Physical Food and Spiritual Food: We Crave What We Eat
I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t feel great this time of year. I’ve had a steady diet of Christmas cookies, buttery baked-breads, and holiday cakes for the last four weeks. When hunger calls I simply walk into my kitchen and choose from an array of delightful and edible gifts.
My kitchen is also stocked with vegetables and fruits and lean meats. But those things take longer to prepare. Why would I go to the trouble of cooking chicken breasts when my whole family can dine on poundcake instead? The festive food is readily available, requires no preparation, and it’s full of sugar. My brain loves it. And then I want more.
Now that it’s the end of December and we’ve glutted ourselves for a month, I’m starting to feel pretty badly. I’m sluggish. My jeans are tight. I’m not sleeping well. I’ve slacked on making quality meals and now my discipline has waned. I’m going to have to talk myself into going back to our pre-December ways.
Here’s what I realized this morning as I was rummaging through the fridge: as it goes with physical food, so it goes with spiritual food.
Holiday seasons and full-calendar days can tempt us to skimp on both quality physical food and spiritual food. On those days we say, “Oh, just a few more cookies. Why not? This is a special time,” or “this is a really busy time,” or “I just don’t have time.” And so we satisfy our physical hunger with a quick fix—something easy and usually sugary, to make the brain happy and the hunger pangs go away.
And on those days I’m likely to do the same with my spiritual diet. In the morning I may say, “I’m in such a rush, I’ll get to my Bible reading later.” Or I may think, “This is a special time,” or “this is a busy time,” or “this just isn’t the right time.” Rather than filling myself with the good things found in God’s word I’ll grab a quick spiritual snack of maybe some worship music, possibly a podcast, perhaps a brief devotional—but if I’m totally honest, I am more likely to skip the spiritual food altogether. Spiritual hunger pangs are easier to ignore than physical ones.
One day without quality time supping on God’s word can easily lead to another and before I know it I may find myself completely malnourished. At that point, though, I am capable of convincing myself that it’s no big deal. My brain has grown lazy, I’ve gotten comfortable not exerting the effort, so when the busyness subsides and the special season wanes, I’m simply less likely to put the effort in. I’ll have to feel really hungry to dive back in.
Here’s another truth about both physical food and spiritual food: we crave what we eat. Our bodies get addicted to sugar and our spirits enjoy lazily following our own whims rather than listening carefully for the Lord through his word. With both diets, we are far too easily satisfied, as both C.S. Lewis and John Piper would say.
Of course there’s room for special circumstances with both diets. I’m not in favor of buckling down, creating a legalistic diet on either front, and earning my way back to salvation. I know that there are real seasons of sickness and toddler chasing and diaper changing. Our time and resources do ebb and flow with life and that’s okay. But at the end of the day, we have a choice as to what we will consume. We can just as easily munch on carrots as peanut brittle. And we will crave what we eat.
As the new year dawns, may you and I not be driven or bound by legalistic diets. But may we be found wanting. May we desire what’s truly good for our bodies and souls. May we not be too easily pleased with either kind of junk food. May we truly crave God’s good gifts of physical and spiritual nourishment.