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~ A Spiritual Food Pyramid - Part 1 ~

Are you familiar with the traditional food pyramid advising us how best to eat for physical nourishment? What if we designed a “spiritual” pyramid to feed our souls?  What would it look like?  If we go to the Bible we can find the sections that might fill up this kind of pyramid.

The bottom or base of the pyramid might be filled with the word “love”.  And instead of taking it, we give it.  But, how much do we need to give?  Again, looking at Scripture we find the answer:

    Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
    Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)
    Faith, hope and love; and the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13)
    Love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22)

It is easy to love those that love us, but God challenges us to a higher calling:  “Love those that persecute you.”   This is much more difficult.  But, it is THIS kind of love that changes lives.  Remember the time that your best friend hurt you?  Maybe she told another person something that you had said in the strictest of confidences?  Maybe he said he’d help you and then was unavailable when you needed him?  Maybe she or he blamed you for something that you didn’t even do, and she or he wouldn’t even listen to your explanation.  Remember how it felt?  It hurt, didn’t it?  You felt angry, and cheated and you wanted to tell them how you felt, right? 

But, what if we handled the situation with love instead of selfishly thinking of ourselves? When our friend came to us feeling sorry for his actions, knowing that he failed us and knowing how he deserves to be treated, I wonder what would have happened when he began to ask our forgiveness and we said, “Shhhh!  You are my best friend and I love you unconditionally. There is nothing to forgive.”  I am almost certain that our friend’s love for us would grow by leaps and bounds, would it not? That’s what happens when we love in a situation where anger and hate might be the usual response.  The world changes and so do our hearts. 

Have you ever felt really good about yourself?  Usually these feelings occur when we do something for someone else.  In my life, I have never felt more love than when I gave it unconditionally instead of responding with anger or hate.  My world changed along with the other person’s.

As we go through the day’s events, let us consider responding with love at times when other emotions are expected or even perhaps deserved.  And be prepared to feel love like you’ve never felt before. Today is a very good day to change the world, one heart at a time.

As we consider another quality that would give us a healthier soul we just may find forgiveness next in our pyramid. How does forgiveness make us healthier in a spiritual sense?

    Forgive and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37)

 If we think about all of the mistakes that we have made in our lives such as misjudgments, untruths, and poor decisions, we begin to realize how much we require God’s forgiveness.  And we are told that as much as we forgive others, so too, are we forgiven.  Are there any of us that do not require forgiveness?  Why, then are we so reluctant to forgive? 

The answer lies in our humanity.  When we are hurt, we think about ourselves and we are introspective.  If we can remove ourselves from the hurt and look at the larger picture, one that includes the number of times we, ourselves, have hurt others, then it becomes easier to give forgiveness.  There is a song by Tim McGraw that has a line that I like.  It says, “I loved deeper, spoke sweeter, and gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”  The key in forgiving others is to realize that we have the choice to forgive or not to forgive and that what we do in each circumstance, begins to create a pattern of behavior.  If we choose not to forgive people who hurt us over and over again, it becomes more difficult to break the habit.  We have to consciously try to change our reactions and that is hard. 

But what are the rewards for this change in behavior?  The earthly rewards include feeling a deeper sense of love from those that we forgive and a feeling of joy that isn’t easily shaken, simply from knowing that we could have chosen the easier route of not forgiving.  We chose the route that we are called to take as Christians.  And always, when we are obedient to God we feel a deep sense of joy; the joy is derived from the blessings that God pours out on us as a result of being obedient.  That joy is far more satisfying than any sense of satisfaction that we think we feel when we hold back our forgiveness of others,  out of resentment.  It isn’t easy. 

Take for example the parents of the child that is murdered.  He was going into a store and noticed a person getting beaten and went to help.  In the process he was shot and killed.  He was their only child and only 22 years old.  How, as parents, could we go on?  How could we survive the pain of losing our only child? What could we do to survive this event? 

I read a story about two parents who did experience this ordeal.  They cried, hated and yelled. “How could this happen to our sweet son?” They were hurting so badly that they did not know what to do.  So, they prayed.  They prayed for God to take their own lives, so that they did not have to live through the pain.  They prayed that God would take revenge on the person who did this heinous crime. They did not stop praying.  But, God did not take them out of this world.  Instead, he gave them a reason to live.  He told them that they had the ability to change the world by using the experience they had.  He told them that He, too, lost His only Child.  He told them how the death of His Son changed the world and that that was what He wanted them to do, to take this unbearable experience and turn it into a “world changing” event.  And that is exactly what they did.

They stopped crying.  They stopped yelling.  They stopped cursing.  A sense of peace settled over them, a peace that they never thought they would be able to feel again.  They set up the meeting.  They didn’t sleep the night before.  They picked up the phone to cancel the meeting several times that morning, only to replace the phone on the hook.  They got in the car.  They drove to the prison.  They prayed and asked God to give them the strength they needed to accomplish this task.  And they met with the person that killed their son.

They told him about their son, and how he loved to water ski and to play basketball with his friends. They told him of their son’s dream of one day becoming an architect and building a new church in their town.  They told him of the pain, of the emptiness, anger and hate that consumed them. They told him of the desire to be taken out of this world because they could not bear the pain. And they told them how they prayed to God and asked for his help.  They told him what God had told them about losing His own Son. They told him what God had asked them to do.

And then they forgave him.  And they asked for nothing in return.  Their only wish was that he would honestly feel their forgiveness.

That’s when it happened.  That’s when the world changed.  That’s when the murderer’s heart broke into pieces.  That’s when he talked to God for the first time in his life.  That’s when he made the decision.  A decision that he never regretted.  He decided to give his life to God that very day. 

That’s what forgiveness does.  It changes the world.  And the parents?  They no longer wished to be taken from this world, for they have so much still left to do.  You see, the parents of the person who murdered their son sent them a letter.  It was a beautiful letter, thanking them for “bringing their son back to them and back to God”.  That’s when the parents who lost their son realized that forgiveness can change the world.  The world of those around us, and our own world as well.  Is there someone that we need to forgive in our lives?  Today is a very good day to change the world, one heart at a time.

Anita M. Benna
Guest Contributor

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