Growing up my mother, who can be a bit of a health nut, taught me a principle of grocery shopping: “shopping the edges.” If you picture in your head right now the layout of your familiar grocery store you can easily confirm that “the edges” are where you find your produce, fresh meat, in-house bakery, dairy, and natural organic free-range eggs. In other words, the healthy stuff. The aisles, on the other hand, are where you find all canned, boxed, processed, and frozen items, some of which have names that suggest that the manufacturers aren’t even aware of the true identity of the contents or, at the very least, they desire to hide it from consumers. The idea is that even though it typically costs more money and the expiration dates are much sooner on edge items (some aisle items are meant to get us through a nuclear holocaust, it would seem) shopping the edges is worth the expense and more frequent shopping trips, because the sustenance is more substantial for long-term health and well-being.
With the approach of tropical storm Isaac gulf-coasters are once again throwing around ominously familiar phrases like “cone of concern” and “3 day supply.” When Liz and I took part in the local Walmart raid to get our 3 day supply (back when we were in the cone of concern) I noticed a phenomenon. Virtually NO ONE was venturing to the edges. The general practice of what my mom taught me we should do was being abandoned. No one would dare stock up on milk or eggs or premium meat with the potential of a power outage and ruined fridge contents. The middle aisles were being ravaged. Liz and I were devastated to find that the only Ramen noodle flavor left in full supply was shrimp. And who could blame? Chicken, of course, was long gone. And, yes, even Spam was a hot commodity.
This experience got me thinking. As I stood in the crackers and cereal bar aisle I allowed a convicting question to steal my attention away from the BIG Cheez-its. What do I do when a spiritual hurricane hits the radar? What preparations, or more often reactions, do I make in order to weather the storm? And the answer hits me. I go for the Spam. I hate Spam! I’m not even sure what it is. But I eat…something, something quick and easy that is at least considered food in order to make it and keep going. I call to mind that memory verse (usually overgeneralized or out of context), I consider that $12.95 pop-Christian paperback on the New Item rack that is culturally relevant and promises to solve thousands of years worth of human dilemma, I say that token prayer, I read a chapter of scripture after which I have no idea what I read, and I hope that once the dust settles I can get back to shopping the spiritual edges. But spirituality is different. Faith is different. It isn’t about putting just enough spiritual gas in the tank of the soul to sputter to the next exit. Spiritual hurricanes are not just more frequent than ones in nature. I would argue they are constant, even if they may change. And instead of preparing a 3 day supply in case of a power outage, faith acknowledges that divine electricity is never in short supply, much less in danger of being knocked out. If anything, divine assistance is strongest when the storms are raging hardest.
I recall what Jesus did during the most ravenous hours of temptation, fasting and prayer. Instead of hitting the spiritual Spam, He clung more tightly to the disciplines. He kept to the edges. Do we?