Recently, I went out with some of the other brothers on our very own food trail. We had a great time and we all went home happy and full…but since this is not a food blog, I shall not bore everyone with the details.
Eating is a national pastime and everyone has their own favourites – the “best” char kway teow or hokkien mee or mee pok, etc. Every time we go out with our friends or families, we inevitably end up at a place where we can eat, be it a full meal or just some snacks. Eating can be a wonderful bonding activity – it gives people a great excuse to meet up and from there, to get to know one another better. On the other hand, food can also be a contentious affair, with people arguing over whether the nasi lemak at Chong Pang or at Boon Lay is nicer. In a sense, food, for the Singaporean, is life. Or at the very least, it constitutes a large portion of life and in some respects, it can be analogous of our spiritual lives.
Whenever we go on a food trail, one comment that I hear quite often and that I have said myself as well is, “standard drop…last time nicer.” With that comment comes a tinge of disappointment and a sense of longing – longing for the good old days. Now, I have a confession to make. Sometimes, if I am honest with myself, I must admit that I actually cannot remember exactly how the particular dish tasted like in the past, it just seemed to me that it was better than what it is today. But if I were to put that aside, I realise that the present meal also fills me with a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction, that I am happy with what I had just eaten.
This reminds me of two important things in my walk with the Lord. The first, is that of the danger of nostalgia or of dwelling too much in the past. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Screwtape Letters, once said “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” Our God is not a God of the past, a relic of our imprecise memories, only vaguely remembered. Neither is He a God of the future, someone to be pined for but unreachable in the current reality. He is a God of the Present and it is only in the present that He is real to me, right now and right here. There are times when I look at my current spiritual state with a certain dissatisfaction, because it does not seem to be as “good” as it was in the past. Or that I felt God was much closer to me then than He is now. However, that trend of thought does nothing for me in the present. Just as the memories of the “best” chicken curry I have ever eaten cannot fill my stomach, so the memories of my past God experiences alone cannot fill my being. The trick then, is to focus on the present, on the here and now.
The second thing that I am reminded of is the need for an ever-growing simplicity in my life. Once I get pass the past – of how good that so-and-so food used to taste, and focus on what is before me, I begin to really enjoy whatever dish is before me. The thing about food trails is that while they can be rewarding and really enjoyable, they can also be tiring and can lead to indigestion! So, instead of travelling far and wide in search for the best prawn noodles or braised duck rice or that “to-die-for” salted egg crabs, I sometimes find that the bak chor mee that I can get from the humble coffee shop a stone’s throw from where I am is the “best” bak chor mee. In my spiritual life as well, I find that when I stop pining for the fireworks or searching for the emotional highs, it is then that I can truly enter into prayer, simple, but deep prayer. And that, in itself, is a form of enjoyment and satisfaction far surpassing whatever food I can find.
By Br Justin Yip