Updated: Nov 2, 2021
A personal journey of stewardship.
We all have personal struggles that plague us. Often, it's multiple things that plague us. For me, one of my oldest and most enduring struggles has been with food.
-I love food.
And I don’t mean that I’m a “foodie.” What I mean is that I’ve loved food for what it did for me. It gave me comfort, gave me something to do, made me feel better when I was down, provided a reward when I felt I had succeeded, and was generally a friend that always made me feel better and never criticized me. It was an unhealthy relationship, and as a result, I became physically unhealthy.
I steadily gained weight from the middle of my high-school years through my early thirties. I crash-dieted one time (Atkins diet) and lost a good bit of weight, but once I was off the diet, it all returned with a vengeance. At my heaviest, I weighed in at around 325 lbs. I’m not proud of it, but it's where I allowed myself to get.
I’ve come to see that my problem is not the food, and my problem is not dieting. My problem is that I tend to treat food as something it is not. I had, and continue to struggle with, a broken view of food.
-What does the Bible say about Food?
Food is part of God’s good creation. In the Garden of Eden, God gives Adam dominion of the earth. He states, “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” God means His creations to be nourishing, meeting our bodily needs.
Again, in Acts 10:9-17, Luke records, “The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
From these texts, we understand that God made the world in a particular way. Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation in several ways, but one of them is the ability to think and reason. And from this we have the ability to understand food, its purpose, and its value.
God gives us food to meet our needs, to sustain our bodies, to make us healthy, and to bring us joy. Nothing can bring a family or group of friends together like a shared meal! But like anything else, we are prone to take something good and abuse it. Something good falls prey to the tainting of our sin, and it's used in bad ways. Food is good. Too much good food, or unhealthy food, is a bad thing.
The problem for me was that I was abusing food, and in turn, my abuse of food became an abuse of my body. I wasn’t stewarding God’s good gifts. I was simply eating as much as I wanted until I was pleased. And the more I ate, the more it took for me to be satisfied. I was at the center of my eating.
Unknowingly, I had rejected God when it came to food. I had decided that His purposes for food weren’t working for me, and I needed something different. I stopped looking to Him for comfort, joy, fulfillment, and reward. And in His place, I elevated food, and treated it as a god who could meet my wants and needs.
But God did not create our bodies to function this way. It's a lesson I’ve learned and am still learning...
-Eating is Worship.
This was a hard, but helpful reality in my struggles with food. In one sense, all of life is worship. But when we make those grandiose statements, the details can get lost. All of life is worship, and that includes my eating and my thinking about food.
I was not created to worship food. I was created to worship the Creator. He gave us food as part of His good creation, and the way I interact with food is part of how I ultimately respond to Him.
-Paul reminds us Romans 1 of how sin functions in our hearts and minds. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
Pay attention to the method and process of how sin works in our lives. When I elevate something to the place of God in my worship (which is idolatry), it does something to me. I become foolish in my thinking, and my heart grows dark.
I’ve seen this very thing in my eating. When I reject God’s good purposes for food and start treating food according to my own desires, I become foolish. I choose unhealthy foods over healthy foods. I eat way more than I actually need. I begin to look to food to satisfy my heart and calm my mind. And when I do this...when I start worshipping food in this way, my heart is darkened because I’ve given my love and affection to an idol and not to God.
Eating is not separate from my worship. Eating is very much a part of my worship. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul makes it abundantly clear saying, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” My diet should reflect my desire to glorify God. Plain and simple.
-Learning to be a Good/Better Steward.
The path to health has been a difficult one for me. It was jump-started by stress induced IBS. I experienced a several-months-long period where I was not able to eat much of anything without debilitating pain.
I took advantage of this time to take stock of my health, my eating habits, and my commitment to personal fitness. All of which were lacking. I began running and working out regularly. Over the span of 8-10 months I was able to shed around 80 lbs, and at the end of that year (2018), I completed a half-marathon. I weighed around 250 lbs when I ran the race.
Since that time, I’ve continued to struggle with my weight, my relationship with food, and my personal fitness. I have gained some of the weight back, but I've learned to maintain for the most part. I have started to exercise regularly, but that too has been a struggle. Trying to find what types of exercises work with my body has been a challenge. My abuse of food in the past has caused some limitations for me in the present. I’m keeping at it for now.
-Additionally, my relationship with food has been, and continues to be a constant struggle. I’ve done quite a bit to educate myself on how foods work.
What foods does my body need?
How does each food group function in my body?
How often do I need to eat?
All things I’ve learned and am learning...
One of my biggest takeaways from all of this is my own personal responsibility before the Lord for my body. God gave me this body, both to enjoy and to steward. When I abuse God’s gift of food, it will also abuse me. It's never a neutral thing.
Where am I Now?
I’m still overweight.
I still need to lose weight.
I’ve learned some things, and I’m still learning.
I am also much healthier physically than I have ever been. I am more in control of my diet. I better understand how food works, and that helps me to make more healthy, informed decisions. I exercise daily, sometimes twice daily, and that is something I look forward to now.
I’ve also discovered how closely mental and physical health are linked. A healthy diet and regular exercise does wonders for stress and anxiety. We truly are spiritual and physical beings.
-I’ll never be totally pleased with my eating, my health, or my body on this side of heaven. And that’s okay. The book of Philippians tells me that Jesus will one day redeem this broken body and give me a heavenly one. A body that is perfect in every way. So, the “Better steward of food” project continues for me while I’m on the path to heaven. I’m reminded of Pastor Eugene Peterson’s words, “The Christian life is a long-obedience in the same direction.” And thankfully, Jesus gives more grace… (James 4:6)
-Can you Relate?
I’d love to hear from you...