Eating Spiritually?

If you grew up in a church, when you hear the word "potluck" you have several readily-available mental images to refer to:

Steaming crockpots of soups, noodles, and thick creamy goodness. Fried...well, fried "anything" piled on plates Pies and cakes beyond human imagination.

Honestly, I have to say I am salivating now having written those phrases.

We've made eating and food part of our ecclesia, our church and community life, and rightly so. Jesus did much of His best work around tables and at meals or feasts (see Matt. 9:1ff and John 2:1-12). In Jesus' time, there was something radical about sharing a meal with someone - it gave them value, showed them hospitality and acceptance on par with letting them use your toothbrush today. Meals can be incredibly spiritual things.

Taking a bit of a side road from that, we live in a Western culture that is saturated with food. Not in the community-edifying and hospitality-celebrating way, but in what is becoming a dark and destructive way. We have competitive eating events. We have something called "super sizing."

In a related story, we have skyrocketing obesity rates as well as rampant heart disease, diabetes, and cancer related to our dietary habits.

I'm not being a downer, per se, I'm just stating reality. Food has become more than fuel. It has become an obsession. I'm the first to admit that I enjoy foods that aren't good for me and to a certain extent it is a renewing and restoring thing to enjoy food. James Bryan Smith in his book The Good and Beautiful God goes so far as to say that "calories do not count on the Sabbath."

I can get next to that theology.

My thought today on eating is this: What could we learn about concepts such as gratitude, contentment, and simplicity from removing destructive eating habits from our lives? Could eating a healthy amount of calories, fat, and cholesterol on a daily basis be a spiritual discipline?

I can remember lacking energy and attention at a time in my life where my diet was out of control and my body was completely out of shape. I had trouble reading and focusing, but more than that I had trouble spending times in prayer without dozing off.

What could God teach us and form in us through His Spirit if we would simply shift our eating to remove the fog that comes with overeating and lack of exercise (which I see as a related issue, intimately tied to this one?)

This post isn't meant to inspire guilt but hope - perhaps the stagnation in our relationship with God and our activity in His mission to the world begins in our pantries and refrigerators, not our prayer or Scripture reading.