“Lord thank You for this food and bless it to our bodies’ use” (or bless it to the nourishment of our bodies) How many times have I both heard and said that prayer throughout my lifetime? too many to count, certainly. It is one of those automatic prayers said anytime we are gathered around food, about to partake of a meal. Now the first part about being thankful for food has always resonated with me. I am well aware that here and around the world there are people who are hungry, people who are starving, people who are food insecure. I don’t take my having access to good food for granted and I am truly thankful, always.
But the second part (bless this food to our bodies’ use) I have never really even thought about until now. We eat, we are satisfied, we have energy to keep on going and growing and whatever else we need our bodies to do as we work and play and live our lives. End of story, right? or so I thought but for two dear friends of mine. You see, I knew starvation, malnutrition and many illnesses result when people don’t have food to eat, or don’t have enough food, or don’t have the right kinds of good, healthy foods. I didn’t know you could starve in a house full of food, in a country full of grocery stores and restaurants and farms filled with growing grain and livestock and vegetable gardens in every back yard. I didn’t know until now.
You see, my friends have food, they can eat, do eat, like to eat but their bodies aren’t nourished by the food they eat, any of it, no matter how healthy the food. Sometimes our bodies don’t work the way they were designed to work. In this case my friends don’t get any of the benefit from the foods they eat. Something I just take for granted, food will sustain my body. I trust that my body will be able to get what it needs from the foods that I feed it. I take the prayer for granted.
This got me to thinking about how food is one of God’s good gifts. One of His best gifts many would say, especially if you are a fellow Foodie. What if He had designed us just to need a daily shot or a daily pill to meet our bodies’ requirements for health and growth? But in His infinite creativity He gave us food and gave it to us in stunning variety. “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'” (Genesis 1:29) “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3)
“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– . . . and bread that sustains his heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15) Yes, food is one of God’s good gifts to us, one of His provisions for us. All over the world different foods grow in different climates and soils, but all contain what is necessary to sustain us. All the different varieties of all the various foods should astound us. Food is fascinating, food is fun. Food tastes good and smells good and fills more than just our bellies. Can you imagine our culture with no restaurants and no cooking shows? We trade recipes and hold cook offs or bake offs or chili cooking competitions. We attend picnics and potlucks. All because of the gift of food.
Food brings us together. The preparing and the sharing of food is present in every culture, creating community as people participate together in these activities. We show our care for others by bringing them food when they are ill or there is a death. We show our welcome and our hospitality to others by providing food for them. We celebrate with food, our holidays and our traditions include and often center around food. Food is a way to connect with others. From funerals to weddings, food feeds more than just our bodies. Food fuels our relationships as we break bread together. Jesus set the example in this regard as He often ate in peoples’ homes and broke bread with His disciples, culminating in His final and most memorable shared meal, His last supper with His disciples before His crucifixion.
Yes, food binds us to each other and to God in ways no weekly or monthly pill or injection ever could. Starting with depending on God for the rain to make their crops grow and ending with the offerings God’s people gave Him of the first fruits of those crops, they gave grain offerings and also offerings of their livestock after each harvest. From Adam and Eve in the garden, to manna in the desert, to Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand; from the Passover Supper to the Last Supper, food has connected God to His people.
Similarly, food connects us to each other every step of the way. Beginning with the growing of the food, no matter which culture, the planting and the harvesting of the food isn’t done alone but with the help of others in the community. It’s a group effort as the survival of the group depends on the success of the harvest. The food is produced in community and consumed in community, creating bonds that would not otherwise exist. Our need for food serves as an ever present reminder to us that we need each other and that we need God. We are even told to pray “give us this day our daily bread.”
We in this culture where food is accessible and abundant, may have lost sight of just what an extraordinary blessing the gift of food really is. I say this because like any of God’s good gifts, we often misuse or abuse it and food has been no exception. We either eat too much or too little (anorexia etc.) or eat the wrong stuff. Of course the wrong stuff only exists because we invented it. We tried to improve upon God’s perfection and fell woefully short. God’s gift of food to us in its’ natural state was perfectly designed for our bodies’ use. Our “improvements” to God’s provision for us have not been better for us at all, but often actually harmful rather than beneficial. Artificial sweeteners are a good example. Turns out they’re not all that after all and they have a down side. Sugar was ok all along in its natural state. And Cheetos, are they even really a food at all? And butter is back. Turns out butter is better. Butter is best. Actually butter rules. (ok, so much for my ode to butter)
God gave us so many good and perfect foods, it’s hard to improve upon perfection. (maybe that’s why farm to table is so popular right now?) “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
I won’t take that prayer for granted anymore. Not knowing what I know now. Not only is food a gift but that food can keep our bodies strong and healthy is a gift as well. I will appreciate both, not just the one. I will appreciate the gift of sharing food with family and friends not just on Thanksgiving Day but everyday. Food binds us together and fuels community. God meant for us to live in community. He knew what He was doing when He gave us food, not a pill or a shot. He was giving us immeasurably more than we could think to ask for or imagine. But then He always does. Thank you Heavenly Father,
sincerely, Grace Day