“Mom, I never see you eat.”
My teenager leaned against the kitchen table and looked at me with concern.
I tried to laugh it off. After all, the extra 15 pounds I was carrying around indicated otherwise. “Oh, I eat,” I assured him. “You just don’t see me.”
That was it, of course. I ate—at the counter, cramming a cracker in my mouth as I packed lunches.
Or stealing a bite from the remains of someone’s breakfast as I ran the water for the dishes.
Mindlessly munching on a spoonful—or two or three—of whatever I was simmering for dinner.
I’d grab a coffee and a muffin on my way to an appointment, brushing the crumbs from my pants as I dashed inside.
So, yes, I ate. I gulped. Swallowed whole. Inhaled.
What I didn’t do was chew, Or taste. Or—certainly not—savor.
I’d known it was a problem for a while and had already been making an effort to slow down and be more intentional in my habits. But that particular day, my son’s words struck me deeply and stayed.
I’d been taking a course on praying with Scripture. We’d been reminded, again and again over those last few months, that the Word of God moves in us slowly. It’s reading cannot be rushed. We cannot cram it into our hearts like a cracker at the countertop or a muffin in the drive-through.
Released over time, the words must be held in us, by us, cradled and pondered and revisited again and again–until they dissolve into us and become part of us.
There’s a word for this savoring and slowness: ruminate.
Which comes from the Latin verb ruminare, or “to chew the cud.”
“Once we have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and ‘ruminate’ on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God,” writes Fr. Luke Dysinger., O.S.B.
Interesting, isn’t it? The same word is used for slowly digesting both food and spiritual sustenance.
“You set a table before me…”
And what was keeping me from enjoying my food (and my family at mealtime) was the same thing keeping me from enjoying the Lord: hurry. I wasn’t only cramming crackers (and antacids). I was cramming prayer.
I was putting lots of things on Post-its but not much in prayer journals. I was cutting corners and trimming minutes with the Lord to “get stuff done.”
God doesn’t mind a quick prayer on the run now and then. But it is in the sitting with, savoring—literally chewing on the Word—that it becomes part of us, changes us.
I was grateful for a teenager’s blunt observation that day,
He’d called me out.
He’d called me out so that I could cast out the quick and the tasteless and embrace the long and savory.
I think that moment in the kitchen was the first time in a long time that I actually exhaled. Humbled, I recommitted to what I knew to be true: the spiritual life is better as a sit-down dinner than a drive-through. And in both eating and praying, I needed to allow myself the necessary luxury of slow.
There are still days of hurry, days when I wish for minutes and have to make the most of moments. I’m not the only one who must creatively and joyfully balance the many demands of life and the call to be interiorly measured and unhurried.
But I’m blessed that the very people I hurry for are the very ones who remind me that they’d rather see me slow down once in a while. When we listen, we recognize the voices of prophets in our midst:
“Stop wearing out your feet and parching your throat!” (Jeremiah 2:25)
Image courtesy of Unsplash.