Spiritual Anorexia

“I get s0 busy that I forget to eat.”  For most of my life I haven’t been able to comprehend that sentence when it’s been said to me.  Sure, I understand the words.  It’s the concept that had no basis in my reality.  When I heard it, the only words that would ricochet around my brain were, “How in the world do you forget to eat?!?!”

In the past few years I’ve stopped questioning.  I’ve even let those words escape my lips a few times.  1:30 in the afternoon rolls around and I’ll start to wonder why I’m so crabby.  Then I’ll think and realize that it has been about 7 hours since I’ve had more than a cup of coffee.  Getting some protein into my system at that point makes a world of difference.  After some nourishment, the world seems to be a better place.  People are smarter and less annoying than they were moments before.  The insurmountable problems now have a path to the summit.  Getting fed is pretty important for my general outlook and for my well being.

What’s true for the body is true for the soul.  At least it is for me.  As much as my body needs to be fed, so does my soul.

Multiple times through the year, I listen to a talk on making sure my tanks are filled.  I tell people about it who haven’t heard it.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s a necessary and strategic part of thriving in both life and ministry.  I fail to do it more often than not.  I easily become spiritually anorexic because I forget to feed my soul.

I don’t use that term lightly.  I know anorexia is a serious disorder.  While God is gracious to keep me from the point of death, he doesn’t always stop me from starving myself.

Even when I’m on top of spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, and journaling, it’s not enough.  Even when I’ve been in church and at small group consistently, it’s not enough.  There are other parts of my soul that need to be fed.  Those are excellent things to do and places to be. They keep me from starving, but they’re not always enough to help me thrive.

Finding the places and activities that feed my soul beyond basic nutrition has taken me years to do in Colorado.  My go-to’s for soul care aren’t available or are in short supply here, but I’m learning new things.  Some of the things I’ve needed reminders of, others are new discoveries.  Here are some of the things I’ve discovered that help me thrive.

  • Crafts . . . I need to create.  When I take pieces and make a whole new thing that has beauty and perhaps purpose, I feel better about life.  It can be scrapbooking, card making, rubber stamping, coloring, quilting . . . or a myriad of other things, but there must be a creative element to it.  I get to create programs and lesson plans regularly, but this is different.  Recently I found Pinterest.  It’s kind of addictive, but the excitement that builds in me is palatable as I merely think of creating some of the things I see on there.  I can hardly wait to actually make more of them.  (If you think you might get a present from me for Christmas, your birthday, your baby or wedding shower–don’t try to find my boards on there.  Really.)
  • Splurging on a cup of frou-frou coffee.  I’m generally of the opinion that I can make a great cup of coffee at home for a lot less than it costs me to go out for one.  However, I’ve learned that there’s something very nice about buying an overpriced cup of coffee and sitting in a comfy chair while I read, journal or just watch the world go by.
  • Nature . . . I should be in it from time to time.  I’ll never be Nature Girl.  I appreciate the finer points of flush toilets and hot showers.  However, an occasional foray away from them (for a limited amount of time) is good for my soul.  I went leaf peeping in Rocky Mountain National Park a few weeks ago–it was rejuvenating.  While I miss the variety and richness of an East Coast fall; the Rockies have their own particular majesty that I’m learning to appreciate.
  • Order . . . ahhhhhh, that elusive concept!  I’ve learned I need it.  My life tends more towards organizational chaos than order.  I do well with chaos–to a point.  To really relax, order is becoming more and more important to me.  Clutter needs to be vanquished.  I’m moving home soon.  “Vanquish clutter and chaos!” will be my battle cry.

Those are my goals for vanquishing anorexia of the soul.  Feel free to ask me how they’re going in a few weeks.

What are you doing to feed your soul?

 photo courtesy of Columbine

FaithBaristaLLogo2I’m jamming with Bonnie and the others on the Faith Jam at faithbarista today.  Jump over and see what everyone else has to say about feeding their soul.  You know . . . after you leave some comment love.

11 responses to “Spiritual Anorexia”

  1. I am with you on the whole “forgetting to eat” idea: never understood it. As soon as I wake up in the AM, my first thought is, “what will I eat for bfast and how soon can I eat it?” And, once bfast is over, I start to think about what treats await me for lunch. Which is probably why I do more to maintain spiritual/soul nourishment in a healthy way than the physical?? (And also why I still need to lose that same 30 pounds?) The choices to enjoy nature, be alone, read a good book, watch an intriguing TV show to relax are MUCH easier for me to make than the wise physical food ones. I guess we all have our challenges in life and I really appreciate your willingness to share yours so publicly and with so much vulnerability! YOU nourish my soul! 🙂 Miss you.

  2. This resonates!

    To your points, I also feel very creative just looking at stuff on Pinterest. Love the recipes and finding new ideas to express culinary creativity.

    Splurging – be it on a coffee indulgence or whatever – is a very good thing. For me it’s a pedicure, which reminds me I am overdue!

    Aren’t we having an absolutely splendid fall in Colorado this year? — But yea, for sure, just ask this east coast gal; it doesn’t really compare. It’s different.

    Order – it’s so elusive, both in theory and practice.

    What’s really feeding me this fall is the Bible study I’m in. Hebrews– seems like it was written just for me for this season I am in. Love how God loves me through His Word. And travel is so good for me. As you well know, there’s nothing like that perspective gained from an overseas experience.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Hello Sheryl,

    Thanks for your comment on my post “Smoldering Eyes and a Neck that Smells of Toothpaste” about being the girl on the pew. I agree. I seem to vacillate between the pew and the altar. I love that our God is whispering his truth to our hearts, regardless of where we forgot and sat down. He loves you too dearly!

    Thanks for your above post. I rejeuvanate through hot coffee, journaling and my Bible, and the fresh outside air blowing around me.

    Jennifer Dougan

  4. Judy—that not forgetting to eat thing definitely has an effect on my waist line, too! Even when I put it off, I think it makes things worse. I know decision making isn’t my forte. So, I keep doing what I’m doing instead of doing something different too often. I keep working instead of taking a break. I push and push and push instead of refreshing. I eat the same thing over and over instead of trying something new–and probably better for me (except for the Doritos casserole recipe that I keep thinking about). Time with you (face to face or virtually) is very good for my soul. Miss you desperately. Don’t you need to come visit your brother? 🙂

    Shelley–I love pedicures! I splurge on one once or twice a year—because I can get 10 cups of coffee for the price of a pedi! You’re right–the two iterations of fall are like apples and oranges. Golden Delicious vs. Macintosh to be exact. Not the same thing. I marvel at people who don’t know anything besides order. I’m doing a study of Judges (at the moment) with a bunch of TCKs on line. It is refreshing to read and reflect with them. Thanks for reading!

    Jennifer–Thanks for stopping by again. I’m so glad we’re back in each other’s blogosphere again.

  5. I definitely struggle with spiritual anorexia, in several different ways.

    I’m really not very good, at all, at daily personal study. I can go weeks or even months without cracking my Bible. Few people likely realize this, because compared to your average Christian — even a very devout one — my Biblical knowledge is quite impressive. (Compared to my father, and compared to what I know I should be capable of, it is far from satisfactory.) Furthermore, I am very good at using that knowledge; I can reference several scripture references that relate to virtually any topic off the top of my head, instantly. I can roughly quote the verse, almost always tell you what book it’s found in, and often even cite the correct chapter of that book. All of this gives an appearance of constant, deep personal study that, most of the time, is not there.

    I have read every verse in the Bible at one time or another, and the New Testament and a handful of Old Testament books several times, but that does not mean that I currently read them regularly. My spiritual discipline, throughout the course of my life, has been an ongoing cycle of feasts and famines; in recent years, much more famine, with fewer and shorter feasts. It’s just that Scripture sticks with me. It always has. I can ready it once or twice, and I’ll remember it. I can instantly call to mind scriptures that are relevant to the issue at hand, I can remember the book and often the chapter, and I can even picture in my mind where they were on the page in my Bible — whether it was a left-side page or right, which column, and whether it was at the bottom or the top.

    And yes, I do have a rather deep knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, their contexts, and they way in which various books relate to each other. Part of that is because I’ve studied it at some point, and it sticks with me. A large part of it I have acquired by osmosis, being the son of a Bible scholar, and some of it comes from being a Biblical Studies major in college. Add to that the fact that I’ve always surrounded myself with people who like to discuss faith and scripture at a very deep level. Nathan Hale has been my best friend for 16 years; I was a youth pastor for a couple years, and spent a good chunk of each day in the pastor’s office talking faith and theology; my roommate at that time was a guy much like Nathan or myself; my close friend Randy from Bible college (whom I’m close enough with that we keep up regularly, even though he lives in the northeast — which is saying something, for me) still calls to just talk for hours at a time.

    All of it has contributed to a strange personal dichotomy: On the one hand, I feel like my faith is quite deep and mature, and I have uncommon Biblical and theological knowledge and understanding; and yet, on the other, the personal practice of spiritual discipline is almost entirely lacking from my life, to an extent that would surely surprise those who know me in a Christian context, but who don’t live with me. I suppose the way I grew up contributed to this to a degree. With Bible class four morning a week from seventh grade through graduation; and with friends like Nathan, Yohan Cho, Rachel Fort, Abby Conkle, and even Daniel Clouser and Ruben Eagleton, not to mention my parents, with whom I spent countless hours talking about faith, religion, theology, philosophy and the meaning of life; even when I wasn’t engaged in regular personal study and devotion, there was no shortage of spiritual stimulus, discussion, reflection, and learning. The lack of personal spiritual discipline was something I was aware of, but not necessarily something I felt the effects of.

    That’s harder, now. It’s not always easy to find people like Nathan or my roommate in Oregon. Over the last several years, I’ve rarely had that, and the absence of continued study on a personal level has been much more pronounced. My wife is freakin’ amazing, and is finding herself wanting to engage in spiritual discussion more now than she used to, because of me — but the kinds of spiritual discussions I like to get into just drive her insane.

    In the back of my mind, whenever I think of spiritual things, is my dad, who is a constant reminder to me of the depth of knowledge and understanding I am capable of. At the moment, that reminder is mostly a frustrating one, because I’m not even close. And I’m not doing anything about it. I’m coasting. The biblical knowledge and understanding I currently have, and the fact that in most Christian contexts it makes me the most spiritually knowledgable person in the room, create a false sense of spiritual maturity, and most of the time I seem willing to be satisfied with pretty good. Not that I am satisfied with that, in terms of my internal desires; and yet, what one does reflects ones true desires and priorities, and my actions (or inaction) seem to suggest that spiritual stagnation and apathy are things I’m often okay with. My laurels aren’t too shabby; I’m good with that.

    I struggle also in the areas you mention, though. There is much that I want to do. I want to play, write and record music, the way I used to, but I hardly touch my guitar except on Sunday mornings, and I can’t remember the last time I even attempted to write a song. I want to READ — I want to read every great book that was ever written! I want to study history, and philosophy, and literature. I want to read “the classics” — every last one of them. I want to write. I want to continue my education, go back for a Masters and beyond. I want to go outside, be active, enjoy the nice weather, the grass and the tries and the blue sky and the rain. I want to learn a couple different computer programming languages that will enable me to create iPhone applications (I have a couple ideas that I think could really be worth something). I want to learn to cook healthy, delicious food, and I want to make full, home-cooked meals a regular thing in my house.

    Instead, I watch TV and waste time on Facebook and browsing the home page of Pinterest, and various other rabbit trails across the internets — many of which are quite interesting, even worthwhile, but aren’t anywhere near the top of my intended priority list. I get to very little of the above.

    I am a spiritual anorexic. And it makes me wonder what life could be, if I was who I could be, because even despite my complete failure to be the me I should be, I love my life. I’m a happy, optimistic person (take that, former ICA staves who saw me as depressed and negative!), and I feel like life is pretty good. How awesome could it be if I was anything close to what I have the potential to be. My “living” is pretty enjoyable; my “thriving” ought to be incredible.

    Okay, I’m done. Hey, how do you get a Pinterest account? I signed up to receive an invite, but they have yet to send me one. Is there a secret? It’s so awesome!

  6. Im impressed, I have to say. Pretty rarely do I come across a blog thats both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, youve hit the nail on the head. Your weblog is crucial; the issue is one thing that not enough persons are talking intelligently about. Im seriously content that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this problem.

  7. This is a wonderful description for feeding my soul. I’m going to ask myself when I’m crabby if I’m experiencing spiritual anorexia.

    I love your list of soul foods. So great!

    My list is almost the same as yours. Creating and Nature are my definites.

  8. Wow. Josh.

    I’m a little overwhelmed by your raw honesty. That’s one of the reasons I love you, though–you don’t hold back. You never have–at least not with me (as far as I know, anyway).

    First of all, let me say I can relate to so much of what you’ve said. So much. If it weren’t for being a leader on an online bible reading/discipleship thing with some of the kids I’m working with, I doubt I would’ve read much of my Bible in the last few months. It’s not something I’m proud of. Like you, I’ve a wealth of Bible knowledge and principles stored in my brain and heart. I’ve read through the Bible 3 or 4 times. (Which really isn’t saying much–with all the other books I’ve read, if I were just reading the Bible I should’ve been through it 30 or 40 times.) I’m not good at personal study, though I want to be.

    As I read through some of your frustrations and your history, one thing kept coming to mind—something that I’m guilty of myself–it’s easier to talk about the Scripture and God’s principles than it is to actually read them and study them. You’re right—it’s a discipline issue. And mostly to my detriment, discipline is not one of my strengths. So–here’s my challenge to you on that point. Ready? Make it a priority to read and study with Anna every week. Have two date nights a week—one for study and one for fun. Choose something on the “easier” side to start with. I’m not sure what that is . . . though I’d recommend Judges–it’s kind of comic book like in some ways. I don’t think you can go wrong with starting with the Gospels either. Anyway–decide on a book. Decide on how many chapters a week you’re going to read. Get together to discuss it somewhere out of the house–your favorite cafe or yogurt place or the library or wherever. It will give you a little accountability. It will give you some growth time together. I can’t imagine there’s anything really flawed there. Your parents are near you now, aren’t they? Maybe this is something you and your Dad could do together, too. He would be an AMAZING person to do a Bible study with!

    As for all the other things you want to do . . . that just takes the gumption of tackling one thing at a time. Putting that classic in your messenger bag or on the bedside table. Deciding to read one chapter a day. (I can rarely read just one of a book that I love. With Dickens, though getting through one chapter is often a chore!) For writing, set an alarm for 10 minutes and just write every day. You can find 10 minutes. As for me, I’m seriously considering canceling my TV and internet . . . I know I get more done when I don’t take advantage of them. I have an antenna on my upstairs TV. I know when my internet was down for months, I got so much more done at home. Of course a lot of that was reading, but still–I didn’t get sucked into the nothingness that can be the internet. I haven’t completely committed to it, but I think I’m going to try to make one new meal a week when I move back home. The problem of cooking for one–you eat what you make for a very long time. Anyway, I’m with you. I want to do more and just sit less. I want to read some of the 900 books on my kindle. I want to create.

    I don’t want to just be busy; I do busy well. I want to do things that are healthy for mind, body and soul.

    Want to check up on me in 6 weeks or so and see how I’m doing? I’ll ask you if you want. I want to see you succeed. You are such an amazing man. You’re better than being a couch potato. I love you.

    Oh—did you get your Pinterest invite yet? I think it took about 2 days for me to get one.

  9. Edyth–thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I hope you come back next week!

    Soul–Leaf peeping–being a tourist to see the leaves changing colors. Maybe it’s just a term from the Northeast.

    Jeri–Thanks! It’s true–crabbiness should lead to self examination. Sadly, it often takes me a while to get there. It’s good to know there are others who think similarly. I did enjoy your post yesterday. 🙂

  10. No, I’ve never held back with you, Miss O. But then, you never made me feel as though I needed to—and I’m sure you can appreciate how unusual that was, in that context.

    You’re right: For me, at least, it certainly is easier to talk about Scripture and God’s principles than to actually read and study them. That’s not to devalue that kind of spiritual activity and growth, as I have found it to be truly powerful and profound. However, at the risk of sounding like a Buddhist, I think that balance is critical. The element of personal study is vital; otherwise, I suspect (from personal experience) that the result may be a faith that is strong in community, but personally weak.

    Discipline is a huge issue for me. It’s something I’m still trying to learn, and only succeeding but very slowly. I think it is one of those critical skills we learn as children, but I kind of circumvented that. I didn’t need to be disciplined in having daily homework and study time. I played all the time, and threw things together at the last minute (in the class before, or during a free period, or occasionally the night before), and it was good. I didn’t take notes. I didn’t really study for tests. Miss Urban used to tell Nathan and me that procrastination made very flexible people, and that I am, but there’s a downside, too. I remember telling Stacie, one day during our senior year when she was giving me a hard time for acing a test without really studying for it (in one your AP Lit class, I believe) that she was better off than me—she had study skills, personal discipline, and I did not. Sooner or later, we’d get to college, and I would need those study skills and discipline that I did not have. I wasn’t wrong, either. It took me eight years and two drop-outs to get my diploma.

    Discipline is still hard for me. My wife’s older brother, David, is perhaps the hardest working person I know, except perhaps his sister (my wife) and his mother, from whom they both get it. It’s a character trait I admire tremendously, but one I only share in the most favorable of contexts. It was not something I learned much of, in those years when learning things came so easily, and I’m finding that this dog doesn’t learn new tricks as easily as it used to.

    I accept your challenge. I’ll be thinking of how to approach it, and talking it over with Anna. She (the hard-working one) is both working and going to school, and we’re doing a Bible study at church that has a lot of weekly reading (okay, so it’s daily reading—see previous paragraph). But I like your idea, and it would certainly be good for us to do more together, spiritually. I can’t see how it could be anything but immensely positive for our marriage.

    My parents are in town, though we only see them every few weeks. That’s just kinda how my family is (and it is a big town — it’s about a 25-30 minute drive to get there). My dad is very busy, but there are some things I’ve been wanting to go through with him. I’ll admit, there’s one area in Scripture in particular in which I’m rather weak, and it just so happens to be his most brilliant strength: the prophets. My sister and her husband just moved down here (another 30 half hour to the other side of my parents)… and I don’t know if we could make it happen, but it really would be amazing to do a family Bible study every couple weeks, or even once a month, or something.

    As for the rest, I believe I need to become more structured. You know, it’s interesting… when I was young, I always scored highly unstructured and spontaneous (P) on the Myers Briggs test. This is mainly because I was highly messy, did not keep a schedule, was not particularly punctual, did not take notes or have any kind of study routine, etc. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my preference is much the opposite of that. I love order and structure; I crave it. I am very much a J. But I inhale violently at it. It’s strange. I want to be a P, but I’m terrible at it; I’m really not a J, but in some ways at least, I’m pretty awesome at it. But I need to be more structured. I need to set aside time for the various things I want to do, and do them during those times.

    I will check in with you in six weeks, and please do the same with me. I’ve set a reminder on my iPhone for six weeks from today. Also, I know you’re busy, but I’m going to try to write more—so any time you have a chance, if you want to pop in and be my long distance English teacher, I know I’d benefit from a push, or direction, or criticism, or whatever you’ve got for me. I miss being in school, and your classes especially; I’m afraid I didn’t come anywhere close to taking advantage of my education, and now it’s much harder to be a student than it was when that was my full-time job description.

    By the way, I did do the assignment you gave me (which I pieced together from your comment here, and this one) before coming back over here to comment this afternoon. Day 1: fairly successful.

    And nope, I haven’t received a Pinterest invite yet. I requested one over a week ago. I think I’ll try again.

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