Friday, March 18, 2005

Spiritual Energy

I have been thinking about the concept of spiritual energy recently. The idea of it fascinates me, especially because I seem to find myself in short supply so often. I first started to think of it a few years back when I read this:

"And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." - Luke 8:43-36

Now of course this is a very moving story of the healing power of a woman's humble faith. The detail that struck me in this case though was the fact that Jesus felt power go out from him. Please indulge my technical side when I assert that this implies some kind of noticeable differential; in other words, there is a qualitative nature to the power that Jesus describes. (The fact that Jesus is the Son of God probably also implies that this power is replenished instantaneously, but you get the point.) Anyway I don't think I thought too much of this idea at the time, but over the years I think this idea has had an influence on the way my world fits together.

At times when when I would feel tired or lonely, one supposed explanation was that I "wasn't giving enough." That perspective typically develops from conclusions drawn from the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) and similar verses. While at the time it sounded like sage advice, there lingered the thought that there was a kind of clumsy quality to this conclusion. Even now as I read this scripture I can sense the formulaic equation itching to express itself — "If I give, I will be blessed," which easily turns into, "If I give, irrespective of my situation, I will categorically be blessed."

Anyway. I have since revised my perspective on this and tend to think of life as managing the elusive commodity of spiritual energy. All of life is spent deciding where to invest myself: time, money, attention, focus, heart. Some things will pay great dividends in the far future; others will reward earlier but not last as long. And some things simply seem to drain me without any payoff at all. Some activities require more energy than others. Some bring greater rewards than others. Ideally I will seek the activities/people/situations that encourage and foster and cultivate energy, and carefully prune those that do not.

With that perspective in mind, the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" takes on new meaning to me — that is, that giving produces greater rewards in the long run than simply receiving. I believe psychologists call this "delaying gratification." And what is the ultimate gratification but Heaven?

My conundrum then becomes this — what do I do when I don't have enough energy to find those things that replenish and restore that same energy? (Answer: sleep) As the saying goes, "It takes money to make money;" isn't same be true of spiritual energy? Certainly God's abounding grace and Jesus' example give us the "down payment" we need — but there are always challenges to seeing clearly enough to be able to experience them.

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