12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)
First Sunday in Lent
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
The first step of God-helped action Paul advises is to make an offering to God of our “walking-around life.” Not our “spiritual” life, or our “hearts,” in the sense of some inner part of us distinct from the rest of our lives. Yet it is just this sort of “spirituality” that most of us learned growing up in the church!
We have “Uncle” Plato to thank for this. Yes, that Plato, the great ancient philosopher. He and his followers taught “dualism.” That is, there is a material realm and a spiritual realm in reality. The latter, inward and immaterial, is the higher, eternal aspect of our lives. We must nurture it and try to minimize the pull of the material (physical, bodily, inferior) realm on the growth and development of the “spiritual” part of us. Some version of dualism has been part and parcel of the Western tradition, including Christianity.
Paul will have none of that, however. He’s a Jew, and Jews are resolutely “creational.” Life is a unity. Humans are embodied souls or ensouled bodies (however you want to put it). Some have said that our bodies are the “face” of our souls. At any rate, they don’t buy the idea that we have some inner aspect to us apart from our bodily life in the world that we are to nurture and tend as the real, “spiritual,” part of us that will outlast our bodies and become the “eternal” form of our existence.
Nope, life is just life. Everything that makes us who we are. And all of that, whatever shapes our lives, is spirituality. Work, school, and home, how we welcome and offer hospitality to others (or not), how we spend our money, share our resources, raise our kids, care for the elderly, vote, serve our communities, how and who we are when no one is looking and when the spotlight shines on you, all this and more is the arena of soulcraft. Going to church, praying, reading the Bible are both a part of that life and (hopefully) decisive influences on it. That, this “walking-around life” is what we offer to God to make of what he will. God does not want are religious exercises. He wants a faithful living of life in all its fullness.
That’s the life God can and will use. A life Lent pushes us toward. Will we allow ourselves to be pushed here this Lent?