Thursday, June 12, 2008

Supplements

I keep all my vitamins and various supplements on a shelf in the kitchen. From time to time, my husband will ask, "How's the pharmacy?" He does not believe in taking vitamins. Thus, we have our own little science experiment going. I predict in about 30 more years, we'll know which one of us was right.

At the moment, I am dipping into seven different bottles everyday. One product I've been using, I have since decided is not having any significant effect. So when it runs out, I'll be down to just six. Two of the bottles I dip into twice a day; the others, only at breakfast.

I hatched the idea for this post many weeks ago. It has been lying dormant in my brain until now. Something about taking dose two of my supplements after dinner tonight brought me back to my original train of thought: Do most of us treat God as a supplement?

The word supplement implies or suggests something in addition to the norm that is meant to improve a present situation or condition. I supplement my diet with all those pills because I can't possibly consume all the vitamins and nutrients my body needs to be healthy.

Am I merely supplementing my life with God; or is he my life?

The Laws spell it out pretty plainly: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." -- Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus also identified this as the highest command. Matthew's 22nd chapter records the following exchange between Jesus and an "expert" in the law:

36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment.

We cannot keep the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me," if we treat God and our faith life as a mere supplement.

Presumably, I can do without the calcium and evening primrose and multi vitamin and glucosamine and alpha lipoic acid and ginkgo biloba, etc. I may not live life to its fullest potential if I do fore go them, but I would survive.

Is that how our relationship with God is?

If you were somehow banned or kept from having any contact with God, how long could you last? Would it feel like someone standing on your air hose? Denying you water or food? Depriving you of sleep?

I decided to browse each one of these questions. Here's some speculation and facts I discovered:

Oxygen: After about 3 minutes, our brain cells suffer significant effects from oxygen deprivation. Between 8-10 minutes, brain cells die.

Food: This is a tougher one to pinpoint because it is influenced by your overall health, fat content, metabolism rate, environmental temperatures, activity level, etc. Medical doctors usually cite 3-6 weeks without food before the body succombs to starvation. Terminally ill patients can live 10 days to 3 weeks without food. The average obese person can survive between 3 weeks and 25 weeks (!!) depending on their overall health. Prisoners of war have been documented to have lived 28-48 days without food. While in his 70's, Mahatma Ghandi survived a 3 week fast.

Water: Data implies that you can survive 2-10 days without water, but this is influenced significantly by exposure to the elements, overall health, shock and panic, food intake, etc.

Sleep: Most of us have pulled an all-nighter at least once in our lives, staying up for 24 hours straight. Speculation is a person can go for as long as four days without sleep. In carefully monitored experiments, several normal research subjects stayed awake for 10 days. While they all experienced cognitive deficits in memory, concentration, etc., none of them experienced serious medical, neurological, physiological or psychiatric problems. Total sleep deprivation in rats leads to death in around 28 days.

Now then, ask yourself: How long could you go without God?

More importantly, how long HAVE you gone without God?

I had a significant God "experience" when I was in middle school, ultimatley praying the prayer of salvation and presumably receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. As time went on, I became "latent" in my faith. In high school, I attended church occasionally (usually at my Dad's insistence to sing in the choir.) In college, I probably attended church 6 times in four years (not counting when I was at home for breaks). My faith became less important to me (or unexpressed) from the ages of 16 to 20, but still it hung in the back of my mind as something I couldn't dismiss entirely. My husband and I began attending church regularly before we were married, so that must have been around age 21 for me. We became fairly active in our church's activities and even tithed, although we lived like your typical starving college students.

When I was 23, a former roommate invited me to a multi-denominational Bible study she attended. This is when I became "serious" about my faith. I can still remember driving home from Bible study one night and having a Jacob-like talk with God, "OK, you win! If you will do this and that, etc., then you will be my God." I remember thinking that lightening should strike and the ground quake, but it didn't. It was a quiet conversion (or recommitment, I suppose I should say.)

Fast forward 22 years. How long can I go now without God? Let's see ... I went to church on Sunday. I read my Bible and prayed Sunday afternoon. I thought about praying Monday and Tuesday. Last night and this morning, I had brief conversations with God. That's pretty pathetic!

Has my faith life reached the point of being a supplement? Hmm ... I'm going to stay with "no." When I don't spend time with God, I start to feel anxious, and lonesome and uneasy. What I don't understand is why I sometimes choose to go without him for any significant period of time. Why do I do it? Why do any of us?

When I hit "publish," I should go sit in my rocking chair and pray. I should reconnect. Absolutely, I should. I never want my faith to feel like a supplement whose benefit and necessity I'm really not that certain of.

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