Thursday, May 26, 2016
Food for the Soul: What are You Putting on Your Plate?
Recently, I concluded my first year of college and I couldn’t be happier to return to the warm embrace and company of my family. God has helped me battle through quite a few trials this year. However, looking back I think I might conclude that there was one conflict which truly stood out. It wasn’t roommate troubles, it wasn’t trouble with classwork, it was the food.
From the beginning of my first semester, I remember being appalled by the state of the cafeteria food. I had always dreamed that college cuisine would far surpass my previous high school lunches. However, very early on, I was already dreaming of eating the cardboard-crusted pizza and strange sandwiches at my high school again.
The food never improved, either. The cooked or griddled meats were always swimming in grease, and if there were no greasy meats served, there were vegetables drenched in butter instead. The yogurt was like a strange sugar syrup, the lunch meats on their subs tasted of nitrate preservatives, and, about once a month, I would find wrinkled, squishy grape tomatoes and soggy, rubbery cucumbers at the salad bar. There was just no winning when it came to nutrition, which was debatably existent in that cafeteria.
For a while, I imagined I could survive off of pre-packaged foods and muffins, but the situation became worse after a sudden heart diagnosis hit me in the first week of February. The diagnosis was so abrupt and pivotal, as I imagine many here will understand. It meant an immediate change in my mindset and in many of my daily habits, including a crucial change in my diet: reduced sugar, no caffeine, more protein, and no processed meats. For any college student this change would be a struggle, but for myself this change brought on days of dietary dilemmas, as I could only safely eat just a percentage of what my school served.
If I ate what was offered at school, I would feel sick, and if I ignored my diet and ate how I wanted, I would feel crummy as well. If my body felt unwell (as it did for a great deal of time as I battled with my food choices) I would tend to act colder or indecently around my friends and coworkers, I would perform poorly in class, and I would be filled with an overall persistent anxiety that my body was falling apart with nobody there to help. It was as if nobody, not the staff of my school nor the cooks of the cafeteria, could understand or be bothered to hear my plight.
Now, as with most earth-shattering changes that occur, whether they be medical, monetary, or otherwise, we as humans tend to battle with God, as if He is the source of our misery. After my diagnosis, I found myself in a one-sided shouting match against God, wondering why my family had to endure one more hardship. I didn’t wish for anybody to worry about me, and I didn’t want anybody spending more money so I could change my eating habits. I wanted to be irresponsible and eat all the junk and caffeine that I wanted, just like all of my fellow classmates.
Whilst I foolishly put up my dukes against the Lord, I stubbornly shelved my Bible for a time. As I did this, my frustration grew, my depression resurfaced, and my anxiety, brought on by my heart condition, inflated to enormous proportions. I put out so much energy fighting God on why I should stay healthy, and yet, I came to find out that I wasn’t being spiritually fed at all. Of course, I was feeding myself plenty of junk, like watching television, playing video games, and working up my worries around the clock, but none of this was the kind of healthy food that I needed for my spirit to grow beyond my fear and hostility.
Just like bad cafeteria food, when we aren’t feeding ourselves with the right spiritual food, or we refuse to retain or return to God’s holy sustenance, we have no way of performing at our best for our loved ones and for ourselves. We weaken when we do not take in real, nutritional sustenance—material that will feed our positive thoughts and strengthen our endurance to combat our fears and the hardships, new or old.
The Lord’s Word is our greatest feast, both in times of calm and in times of trial, and how we “digest” His feast is crucial in the way His Word shapes us. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what it looks like to choose His Word and fully digest the seeds He has planted into our situations:
“’A man went out to plant seed. As he planted the seed, some fell by the side of the road. It was walked on and birds came and ate it. Some seed fell between rocks. As soon as it started to grow, it dried up because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew and did not give the seed room to grow. Some seed fell on good ground. It grew and gave one hundred times as much grain… The seed is the Word of God. Those by the side of the road hear the Word. Then the devil comes and takes the Word from their hearts. He does not want them to believe and be saved from the punishment of sin. Those which fell among rocks are those who when they hear the Word receive it with joy. These have no root. For a while they believe, but when they are tempted they give up. Those which fell among thorns hear the Word but go their own way. The cares of this life let the thorns grow. A love for money lets the thorns grow also. And the fun of this life lets the thorns grow. Their grain never becomes full-grown. But those which fell on good ground have heard the Word. They keep it in a good and true heart and they keep on giving good grain,’” Luke 8: 5-8, 11-15 (NLV).
You see, God’s Word is a precious life source, meant for us to utilize so God can flourish in and through us. We, with free will, have the choice to take His Word or leave it, to plant His Word in fertile soil, or plant it surrounded by our thorns of desire and pain. We have the choice to be fed by His Word so that, in turn, we may feed those around us, and choosing to be fed the right way means choosing to “keep on giving good grain,” to ourselves and to the special people in our lives. We become far more willing, empowered, and joyful over our situations and over ones' position as caretaker when we put the best food on our plates: the nutrients which God crafts in the words of the Bible.
Don’t stray from His divine diet when hardship throws another curve-ball your way: persevere, take a seat at His table, and feel mercies new every day when you choose to take His seeds and let Him produce His wonders in you.
Pray: Father, give me the strength to run to you when I face hardship. Grant me wisdom to turn to Your Word when I am downtrodden. Let your message fill me like a proper meal, energizing and strengthening my heart and soul to produce holy grain in the lives of my family, my friends, and in every life that I may touch. Amen.