For the past few weeks, food just hasn’t interested me as much as usual.
For most people, eating is just a requirement for living; there’s not much to be interested in anyway. But as I have explained here before, food is a passion for me. And when I don’t feel excited about food, I usually don’t feel too excited about life.
It all started about three weeks ago. In order to up my food ante, I decided to visit a local food group whose mission statement sounds a lot like the conversations I have been having about eating. On their website, I read about things like supporting local food growers and producers, eating seasonally, cooking from scratch, and enjoying food around a community table. Their meeting was a pitch-in, so I took meatloaf made from locally grown beef (my family’s), and I was looking forward to interacting with people who shared similar food values.
As you might expect from a set up like that, my expectations were way too high. The group felt too political and extreme for where I’m at; and when one guy stood up and said that he spends all his time on food, I realized that this wasn’t the group for me. I also wondered if my own interest in food and eating sounded this extreme to others who are even less interested.
When a bout of stomach flu followed on the heels of the food event, I found myself uninterested in eating. For about a week, I ate some combination of toast, applesauce, potatoes, and chai tea for most meals.
And then I stumbled on the words of John 6:27: “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” I was nauseated, weak, and confused. Had my food-losophy become an idol? Was God in the process of knocking it off the grass-fed, free-range altar I had created? And what was this food which endures to eternal life that Jesus was talking about, anyway?
After a few weeks of avoiding the issue and eating around the margins of what I have come to consider healthy, I decided to perk up my appetite with some new recipes and restore my soul by coming face to face with Jesus about this food of his. So Monday night, a couple of hours after a lovely dinner of homemade shrimp lo mein I had never made before, I pulled out my journal, turned to John 6, and started reading and writing.
“O Lord, as I read John 6 and all the references to food and bread and drink and hunger and thirst and filling and satisfying, I can’t help but think this chapter is a gift to me tonight. A spiritual lesson about food for a foodie–especially on a night when I had to do something different with food in order to remember what it is I love about it. So many flavors, textures, nutrients, colors. So much more than what I need; so much more than what any ingredient could be on its own.”
More reading, more contemplating, more asking Jesus what this all means. Then . . .
“This food which doesn’t perish is eating and drinking for the glory of God. The food which perishes is food for food’s sake.”
Food had become an idol when it crossed over from something to be grateful for in Jesus’ name to becoming an end in itself. And it took me hearing it out of another man’s mouth . . . the man from the meeting who spends all his time on food . . . to realize that I spend way too much time on food myself.
I’m not giving up on the things I have come to hold dear about eating: local, organic, homemade. And it’s important to realize that food really is a metaphor here. Jesus could just as easily be saying that I should work for a hobby that doesn’t perish or a job that doesn’t perish.
But because food is my thing, I’m going to ask Jesus to help me see my interest in food as another way to love him, as a way to get more of the food that never perishes.