What’s your relationship with food? Is it something to be enjoyed, or just fuel for living? Do you know where it comes from? Are you a foodie, hunting for the latest and tastiest? Maybe you crave food. Maybe you respect it. Maybe you’re afraid of it.
With just a handful of days remaining in our advocacy for hungry children, my relationship with food feels like it’s in flux. In my life I’ve almost never wondered where my next meal would come from. Food has always been ready to hand, available to fill my stomach and tickle my tongue. I’ve always taken it for granted. Have you ever been in a relationship where you’ve been taken for granted? It doesn’t feel good.
Today I can’t assume the coming of my next meal. We missed our first one last weekend. Of course our deprivation is both time limited and voluntary—stark and meaningful differences compared to the 800 million people who don’t have enough to eat day in and day out. Nevertheless, going without food, and not knowing when that will happen, changes my relationship with it. I’m now much slower to simply assume I’ll go to bed with a full stomach.
Another thing that has changed is my ability to choose. It used to be, my only concerns were: What kind of food will I eat today? When, and how much? When having food goes without saying, then these questions are what we say instead. My relationship with food has been one of boundless consumerism: this, not that. Now, not later. But today, I can’t make those decisions. The ingredients and portions I eat are firmly set, and whether I eat them depends on our Partners, not my cash on hand. There have been times when I’ve sighed with resignation before tucking into yet another cup of rice and beans. I’m grateful that some of those times, I’ve been reminded of the millions who would be thankful to have just such a meal but don’t, and the kids who get to eat the same meal in front of me because of our Partners’ contributions.
Obviously I’ve always known that, worldwide, comparatively few people enjoy the almost limitless access to food I do. But because of our advocacy I’ve been given a better ability to walk in the shoes of the malnourished. I see in a small way how their need for food is a different experience than mine. And that changes my relationship with it.
A friend just shared with me a quote from Charles Spurgeon that describes the many-sidedness of our relationship with food. He describes how God provided for Israel in the desert like this:
“He only gave them a day’s manna at a time. What more did they need? What more do we need? But if we have a store, how much we need the Lord to bless it! For there is the care of getting, the care of keeping, the care of managing, the care of using; and, unless the Lord bless it, these cares will eat into our hearts till our goods become our gods.”
I’m most prone to my goods becoming my gods when my relationship with them is out of balance—I think I’m entitled to them, or I have power over them, or they exist to serve my needs. But when my relationships are right with them—with goods, with people, and with food—I no longer take them for granted. Then I see their true worth.