When I began my journey to try to save money on groceries and household expenses, I started following blogs to help me be a better steward. I initially followed blogs that gave me the “sale and coupon match-ups” and “stock-up deals.” Then I started reading that some of these bloggers were making a lot of their foods from scratch to save money. That interested me as well, and I stumbled upon several other similar blogs. Eventually, a theme started to emerge. Most of these bloggers were into “whole food” living. This was very new to me so it had me curious.
All of these bloggers claim to be Christian, and most of them clearly cite the reason for their whole food lifestyle with that of honoring their body – the temple of the Holy Spirit. I knew that verse by heart so I understood and kept reading.
Eventually I realized that this whole foods lifestyle was completely opposite of how I’ve lived all my life. I couldn’t just make a few adjustments; I would have to change just about everything. So along with this new knowledge on the danger of this food and harm in that chemical, I started feeling a very, very large burden. In a small way, I started to understand how Jews felt. They had all these rules and regulations that were impossible to keep!
How in the world could I do this? Is there any food in the grocery store I can buy? And how am I going to afford to buy foods without these chemicals? To say I was discouraged is a gross understatement. And to think that when I was eating these highly processed foods, I was dishonoring the body God gave me… I felt a burden spiritually as well.
Yet, spiritually, this wasn’t quite sitting right with me. Something wasn’t right here, but I didn’t know what it was.
I decided in the fall to do a study on “food” in the Bible. I looked up as many passages on food as I could find – certainly not all of them but many of them. I was amazed how much food was talked about in the New Testament. I would love to write a study on that someday but for the purposes of this blog, here is what I learned: Food is Not a Spiritual Issue. Not in and of itself.
But what about 1 Corinthians 6:19-20? (“19 Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.”)
This verse is about sexual immorality, and although I knew that (why else would that be a prime memory verse in high school?), I came to the conclusion that although many bloggers take liberty to say that this verse can be applied to our health, I disagree. I just don’t see other Scripture in the New Testament backing that up. (Matthew 15:11, Mark 7:15 for starters)
So what then? I’m back where I started! Except now that I’ve been reading for months about food, I know the dangers of hydrogenated oils, sugar, artificial sweetener, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and the list goes on. I can’t go backward in my journey to slowly help our family avoid these things. I truly believe they’re not good for our bodies. I truly believe they – as a part of an ongoing lifestyle over years – can cause numerous health problems, problems that can keep us from being healthy to serve God all of the years he allots us.
I struggled. I really struggled.
Then I came back to verse in James I knew by heart, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” God, I prayed, You know my struggle. There seems to be no clear answer. But you are the one who created it all. Please give me wisdom to know how to handle this delicate issue – in my heart, in my life, in my family’s life, even in my blog.”
This prayer became an ongoing prayer of mine for days, perhaps weeks. Then on Sunday night in a class on Revelation I am attending, the teacher referred to 1 Timothy 4:1-5:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Hmmm, I thought. Everything created by God is good. Does that mean that foods that are highly processed apply here? Since High Fructose Corn Syrup comes from corn (even genetically modified corn, that has gone through 40 different processes to get that way), is that good?
“That’s not the point,” something in my spirit told me.
“What then?” I asked back, a little annoyed.
Everything created by God is good. I read again. I finally got it! God didn’t want me to be focused on what I needed to avoid. He wanted me to be focused on enjoying what he created!!
What did that mean in a practical sense?
Looking at foods that miraculously grow from seed (seriously – I planted seeds for the first time last fall – that’s truly a miracle) and seeing how God created that whole process. That’s GOOD!
Seeing how God brought multiple cilantro plants, but only after the one plant died, seeing life come from death (pointing to Christ, pointing to our life after death if we believe in Christ). That’s GOOD!
Looking at a cut carrot and seeing the shape of an eye, and now knowing that carrots are good for your eyes….That’s GOOD!
Looking at beans in the shape of our kidneys and knowing they are good for our kidneys… That’s GOOD!
Looking at grapes in the shape of our heart and knowing they are good for our hearts…that’s GOOD!
Looking at coconuts and knowing that they may be the only plant that contains lauric acid – a natural component of human breastmilk – that’s GOOD!
Seeing these foods that God created, pointing to Him, our Creator, THAT was the point. God made food for our enjoyment, to point to him, and to fuel our bodies.
No matter how much I love my pancake syrup, nothing in imagining the processes the factory took to create it make me praise God. It just doesn’t.
But in God’s providence he put that other phrase in the passage in Timothy: “nothing is to be rejected if it is received in thanksgiving.” To me, that tells me that I don’t need to obsess over avoiding that pancake syrup if my budget doesn’t allow for pure maple syrup, or avoiding store-bought tortillas if time doesn’t allow me to make my own. Or even obsessing about what’s on the table at a church pot luck.
In other words, focus on enjoying the good, not rejecting the imitation.
I was very grateful for this freeing revelation. I could do this, little by little, and when our garden begins producing in a few months, we’ll be able to enjoy it even more.
I felt like God was closing this subject with that answer, and I was content. That is, until recently.
A friend was talking to me about some challenges in her life. My heart went out to her. She is in a place I’ve never been. Although she didn’t share specifics, as she was talking, I could hear the prompting in my heart, “See, Jill, for all you know she may be struggling to put any food on the table. The last thing she’s concerned about is where the food came from.” Now that may or may not have been her struggle, but that wasn’t the point. God was trying to tell me something.
A side effect of this whole foods movement in its core is that, to borrow from a blog I read months ago, it’s a first world problem. It’s a problem for the wealthy, and I use that term loosely. Those who struggle to find their next meal are not concerned with whether it is organic or not, or whether hydrogenated oils are in the ingredients list. Their first – and only – priority is filling their stomachs.
How in the world did I get caught up in this whole foods movement, propagated by Christians no less, being blinded by the real problem in this world? In this country? In my town?
Then this morning I happened to turn on the Today Show. I hardly ever watch it so I don’t know what prompted me to turn it on. It turns out, Savannah Guthrie was doing an interview with children in Connecticut suburbs who were hungry. Tears streamed down my face and I was literally brought to my knees. I thought about the elementary school just blocks from my church, where 4 out of 5 children are on either free or reduced lunch programs. The faces on TV could very well have been the faces of children within walking distance of my own church.
What can I do? I cried. What do you want me to do, God?
Should I pray that God would enliven my own garden and make it produce more than I could ever eat, and I could share it with my church’s neighborhood?
Should I pray about starting a community garden on our church’s property?
As those thoughts danced in my mind, I was faced with the reality that I’ve only had 2 raised bed gardens and that for just one season. This year’s task is quite daunting – 1600 square feet – and I have no idea if it will produce. I’ve studied all winter but I’m like a recent college grad – all the knowledge but none of the experience.
What can I do? I prayed.
Write your story.
So here it is, all 1700 words. I have no idea what to do next, but I do know that God has brought me down this path for a reason.
Somehow, may hungry stomachs be fed, may thirsty souls be quenched, may He be glorifed.
Here am I, Lord.