I find God in food everyday.
My hands knead sourdough and I think of Israelite women, mixing bowls tied to their backs, leaving not just Egypt, but also their precious “leaven.” When I sprout wheat berries, I see Ruth collecting gleanings, and I watch the disciples wandering through a field, snapping off the heads of wheat and rubbing them between their hands. I become suspended in the symbolism, rich and inherent, in food. “The yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” is as intelligible to me as it was to the ancients, because I watch a walnut-sized starter raise whole pounds of dough. In my making and my eating of food, I find God in that mindfulness.
It humbles me that Jesus used the most everyday of foods to become sacraments: wine from local grapes, bread that was found in every home.
“Do this in remembrance of me.” Indeed, I savor slower and think longer when I am at the table, eating foods that are imbued with meaning. I taste the iron and the gaminess from the beef that Michael Sams raised on pasture. I joyously ladle cream from the fresh and pure gallons of milk. My husband and I raise our eyes to heaven when we taste the breakfast sausage made by Will Parr. His pigs eat acorns and juice pulp and bask in the sun. I find God when I see people using food as their vehicle to be stewards and priests of creation.
These men and women from the farms I frequent work so hard to walk the narrow path. They have re-arranged their lives in order to farm the old-fashioned way. Like David took his sheep to many locations to graze, my farmers rotate their herds’ grazing in order to let the grass grow back and the manure to enrich the soil. Like the Israelites were instructed (and often failed) to do, these men and women allow fields to lie fallow, occasionally. This robs them of profit in the short run, but it makes up for itself years later when the soil is rich instead of depleted.
I find God in the sacrifice that it takes to make real food. Though it pains me as a young and financially struggling woman to do so, I put a premium on food. There are two main reasons: justice and obedience. “Intensive agriculture” of animals and the rise of “agribusiness” are not just of concern to animal welfare activists. They should loom in front of every Christian. Agribusinesses (think any large meat or milk company) pay farmers pennies for what they do. Farmers either have to grow their number of animals and relax their standards of quality, or fold (hence the phrase, “get big or get out.”) Corporate slaughterhouses for beef employ illegal immigrants and frequently injure them with the ruthless speed at which they process animals. Agribusiness looks out for the bottom line, not for human beings. As Christians, we are pro-people, and we are called to steward God’s creation. It is more just for me to pad the pockets of farmers that are doing it right than to put one more drop in the bucket for companies that care nothing for their farmers’ livelihoods or welfare.
As a Christian, I live an embodied faith and an embodied existence. My body matters to God just as much as my mind, and he designed my body to work seamlessly with food. However, the short cuts that our industrialized society has taken with food in the last 100 years have made previously innocuous foods hazardous territory for the human body (read: corn, grains, soy, fats). My obedience to God’s plan for my life includes making time to cook at home, preparing my food conscientiously, and seeing where my body needs healing. As a consequence, I spend just as much time cooking each week as I do at work. Living life without processed foods is a full-time job. This is a sacrifice. My husband and I have traded a busier life with more activities for more time around our dining room table with friends. We miss going out, and we miss short cuts, but we are thriving on traditional foods, and our bodies have never felt better.
I continue to find God in the sacrifice that real food requires. My favorite farmers plug away, weathering seasons of hard work and little pay. My husband and I balance our budget, trying to work miracles. This part of my life is a staunch mirror, showing me the things I want to continually hold onto: my money, my spare time, my life as I know it. With God’s help, I sacrifice one of these things at a time, and it is glorious, simply glorious, to see the cross of Christ in my life with food.
Copyright 2016-Celeste Lightsey