What to Do To Get Your Vitality Back
There are intervals in life that are filled with intensity, seasons when we move and purpose and progress. We sow the hope and see the growth and collect the crop of our vigor. And then the earth tilts a bit and we cycle into whole spaces of indifference, like abandoned barns of apathy. In this place our spirits begin to nap without dreaming, lying in vacant, fallow fields.
When we receive the invitations for company and community we find good reasons to pass. When there’s collective efforts in service and study we offer excuses or don’t respond at all. It seems the rest of the world, the church, even our very homes are tending completely different terrains and rather than plow the fields with them, we slowly shuffle into a hole for our own hibernation.
What do you do when you witness your own dormancy? When you wish the words that once empowered you would enrich you again? When the motivation is mulched and the inclination toward God is an inertia you cannot expel? What do you do to get your vitality back?
Jesus saw this happening with the crowds and in Luke 14 he told a story about a dinner party. The invitations had already been sent, the music was on, the wine was chilling and when the clock struck the hour no one came. Time ticked away and the host eventually sent someone to go find their expected guests.
This is when the excuses came. “The game is on.” “I need some space.” “My family needs a home night.” After a second sweep of the community, the blind and the lame couldn’t even eat all the food. So the messenger had to plead and goad for people to enter the meal. There’s few things that breed disappointment like offering yourself and have no one really care.
The large crowds were feeling, “Meh,” and Jesus clued in. So, he begins with some barefaced challenges. “You want to be a disciple? Then show up for the dinner, leave the family and life that distracts you, carry your cross and follow me. Renounce power, possessions and passivity. Be good salt.” In every moment since he spoke them, we’ve been scratching our heads, wrangling with these words that were meant to rally us.
At the core of it, we have a choice between being salt or silt. Jesus says the salt is good but silt is useless. Salt was collected in the evaporation off the Dead Sea. “Since the water of the Dead Sea contains various substances, evaporation produced a mixture of crystals of common salt and carnallite; since the former crystallises out first, it is possible to collect relatively pure salt by fractional collection of the first crystals, but it would be easy to mistake crystals of bitter-tasting carnallite for salt, especially if contaminated with fine clay, etc. which would also produce a stale taste. Carnallite, or gypsum out of which the salt content had been dissolved way, would be ‘salt that had become tasteless.’”
Salt can’t lose its saltiness, but we can be eating what appears to be salt and get that effect. About sixty years after Christ, Rabbi Joshua Hananiah said, “Salt can no more easily lose its flavor than a mule can bear a foal.” It wasn’t the salt that was tasteless, it was the other substances that mixed with the salt. Eating a mouthful of silt doesn’t taste good at all.
Jesus is calling us to be salt. Salt is a preserver and an enhancer that brings out the flavor in food. It keeps the world from becoming parched and it makes our cells function properly. Salt has been used as a fuel catalyst and an antiseptic. Scientists are discovering that salt is necessary or we will die.
So how can you live more like salt?
Examine who you’re hanging with. In Jesus’ day salt was mixed with animal dung for fuel used in bread ovens. Over time, “the salt burned off its ‘saltiness’ and hence lost the required properties.” It was good for salt to be mixed with the waste. It had an effect that gave the waste some usefulness. Are you connecting with anyone who feels like an outcast? Offering yourself to them as a resource as they develop their own purpose can not only inspire them, but stimulate your own spark.
Identify what’s taking up your spiritual space. When Jesus said salt becomes tasteless, he might have been referring to “impurities in the beds by the Dead Sea from which salt slabs were taken or by inert fillers introduced by unscrupulous dealers.” What has seeped in and taken the place of your vitality? Start with those excuses you’re making and put those things in their proper place.
Give yourself a challenge. Jesus’ words are challenging in general, but how can you make them specific to you? Rather than be useless for either the soil or the manure pile, challenge yourself to remain in the game. Salt contains magnesium chloride and releases potassium in the soil. On its own it will kill your lawn, but it has a nourishing effect deeper in the soil. Maybe you’re ready for something deeper like mentoring, coaching or spiritual direction.
Realign your commitment. Jesus is saying here that the point is to be useful, not comfortable. It feels good to stay home and watch the game, eat pizza with the kids, and do your own thing, but disciples are called to glorify God. The word used for “tasteless” in Luke 14:34 is really the word “insipid” which means “foolish.” The church needs you to dig in. The world needs you to invest, but you’ve likely convinced yourself that your comfortable life is a worthy goal. According to Jesus, this is the heart of nonsense.
Jesus is inviting you into a life that is wholly different from the world around you, but that doesn’t mean you steer clear of the world. Rather, like salt, you need to mix in, give it some zing, water for its thirst, fuel for its fire. Evading your call detaches you from the movement that defines life itself. You are significant. It’s time to tilt back into life.