Food and drink
Over the years I have discerned that one quirky question to help people engage with the essential elements of their life is to ask ‘What is your food and drink?’ In other words, what are the activities that feed and revive: what animates and is made richer by the anticipation of this activity? If one reflects on this question and one’s answers to it, there is an opening up of the key relationships in life and creation and also an appreciation of God-given gifts and abilities.
My experience of asking people ‘What are your gifts?’ or the question that Jesus often poses, ‘What do you want?’, is that individuals are often struggling to come up with something coherent. But ask the ‘food and drink question’ and it is possible to uncover abilities and desires. Often these ‘feeding’ activities are expressed as hobbies: it could be photography or cooking, gardening or sailing. In spiritual direction it is important to make the connection between these times of nourishment and life in the Spirit. To make this connection can be revelation.
In all activity where people are fed with goodness, truth and beauty is the divine life. All things are created through the Word and this same Word is Christ. Christ speaks to us in and through all things. When someone is lost in their sewing, or weeding, or playing music, they are not lost to God: it is in this engagement of the active mind that room is made for more spiritual nourishment to take place. I believe that is why it is wrong when people categorize these activities as hobbies.
I have often remarked to people that ‘this isn’t a hobby, it is part of your vocation: it is a way in which the image of God in you is being restored.’ Jesus spent his whole ministry breaking down the barriers between the earthly and heavenly, the material and the spiritual. That is why sowing, sweeping, playing and cooking can reveal the kingdom of God. So often a deeper walk with Christ is found by recognizing that he is already present in the cricket club or the choral society!
Jesus has given his life to us to be ‘real food’ and ‘real drink’, and although this nourishment is found by his command in Holy Communion it does not mean to say that the thankful sharing of gifts in our pastimes and interests are not ways in which he is feeding us. When we recognize this to be the case, we find ourselves richly fed not just in our duties but in our joys. If you feel spiritually malnourished, look to your ‘hobbies’ as a first step to a feast.
Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House