You are what you eat…so choose wisely

I was reminded last night, at Georges Seafood and BBQ, that I become irrational when I’m too hungry.  I order something that will bring immediate pleasure, and certain delayed pain.  Last night is was the Seafood Threesome: scallops, haddock, and shrimp, all fried, and served up with a tiny green salad, and some beans and rice.  I won’t mention that, in need of even more immediate gratification, I’d also ordered a fried calamari appetizer.  It was all good while going down – satisfying, pleasurable, filling.

It was only later that I regretted it, when I started tasting the whole thing again and again around 11 PM.  I lay awake, muttering something about “never again” until finally drifting off to sleep.  I did a penance run this morning, but even as I sit here writing, I’m hungry again, and the thought of sitting down to a nice big salad is somehow not satisfying.  When I’m traveling, there are times when I fill myself with stuff that I know isn’t going to be good for me.  I enjoy it in the moment, but feel the poverty of it later.

This has me thinking about the other food in my life, the food for my mind/spirit/soul.  This realm bears some analogy to my relationship with food:

1. What you feed your mind/spirit matters.  The equivalent of Seafood Threesome is always waiting for us: stupid TV shows, celebrity gossip, violence, gratuitous sex – the particular ingredients vary slightly from person to person, but if you’ve a shred of discernment in your soul and you stop to ask the question you know:  this is deep fried garbage.  Contrast that with Psalm 1, which is the picture of someone drawing on the resources of life by exposing themselves to revelation that’s life giving.  Instead of heartburn, and the feeling that your blood has turned to sludge, the life giving revelation creates a vibrancy.

2. Junk Food feels good in the moment. Our house at home is basically cleansed of the foods that don’t work well for my wife and I.  Grains, Cereals, Breads, Margarin, Ice-Cream, highly processed meats, pasteurized this, and hydrogenated that – we’ve tossed all these things out the window.  It’s part of the Paleo plan that works for us.  But, in spite of the many good things on the Paleo shopping list, when I’m either tired or on the road, the path of least resistance is usually ‘fast food’ and that spells trouble.

It’s the same song with our mind/spirit.  When we’re weary, discouraged, alone, disrupted, the comfort foods of the mind are those places we run to feel good, and what we feast on there is usually not the best.  What’s tricky, though, is that we feel great in the moment.  I’m not judging what constitutes fast food for the your mind or spirit.

3. Learning what’s junk and what’s good requires training because, frankly, most of us have grown addicted to too much junk, and it’s become the new normal. I watched children, this past week, rush past the salad bar in order to pile cake on their plates, sometimes as many 3 large pieces.  This kind of eating is bad news, because it will train the senses to long for more insulin inducing carbs, creating even deeper longings for carbs the next time.  Parents need to put some salad and meat on that plate!!

The same thing, though, happens to our spirits.  We feast on stuff that doesn’t really nourish, even though it feels good in the moment.  As a result, we don’t know our Bibles, our attention span has shortened, we have a hard time with silence and solitude, and all of this contributes to a loss of discernment, which furthers the downward spiral as it becomes easier choose spirit junk food more and more consistently.

The way to break the cycle, in either case, is to choose wisely!  Read your Bibles.  Watch movies, but do so with an eye towards growing in discernment, (here’s a resource that can help).  Listen to all kinds of music, but listen to what the songwriters are saying about the world.  Pray.  Journal.  Sit under the stars.  Cook a healthful meal and taste the food.  Stay sober.

This is basic stuff, but it requires a recognition that our moment by moment choices have consequences.  Here’s the liberating reality:  We get to choose the revelation that feeds us.  Even more than food for the body, which is limited by location, season, menu, food for the spirit is always available.  What’s more, that which I eat today, become part of me, and available to feast upon tomorrow.  Bonhoeffer comforted himself by singing great hymns in prison, hymns learned as a child, when the family wasn’t sitting around the TV watching American Idol, but around the piano.

What do you think?  Am I a dreamer, as I dare to believe that people can learn to feast on good things?  And what makes a good thing “good” rather than destructive?  Maybe watching American idol can be a good thing?

I welcome your thoughts!  - so please share them…

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • David

    Thank you for sharing, I agree with your thoughts and concerns. While I would like to hope that our culture will someday be able to unplug and make good decisions I fear that just won’t happen. So often in life I feel as though I am trying to swim upstream against the river of materialism, laziness, and increasingly short attention spans. I recently built a firepit in our backyard to encourage and enjoy the gift of quiet and conversation with others. Small steps in a busy, distracted, and fast-paced world.

  • David

    Thank you for sharing, I agree with your thoughts and concerns. While I would like to hope that our culture will someday be able to unplug and make good decisions I fear that just won’t happen. So often in life I feel as though I am trying to swim upstream against the river of materialism, laziness, and increasingly short attention spans. I recently built a firepit in our backyard to encourage and enjoy the gift of quiet and conversation with others. Small steps in a busy, distracted, and fast-paced world.

  • Jeffrey Myers

    Hey Richard,
    Wonderful thoughts! I’m curious, were you meaning to post a link to a site with resources for growing in discernment when we view movies? I would be very interested in looking a little further into that…
    Thanks!
    jeff

  • Jeffrey Myers

    Hey Richard,
    Wonderful thoughts! I’m curious, were you meaning to post a link to a site with resources for growing in discernment when we view movies? I would be very interested in looking a little further into that…
    Thanks!
    jeff


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