This week my friends and I entered into a “Mutiny Project” together. We decided to take up Jen Hatmaker’s challenge to look at seven key areas of our lives and see if we relate to those areas from a more Biblical, Jesus-centered perspective.
This week’s project considered how we connect to food. I proposed that we all look at food through the lens of how our consumption impacts other people. For too long, Christians have treated our diet (meaning what we eat and drink) as a personal and individual practice which does not impact others. This cannot be further from truthful living. God made us to function in community, and even the choice of what, where, how much and when to eat impacts a sphere of relationships far beyond our own bodies.
In this past week’s message I used my own struggle against hypoglycemia as an example. When I allow my blood sugar to get too low because of what I eat, I am grumpy, suffer headaches, am prone to depression. All these things impact others in my life. There is no way my choice to eat sugar remains a purely personal thing. Most of us do not have something that is so easily identifiable as impacting others, but if we think about it just a little bit, we will soon find our food choices introduce consequences far beyond the limits of our own stomachs. I suggested three of many areas to contemplate.
- How does my consumption of food impact my overall health? How is my health impacting those in my life?
- How does my consumption of food impact my ability to give to others? Is the place where I eat and type of food I eat limiting my ability to be generous with those in my life?
- How am I connected to how food is produced? Is there some way I can reconnect to food production that may be used to make friends or bless others?
The specific project challenge we are taking up this week is to limit consumption of food to seven items or to eliminate seven things from this week’s diet which we would normally and regularly consume. The purpose of this kind of “fast” is to get us to think about what we eat and to listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I have been privy to responses from both the “subtract from” and the “limit to” camps and the project so far seems to be opening doors for the Holy Spirit’s work.
For my part in the project, I chose rice, farina (malt o’ meal), greens, banana, apple, orange and nuts as my seven foods for this week. Here is what I have learned so far:
- I learned that I actually forgot a lesson I gleaned from an extended fast last year, much to my chagrin. Somewhere along my path I neglected to remain grateful for the ease with which I get food. Most the rest of the world labors just to get their “seven.” I just go to my kitchen and abundance reigns. This is not an appeal to guilt, rather it is an opportunity to be deeply thankful to God for my place in this world. I am going to work diligently to submit to God’s changing my mindset permanently in this area.
- I can eat and still be hungry. I have children in Uganda, with whom I have a good relationship. They have often described being hungry in a way I could not comprehend, in spite of my best attempts. I think I now have a sliver of understanding of what it is like to have food available, but still feel like it is not enough. The limit to seven gave me a kind of empathy even a total fast from food has not brought me in the past.
- My food choices do indeed impact others. My wife, Michelle, wasn’t able to help plan for my seven challenge due to being really sick last week. Since we are the only two at home at present, my choice of seven foods wasn’t exactly the choices she would have made. It has been awkward at moments trying to figure out what we are going to eat. She is a good sport about it, but it is a practical reminder that I am in community, even if it is just with my spouse.
- I like variety. While I normally choose to eat from a near meat-less diet, I do like the ability to throw different vegetables (other than greens) and even the occasional animal protein. I really miss the ability to do so this week. Access to the spectrum of spices I take for granted seems much more important to me than it did last week.
- I am still addicted to sweets. The first three days of this fast found me thinking regularly (craving ravenously really) about sweet things I could find at home (and eat, of course) but that were not in my “seven.” I have since found a deeper appreciation for the sweet taste of my apple, banana, and orange. If I had covered over these naturally sweetened foods with sugary foods I could eat instead, I would not be as sensitive to the joys of what God put in food from creation.
- Lastly, I have learned from others who are sharing their “seven” experience with me. Our culture lost our collective ability to see food both as personal sustenance and opportunity for connection between each other. In listening to people’s extraordinarily varied responses to the project, one theme remains consistent: we are all ruled by our appetite in one way or another and pay little attention to the consequences unless there is some encouragement from the outside provided.
It is my prayer that as this week comes to a close, the larger community connected to those in the project will see in us a movement of the Holy Spirit in our relationship to food. May it be that we are more thoughtful about what we eat and with whom, reflecting whenever possible that is a good thing to share our Lord’s Table.
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you [all]? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy and you [all together] are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NLT