Health Check: Food
Pastor Rachel Billups
I’ve always had an interesting relationship with food. It’s been a love/hate relationship. On one hand I love food: of course, the good stuff apples, blackberries, zucchini, pistachios, and even love kale, yes, I love kale! I also love the food that sometimes leaves me feeling a little powered down like wings, pizza, and bread, man I love bread!
True confession: there are times in my life that I use food as therapy, attempting to either eat through my feelings or even numb the pain with my cookie of choice.
But that’s not God’s design.
From the beginning God designed food as a gift, and I am convinced that it’s our relationship with food that makes it a source of life or a source of destruction in our lives.
FOOD is Great, FOOD is Good
At the Billups house we eat the majority of our meals gathered around the table. As we gather, we always say the same simple prayer. Perhaps it’s quasi familiar:
God is great, God is good and we thank God for our food, by God’s hands we are fed and give us Lord our daily bread, Amen.
I once had a friend tell me that he didn’t pray at meals because he was convicted that he was praying for too many cheeseburgers and not enough for people in the world. He was asking God to bless bad eating habits.
He has a point.
“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:29-31 NIV).
Food is supposed to be good and not just good but really good. Throughout the Old Testament we learn about dietary laws, religious feast, and times gathered around the table to tell our stories.
“That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover” (Exodus 12: 8-11 NIV).
Without unpacking all the tradition inferred in that section, we recognize that God’s people were uniquely connected because of how they gathered around the table, how they ate and enjoyed and celebrated food.
In Jesus, God came from heaven to earth and became one of us and gathered around tables any opportunity he had. And his dining habits offended the religious elite but felt like water to the thirsty souls of regular folk like you and me, and Jesus really enjoyed the food.
It’s not by accident that food shapes our understand of healing, redemption and salvation.
“Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26: 26-28 NIV).
Sharing food just might be the single most effective tool for demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus.
When you’re worried, stressed out, needing a quick fix, what do you reach for? A fifth latte for the day? Chips from the vending machine? Do you walk over to the pantry and let your hunger be your guide?
When you get home from work, do you grab chips or chocolate or cheese? Chips, chocolate AND cheese?
Are you dependent on that third glass of wine or bourbon or that third beer late at night?
Nearly 30 percent of Americans declare that they are addicted to food
Sometimes we treat our bodies as though they are indestructible. When I think about some of my eating habits as a teenager, WOW. I remember after track practice going over to the vending machine and buying a snickers bar, then washing that snickers down with a minute maid juice.
What I didn’t know at the time is that the “healthy” juice I was drinking wasn’t even real juice and contained more sugar than the pop I was avoiding.
But since I had just run at track practice, I could eat what I wanted, right?
Sometimes, we do whatever we want, convinced that our bodies are basically machines. But you and I are not a Ford or a Honda, we are humans and our bodies are not our own.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 NIV).
If our bodies matter –and they do– then we’ve got to fuel those bodies in the way that honors the Holy Spirit inside! Note the many ways the food we eat can honor God…
#1 Food is fuel
God could have created us like cars, fill up until it’s 100 percent full and let her run! But God didn’t. God created us to eat that fuel. And eating not only fuels our bodies but creates a dependency on God. We trust God for our daily bread.
#2 Food is Joy
We have this gift of food that God Has designed humans to enjoy. It’s why God gave the average human 10,000 taste buds to delight in perfectly grilled salmon, or fresh hummus, or a warm piece of pecan pie with some vanilla ice cream on the top.
#3 Food is connection
Food is offered when a baby is born, when someone has a new foster child or when a loved one has passed. Food is offered when someone receives hard news. Food shapes our social habits and draws us together. The human community is connected through food.
Jesus eats with everybody. We share food, we gather around tables, we ensure that other people in other communities have a place to eat, we pull a chair up for anyone and everyone who doesn’t have a faith community to call home. The relationship is more important to us than the religion.
This week, take a piece of paper and be honest with yourself. Write down three simple observations:
- Food is my…..
- I use food to….
- I want food to be….
You can improve your relationship with food today by following these basic principals:
- Eat Real Food!
Five ingredients or less. If you are going grocery shopping, most of your real food is located along the sides and back and not down the middle.
- Make Intentional Choices
Have to plan. Make a list, check it twice. Make a menu for the week. Then follow through with those intentional choices.
- Keep Track
Some use a physical calendar, or food journal, others track with food apps like Carb Manager or even my fitness pal. Write everything down. You’ll begin to notice patterns. When you get hungry, what’s your go-to stress snack? Awareness is an important step.
- Slow Down
Chew your food. I attempt to remind myself to put my fork or spoon down between bites. Not only does this help with digestion, but it gives your brain time to catch up to the food-signaling receptors in your stomach. Slow down, taste your food.
- Have Fun
Start cooking with your family. Try a new recipe. Invite friends over for a meal that you make together. Gather a group of people to go to a farmer’s market in the summer or an indoor market in the winter. Dance while you cook, smile while you eat, enjoy the company of good people. Have fun.