As I write, the sun is streaming through the blinds of my study, warming my desk and fingers. The study window faces south. Because it is winter, sunlight only makes it through that window during a certain time of day—the morning. And in the morning, with the sun on my back and a full night’s sleep behind me, sin has no hold on me. Virtue and Christian discipline are more desirable than immorality when I have a cup of Folgers coffee in my hand and an early bird singing on a limb outside.
But if it was a Friday evening; I was alone, and I had worked a full week and lost some sleep, sin would be crouching at my door. Furthermore, I would be tempted to let it in! For some strange reason, vice looks more attractive in that light (twilight) and those circumstances than at dawn. The same sins condemned by the morning-me are entertained as pleasurable options by the evening me.
It is just a fact that I have done most of my sinning when I have not had enough sleep. It is also a fact that I have been most virtuous when I have had ample and peaceful sleep. I do not believe there is anything inherently good in a morning and inherently bad in a night, but I do believe how we order our physical lives directly affects our spiritual lives. For example, maybe simple toast and butter with a small cup of coffee can prepare us for Sunday morning worship better than a sweet apple toaster strudel and chocolate milk; maybe the opposite. Maybe a two mile run will prevent a lustful action better than two hours in a book on the subject; maybe the opposite. Maybe, sometimes, a nap is the most spiritual thing to do; maybe, sometimes, the opposite. Maybe, once in a while, a walk in the green countryside on a spring day and some fresh air will bring the Psalms of David to life more than all the best commentaries on those verses; maybe the opposite. Maybe coffee can increase our retention during Bible reading; maybe the opposite.
I am starting to sound like Thoreau, Wordsworth, Emerson and the other transcendentalists. I do not want that! Nature is no replacement for good hard Bible study; a nap is no replacement for prayer, and a good diet is no replacement for spiritual discipline. No! They are not replacements, but they can be supplements. I only request that we recognize there is cause and effect between physical choices and spiritual outcomes. For myself, one of the best ways to avoid imminent sin is a nap; another is a conversation with my good friend, Matthew Paden or my brother, Phillip. One day in London, God used a head cold to keep me away from a dreadful sin which my will was not strong enough to resist. That cold was one of my most profound spiritual experiences.
Thinking this way has many benefits. It breaks down that terrible wall of separation between sacred and secular that has been built up by centuries of latent platonism. It makes it impossible to believe that fifteen minutes of daily Bible study and two hours at church each Sunday make up a spiritual life. Indeed no. Our spiritual lives consist of myriad daily choices: meals, conversations, books to read, trains to take, naps, walks, games, music—each one affecting our Theology and relationship to the I Am. That is the beauty of the Law of Moses. Every area of life was addressed as having spiritual repercussions. We project our platonic nonsense upon the Pentateuch and suppose we are the more spiritual for being the less enthralled with the physical, but we are wrong. We are no longer under that particular law, but its undergirding assumptions hold true. It matters very much what we do.
R. Eric Tippin
In “The Study” on 8th Street
January 21, 2013