As I was growing up, food was not something I really connected with health – in fact, being healthy was not even something on my radar. It wasn’t until my adult years that I began to realize: my choice of diet had a powerful influence on my physical and emotional wellness.
But these days it seems pursuing wellness has taken on religious undertones. There are endless tribes of foodie evangelists calling you to repent of the food choices that are killing you. All that is needed is for you to embrace their path to healing. Just convert and go gluten-free or raw or vegan or vegetarian or fruitarian or by embracing the latest popular diet – Paleo, South Beach, Eat Right for Your Blood Type, the Hallelujah Diet, low-fat, low-carb, no-carb, high carb – the list is literally endless.
My apologies to all my health-conscious and foodie friends, but the world of health and dieting seems to be as conflicted as the world of Christian denominations. Every tribe is focused on the slice of truth they’ve discovered but somehow never able to see beyond their own camp (I myself am an advocate for eating local and sustainable, and the teachings of the Weston A. Price Foundation but I’ll save that for another post).
In the midst of this marketplace of ideas about food and nutrition there also often seems to be zero grace for those who disagree with us or who don’t feel as passionate and convicted about pursuing wellness. I am one of those people who connect health and wellness with my food choices – and in turn connect this pursuit with my Christian faith. And if I am being honest, at times I can be a hypocrite or a legalist just as a quick as the next health nut. There has to be a more balanced, grace-filled way.
In the mix of all the sensational claims and confusion about healthy eating and our pursuit of bodily “salvation” it is refreshing to hear a Christian perspective on all these issues. In the book ‘Eat With Joy: Redeeming GOD’s Gift of Food‘ author Rachel Marie Stone is one such voice wrestling with the significance of food to the life of faith. While many Christians might be thinking that food and eating is irrelevant to devotion to Jesus and His Kingdom – this book offers spiritual and practical insights into the depth of grace that GOD’s gift of food is to us. As the author clearly portrays – our relationship with food is really about our relationship with GOD, each other and GOD’s good Creation. Understanding food as GOD’s grace to us enables us to live more faithfully before Him as stewards and communicators of His love and presence. She opens the book with her own raw personal struggle:
“I hated being obsessed with my body; I hated my body. I was hungry and longed to eat – having always loved cooking and eating food of all flavors and textures…but I was afraid to eat. I wanted to do good in the world, to use the gifts I knew GOD had given me…but I could hardly get my mind off myself and my jeans’ size. The church seemed to have nothing to say that helped. By my lights there was little difference between Christians and non-Christians in attitude toward food, bodies and dieting. I never hear the “make your body perfect” message that screamed from every billboard and TV commercial soundly refuted by some good theology. Instead, while the wider culture was doing Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, we church people had Free to Be Thin and The Weigh Down Diet, which baptized the ‘worldly’ desire to be thin for appearance’s sake with the dubious motives of discipline and being a “better” (read “thinner”) witness for Jesus.” (p.13)
Filled with generous portions of personal reflections, and relevant stories; infused with recipes, prayers, calls to action and a helpful group discussion guide – it is held together with a well-balanced theology throughout that makes this book both ‘nutrient-rich’ and accessible. It is a four course meal for the Christian starving for spiritual insights on food and faith.
I think the author’s chapter titles spell out brilliantly her call to us all for reclaiming GOD’s gift of food:
- Joyful Eating: GOD’s Intent for How We Relate to Food
- Generous Eating: Serving the Needy, Loving Our Neighbors
- Communal Eating: How Meals Bring Us Together
- Restorative Eating: How Eating Together Heals
- Sustainable Eating: Wise Choices in Stewarding the Land
- Creative Eating: Food Preparation as Culture Making
- Redemptive Eating: Putting Best Practices Together in the Real World
Maybe I am biased because I fall into the “christian foodie” camp but I genuinely recommend ‘Eat With Joy‘ for anyone struggling with how food relates to an embodied, holistic Christian faith. It is a wealth of insight for those of us trapped in the cycle of fad diets, those of us struggling with obsessive eating disorders and unhealthy eating patterns, those of us who are new to thinking of food as health and our body’s as temples of the Holy Spirit, and any of us looking to develop a more robust theological perspective on why food matters to the Christian community. And of course, as all good meals deserve, this is a book to be read and shared together.
(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free review books including the book reviewed above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions and reviews unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)
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