Radical Grace for Eating

This post is significant for me. It reflects a major paradigm shift in how I view food and nourishment. This transformation didn't happen over night, but rather over a half a year or more, and if you count my original journey with nutrition as a stepping stone, it really began 6 years ago.  That being said, I don't expect to completely change your beliefs around food and eating with one blog post, but hopefully I can start the 'wheels a turnin', as they say (but who's they any way?).

I don't think I've shied away from the fact that I am a christian, but in case you weren't aware before, now you are. This post is unabashedly bold/open concerning my religious beliefs and how they have transformed my views on eating and pretty much everything else. I understand not everyone believes the way I do, but if you are a Christian, definitely read on, because what I'm about to say is NOT the popular opinion when it comes to "biblical eating" books, teachings, etc.

If you aren't a christian, of course I'd love for you to read on. I'm hoping you'll see an entirely different side to christianity than the one you probably know now: a system of rules, judgement, guilt, religious activities, etc. I'm hoping you'll find something radically different, that you will find Radical grace.

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Merriam Webster defines radical as: favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions. Grace is defined as the unmerited, unearned, favor, love and kindness towards someone. 

I would argue that to give someone kindness, love, and favor that they don't deserve is a pretty radical thing; it's an extreme change to our existing practice. We're used to earning everything we have, especially in America. That's our value system - work hard, earn money; be kind, gain friends; do good for others and it will come back to you. Now maybe you know a hard working person who isn't kind, but when they get a good job or a promotion, you tell yourself, "well, at least they DO work hard" and you feel semi-okay about it. But what about people in our lives who we think are lazy, mean and selfish? Not many of us could truthfully say we hope that person gets a killer job, wins friends and favor at work, and receives regular promotions. 

This is why grace is so radical! God, who is perfect, had love for us even while we were underserving, so he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross as a punishment for our sins, rise from the dead to conquer death and condemnation, and redeem our imperfect lives. Now we have God's unearned love, kindness, and favor for our lives - if we will trust in Jesus's finished work for it.  Better yet, God promises this unearned favor, love and kindness will NEVER run out no matter what we do or don't do. Now that is radical.

But what does this have to do with eating, nutrition and my job as a registered dietitian? Well, everything. When I finally grasped that God's love and favor on my life were (and still are) real regardless of what I did or didn't do (and it's only really been revealed to me through experiences), I realized that this knowledge should and does change my perspective on everything. I began to understand how Good God is. So I thought, why not trust him with my passion, my career, and my everything else?

As a dietitian and a nutrition nerd, I used to get caught up in all the research, and the back and forth nutrition discussions rittled with "expert" opinions. I found myself getting whiplash from the ever evolving nutrition "theories" out there, all in the name of trying to help people "solve" their own nutrition/health puzzle. It's part of why I was attracted to nutrition in the first place, I love problem solving and the constant pursuit of knowledge. But after a while, when despite my best efforts, the people I loved and I myself continued to have "nutrition hang ups" (as I will call them), when all the knowledge in the world only led to confusion and a constant obsession with thinking about food, body image and exercise, I needed something new. I needed a form of understanding I could not get from any woman, man or institution - it had to be God.

So as any good millennial would, I googled things. I searched for: Christian nutrition, diet, health, etc., but nothing I read lined up with the loving, grace giving God I knew. Most articles talked about "honoring the temple" or "eating clean", some even suggested we go back to old testament food laws. The majority promoted a strict guideline of rules supplemented with prayer for "self-control".  This was all just more of the same, and something about these strict food rules didn't sit right with my soul or my experiences. 

So I did what I probably should have done in the first place - I prayed.  However, don't misconstrue that for a pious religious activity. It would be better to say that I complained to God.  He led me to...wait for it... the bible (via the bible hub website of course, but still, THE BIBLE). I looked at every verse concerning food, especially those in the New Testament. It was important for me to consider the New Testament with the Old Testament, because as Christians we follow the new covenant of grace. And God's covenant of grace is different than the covenant He made in the old testament, which centered around rules and absolute obedience. When I came across verses I didn't understand (and there were many), I asked God to make His word clear to me. Over time and still today He is revealing the truth to me. 

This is what I've found: I've found that NO food has the ability to make someone good or bad and that all that God created is good. Jesus himself said that nothing that enters a man defiles him, only that which comes out of him defiles him, thereby making all foods "clean" or lawful to eat. I read that later, God spoke to the apostle Peter and told him that nothing was to be considered impure that He has made clean (referring to all animals for eating). Further, the bible says nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving. Therefore, food laws and regulations deeming some foods "good" or "clean" and some foods "bad" or "unclean" are NOT in line with God's Word and Jesus's sacrifice. { 1 Timothy 4:4, Matthew 15:11, Acts 10:10 - 15 }

I also found that while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial, but God does not tell us WHAT is not beneficial, he leaves that to us to determine for ourselves. He says there is NO condemnation for those who rest in Jesus's finished work. This means the food you eat cannot bring judgement on you from God and should not cause you guilt. He also tells us to set our eyes on him, to set our thoughts on good things. This means taking food off the pedestal and making God the source of our nourishment. {1 Corinthians 10:23, Romans 8:1, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 4:8}

But what about the verse that talks about "taking care of the temple of God" in reference to our bodies? Well, God does tell us to take care of our bodies, but first of all this verse is not even in reference to food (read it yourself if you're curious). Secondly, truly taking care of our body does NOT mean starving it or beating it to submission, as many in our culture are accustomed to doing. In fact, the apostle Paul writes that these things are of no use when it comes to becoming more like christ. {Colossians 2: 20 - 23}. No, taking care of our bodies would entail feeding them regularly and honoring the inner wisdom God gave us!

Finally, God promises that he will withhold no good thing from those who love him, so why would he withhold the enjoyment of good food, energizing movement and a healthy life (all good things) - he wouldn't!  {Psalm 84:11}

There is so much to unpack here, but I can't do it all in one post. In the future I hope to use this blog to touch on these principles from both a scientific and faith based perspective.  I've had a lot of "new thoughts" (to me) when it comes to nutrition and health, and I know they're going to help someone else, because they've already helped me. 

Stay tuned for part 2, where I will talk about how this has affected my eating specifically and the way I view nutrition counseling.  Until then, stay fueled :)