- Have you ever put yourself on a diet? What was the reason—weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, environmental or ethical considerations? Now look deeper. What is the reason beneath the reason? If you were trying to control your cholesterol, why? To be healthier and live longer? Now look deeper still. Why do you want to live longer? To have more time with your family? Because you’re afraid of death? Keep going deeper until you get to what you’d consider an “ultimate” reason. Can food help you with that, or no? What can?
- So often food considerations end up being about what not to eat. Have you ever made a conscious decision to add, instead of subtracting, things to your diet—for pleasure, for delight, for health, for whatever? Follow the same exercise as #1.
The Diet That Will Change Your Life
“Do not be carried away by all kind of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food.” - Hebrews 13:9 (NRSV)
I assume the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when they wrote this line. All those miracle diets on all those magazines. Keto, IF, Atkins, juice cleanse, WW, probiotic, SB, and on and on and on, and to what end? What will happen if the promised results materialize? (They won’t, by the way, and there’s a good chance you’ll do real harm to yourself along the way, but that’s another issue.) If you perfect your gut biome, or increase your brain power, or make your body look some other way, or whatever it is—what then? Will you finally be happy? Or invulnerable? Or secure? Will you finally feel lovable?
In reality, the author of Hebrews was writing to Jewish Christians who were trying to decide whether and how to follow religious proscriptions and prescriptions about food, both Jewish ones and ones from the wider culture. Being part of fulsome religious traditions, those food rules were much more likely to be salutary than your average modern fad diet. But the point the author was making is the same: ultimate things can’t finally be found in food, not in the food you eat, not in the food you don’t eat.
Of course there are good reasons to be mindful about food. It’s just that almost none of them are of ultimate import. None of them are going to get you what the author—and I—suspect you may really be starving for.
I’m so hungry, God, and nothing down here seems to fill me up. Grant to me the bread of heaven, the cup of new promises, the food that satisfies. Amen.