There is great comfort in having the words of our faith become so much a part of who we are, so familiar they roll through our minds and off our tongues effortlessly – wrapping themselves around us like a comfy sweater or quilt or our favorite jeans and t-shirt. But there is danger in them becoming too familiar – to the point where we find ourselves prattling through them mindlessly, with no thought or cognizance of what we’re really saying, sure we know all there is to know about what those words mean and why they matter.
Matthew 6:25-34 is the “consider the lilies/do not worry” passage. In the New International Version – the one I most often preached from – verse 33 reads “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Influenced by more than twenty years of studying that translation, every time I read or heard that passage I automatically thought, “Kingdom first!”
But over the weekend my friend Karen (find her on Instagram @karenmilioto) posted a reflection using Eugene Peterson’s modern language version: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-Provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
“I think my favorite part is the use of the word “steep” in the 33rd verse,” she wrote. “I love that word. It’s perfect.”
That word “steep” grabbed me too, showing me there is more to this passage than what I *thought* I knew, and, to take a page from Peterson, way more than one way to engage it.
What am I “steeping” myself in?
Because if I’m serious about putting the Kingdom first, what I pay attention to – and how – matters.
What, on any given day, at any given moment, am I wading into?
Where, and into what have I put down roots?
What do I dwell on, stew over, marinate in?
What is brewing inside of me?
What things have I “sunk my teeth into”? What am I “chewing on?”
What have I immersed myself in? Soaked up? Surrounded myself with?
What am I in love with?
What things – things I *thought* I knew, and knew all about – do I need to re-think, unlearn, or let go of entirely?
When I hit the “pause” button – when I put my life in “park” and still all the voices clamoring for my attention – what do my thoughts gravitate to first?
What am I steeping myself in? And how?
Is my attention focused? Undivided? Mindful? Is it scattered, diverted, selective?
Am I engaged, but grudgingly so? Is there anger or resentment or frustration or confusion bubbling under the surface?
Do I look past, sidestep, or pay lip-service to the repetitive, the mundane? Do I approach those tasks on “autopilot”?
Do I have “tunnel vision”– seeing only one thing or in only one way, to the exclusion of everything else?
Discerning what I “steep” myself in – what I give my time and attention to, and how I do that – reveals who I am and what matters most to me. Naming and owning what’s really there – not just what I *thought* I knew or what others expect of me – allows me to face it with honesty and integrity, and to make alterations as needed.
What are you “steeping” yourself in, Dear Reader?