other Christians can get into a similar mindset. A number of years ago, I was in my office working on a sermon. I do not recall the message. What I do remember is that I not only had that sermon to complete but I needed to start on another sermon and prepare to teach a Bible class. As I was preparing this sermon, it dawned on me that I was not really paying attention. I was not thinking about what God wanted ME to hear in this text. I was not suffering or rejoicing (as Buechner suggests above). I was not thinking about what God was doing in my life or what God wanted me to hear. Rather, I was thinking about the need to finish this message so I could get on the other two tasks.
This can be very dangerous. If I am not careful, I can find myself sitting at a nice meal that God has prepared for me only to be asking the question, "What are we going to eat tomorrow night?" I may never really taste what he has placed before me.
Is this a temptation just for preachers? Absolutely not! Anyone who has been a Christian for quite some time can easily slip into a mindset in which we take God for granted. If we are not careful, our time in the Bible each day can become something that we check off for the day, instead of a moment to taste what God might have in store for us.
Is any of this familiar to you? What have you found helpful so that you really "taste the food" in front of you? What has helped you pay attention to what God is doing in your life?