By Courtney, Contributing Writer
With Christmas drawing near, we're planning and preparing for time with family and friends, sharing the joy and wonder of the season with them. Many of these get togethers are centered around food. After all, aside from providing nourishment for our bodies, food serves other important purposes as well.
Of those purposes are relationship and tradition. Food is integral in bringing people together--at the dinner table every evening to family reunions during the holidays.
For those of us who've turned our backs on the Standard American Diet in lieu of a journey back to authentic food, the food our Creator designed and intended for us to eat, how do we deal with times when we'll encounter a lot of food that might not sit well in our stomachs? If we've decided to be intentional about avoiding food that has a negative impact on our health, should we stick with it when in the company of others?
A Modern Dilemma
I wonder what it was like long, long ago when this was a non-issue. Before corporate farms and genetic modification of seeds. Before factories and feedlots. Before Betty Crocker and the USDA. All throughout history, up until just recently, people came together to share meals and didn't have to worry about whether the food was REAL or not.
Today, we have allergies, behavioral and psychological disorders, and scores of physical health conditions as a result of modified and processed food. Look at the gluten-free craze, for instance. Gluten sensitivity is epidemic, thanks in part to modern wheat that differs greatly from the ancient variety.
Genetically modified foods, namely those that contain corn and soy, pose a major problem, not just when consuming those foods, but when consuming animal foods sourced from feed containing corn and soy. What about refined sugars or food dyes that take your kids from sweet to sassy in 0.9 seconds?
The food today hardly resembles Eden.
When Food Becomes an Idol
Being concerned with what we put into our bodies is not wrong. It is good that we are aware of the current state of food and that we desire to go back to the real thing. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, in reference to sexual immorality, Paul reminds us that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19
God is concerned with what we do with our bodies, which includes food and our relationship to it. God had plenty to say to the Israelites about what to eat and what not to eat.
We are reminded frequently to fast and pray, for it is when we break free from the control food has over us or let go of unhealthy relationship with it that we can hear God more clearly. We are told not to become drunk with wine. Well, unfortunately, many of today's altered and processed foods have a similar mind-altering affect. We now know that refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine!
Our concerns with eating healthy are certainly warranted. However, food can become an idol in our lives if we exalt it to a higher level than it should be, and if we take comfort in it in the place of God, or if we develop a sense of control over our health that goes above and beyond simple stewardship of our bodies.
On the Standard American Diet, food can easily become an idol because of its stimulating and addictive effects. For the real foodie, however, food can become an idol in a different way. Once we realize how much the food we eat impacts our health, for good and for bad, it can be easy to focus on our role in health, maybe sometimes forgetting the Lord's sovereignty over all areas of our lives.
We may also be more likely to ignore the other purposes of food, which include family, tradition, culture, and community.
Family and Tradition
Certain aromas and flavors can invoke a strong sense of nostalgia within us. During the holidays, we connect memories of past times and traditions to the foods that are the mainstays at our family meals.
You likely have pleasant memories of Christmases past, which may include certain dishes that rarely make it to the table except for this time of year. Maybe baking and decorating cookies or gingerbread houses has been a part of your childhood or has become a tradition you hold with your family now. Warm cider, fragrant cinnamon and nutmeg, cranberries and oranges: these are some favorite aromas this time of year.
The concrete things that stimulate our senses and stir up memories within us are the things that preserve our traditions and pass along a rich family heritage. There is so much value in these traditions. And food usually plays some role in these cherished memories.
Now, back to the original question.
If we're on a journey to health that encompasses a commitment to whole, nourishing food, should we stick to our goals or do we let up when in the company of others?
I personally don't believe we should use the holidays as an excuse to flee from our commitment to health and whole foods, BUT I do think that food should be second to the people in our lives.
I want my home to be warm and welcoming, full of laughter, love, and life, and my heart fixed on Jesus this time of year. I will serve wholesome, nourishing foods at my table and focus on the people sitting around it. I can enjoy fun family traditions like baking cookies without making major compromises and still choosing more wholesome ingredients.
I will visit family and friends and dwell on moments shared together. When I'm a guest at someone else's table, I will not be thinking about the sources of my food. I will be wrapped up in doing life with them and I will be grateful to be in their presence, grateful for their hospitality.
Food matters, but people matter more. This is a complicated issue today, but I want to encourage you to put it all into perspective and to remember that above all, relationships matter more.
Relationships have eternal significance.While food does matter, it doesn't matter as much as the people in our lives.
I know this issue is even more complicated for those who have extreme sensitivities to certain foods and for those on diets like GAPS who are on the road to recovery. I'm not suggesting we should eat foods that make us ill. I just want to shine a light on the importance of the many aspects of food.
It's more that nourishment. Fellowship with family and friends should be central to our meals, especially during this special time of year.
Do you agree or do you adhere firmly to your real food convictions, even when it in the company of others?