Did you ever get hold of an idea that just kept spinning around in your head - no matter how much you tried to put it out of your mind, you just kept gravitating back to it? Isn't that so annoying? You just think on it over and over again - sometimes even waking in the wee hours of the night with the same thoughts going through your mind you tried so hard hours before to shut off! Some call this preoccupation - others might call it obsession. Either way, they both sound a little ominous! One of the things I have come to realize is the power of holding ideas in our heads which may not be totally "sound" or "trustworthy". In fact, when we do, we sort of "hang our hat" on these ideas and find our "hat rack" a little wobbly!
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. (Galatians 5:25-26 MSG)
Paul's message rings clear today - we cannot just hold the "idea" of Christianity in our heads - it must be manifest in our actions. It is more than a sentiment. Sentiment is really just another word for some deeply held or experienced emotion. In other words, we are relying upon the feeling produced by the thing we hold in our minds. This frequently proves to be quite unreliable in my experience! The life of the Spirit is more than a deeply held emotion - some feeling we experience. It is a way of life manifest in the reality of our actions.
Sentiment, or ideas, are really a little like marshmallows. At first, they may be all soft and pliable, exuding all kinds of hope for something sweet to the one who experiences them. In time, if that same marshmallow is left sitting around for a while, it gets all hard, taking away some of the enjoyment of the experience of chewing on it. Even the taste changes over the course of time. Some of our thoughts are much like that - sweet at first, giving the hope of something quite enjoyable, but if they hang around too long, they develop a staleness and hardness to them which even changes their "taste".
When I was a young girl, someone told me I could make something similar to taffy out of marshmallows. She called it "poor girl's taffy". We'd take two large marshmallows, squish them in-between our fingers over and over again until they would stretch and stretch into gooey strings of taffy-like sweetness. We'd just repeat this process until the substance was transformed into something resembling taffy. Then we'd take it in, savoring the rich flavor. You know what I discovered? The "poor girl's taffy" no longer tasted like a marshmallow. Somehow, the richness of what was contained in the marshmallow was brought out more significantly by the "working" process of the stretching, kneading, and pressure of our fingers.
I wonder if this is something similar to what Paul has in mind when he tells us to work out the implications of what it means to live in the Spirit into every aspect of our lives? Perhaps he is telling us we have been given a lot of good stuff - ingredients of sorts - which only reveal their true "flavor" in our lives when we allow the working process to be accomplished. I think Paul realizes we can have a life filled with marshmallows - the right ingredients for something quite awesome, but really nothing more than marshmallows until the pressure is applied.
Two things affect the marshmallow - pressure and heat. Both change the consistency of the marshmallow - both bring out the awesomeness of the flavor contained within its soft shell. I think there are two things which reveal the integrity of our beliefs more than anything else - pressure and heat. Put on the pressure - the evidence of what we believe is squeezed out. Apply the heat and even the fragrance of what our life exudes is revealed! I don't know about you, but I want the stuff which is revealed under pressure and even the fragrance of my life to be something which reveals more than some "stale" ideas or mere emotions I am trying to hang my hat on. Just sayin!