“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”
Matthew 5:13, ESV
This is where I get the beginnings of my theology of nurture and pampering. In context, this culinary analogy is pointing to the fact that certain human communities (*ahem* Israel) were in the business of being the most-sought commodity in the marketplace. A holy people of God, set apart to make them worth pursuing. They were set apart from the world not to abandon, but to bless it. We see Israel continually navigating this in their past and often failing. Either they compromise their best peculiarities and end up with idols in the Temple or they hedge them too protectively, and get denounced by Christ . Notice that Christians inherited the same business of being distinct without being inaccessible. We simmer over how to be ‘in the world, but not of it.’
Throughout adolescence, I persistently asked my parents, mentors and pastors—all the obvious go-to sources for nurture—to let me know when they figured out how this was done. Oftentimes, their answer was “to be set apart is to be holy. Be holy and God will honor that by letting the rest take care of itself.” Sometimes, I was a very obedient child. I strained towards holiness like a first-year foreign-language learner. And I realized much later how handicapped I was by one, huge problem. ‘Holiness’ as a concept was too big, the details too vague. Even if turned out that holiness is the stepping stone to being simultaneously distinct and accessible, getting there seemed to require a Sasquatch-sized stride. More modest expectations seemed to be in order.
Accidentally, I overheard someone say, “salt makes food interesting.” I gradually took that to mean interest-based living was a viable way of following the proverb. Instead of the catapult strategy, I could try the ladder route, starting with interests. From there, I ascend to love and I’m told that, done right, love carries you straight on to holiness.
Interest-based living, roughly sketched, is filling life with activities of curiosity. Sometimes we call them hobbies or leisure pastimes; others broadly group them under ‘culture and the arts.’ Regardless, it counts wherever a person’s interests draw them out into the place or thing in the world where they follow imagination and experience wonder.
I just described interest-based living as the nurture of imagination, curiosity, and wonder. Unfortunately, interests get sidelined because we see them as things we pamper or indulge, not things we nurture. I think there’s good reason to change that mindset and stop limiting our interests to weekend sprees and midnight binges.In a life where there is no limit set on these things, there is the most opportunity for the growth of love.
It’s not uncommon in evangelical circles to find young adults who forego a relationship in order to “focus more on Christ” in order to “overcome insecurities.” It’s also not uncommon that the outcomes bear similarities to my old fumbles to find holiness. I think pulling that way is the wrong way to go about combatting insecurity. Fundamentally, insecurity arises from fears—fears of rejection, loneliness of insufficiency. Fear is cast out by love, so why not cast out insecurities with healthy interests? We don’t need to compartmentalize our relationships with God or with others based on whether or not we are secure in our identities. If we turn out from ourselves to investigate the world, our natural curiosity will probably rival agitating fears for our attention. Liberty to be ourselves in all our relationships will emerge gradually and naturally.
So go forth, stop pampering your interests, and start nurturing them.