I’m currently reading a memoir of Soviet times, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias in Moscow. While I enjoy cooking, I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Why did God design food to be so crucial?
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I’m currently reading Anya von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias of the author’s Moscow childhood. While I enjoy cooking — and obviously, books about cooking — I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Certainly as a parent, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food is a nonnegotiable part of my daily routine. As I go about these chores, I often question why God designed food to be so crucial.
Why does the human body required food, simply to continue to exist? (Or, as I texted my friend the other day, “Why do these people I live with seem to want to eat three times a day?”)
My questioning doesn’t end there.
Why, in heaven, when all things are made new, does feasting still continue to play a central role?
Again and again throughout Scripture, we see food:
The fruit in the garden.
The lentil porridge.
The burnt offerings.
Loaves and fishes.
The last supper.
Perhaps eating, then, is an ever-present reminder of our daily dependence on God.
Take, and eat.
In Exodus chapter sixteen, the Israelites of old had to trust him anew each morning. Manna squirreled away under the corners of the tent or in a basket very openly revealed a lack of trust by dissolving into stinking, swarming mess of worms.
Manna, like mercy, is new every morning. Our own striving cannot sustain us overnight; only He can.
When Jesus teaches us how to pray, He does not tell us His power is vast enough to sustain us for all time — even though it is. No, he tells us we must ask Him for bread, every day. There’s a transcendental significance to the focus on daily bread. (Couldn’t he have just as easily taught us to pray, “Give us this month our monthly bread, so we need not stress about this again until the calendar page turns”? I would have preferred that.)
He didn’t, of course. There are no prayers for weekly or yearly allotments; but many promises for bread and mercy daily.
We are to turn our eyes upon him constantly, over and over and over again.
The hymn-writer Robert Lowry understood this when he wrote,
“I need thee every hour…
I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Ev’ry hour I need thee!”
Every hour. (If you have infants — or teenage boys — this is a very literal reality.)
Eating, I think, reminds of us our constant state of reliance on God. We rely on him for everything — the onrush of air into our lungs, the pulse of our beating hearts, and life itself. Simply to be alive is a gift. And when we set down yet another tired lunch on the table on yet another weekday noon, this ordinary act can be a worshipful acknowledgement of our utter dependence on God.
Work, as worship.
Food, as a worship.
Inhaling the aroma, tasting the spices on our tongue, feeling satiated, feeling hungry — these are all tangible ways to taste and see that the Lord is good. Yes, even if the meal is one you’ve had hundreds of times.
Even if you’re weary of meal prep.
And our need for physical nourishment also echoes our need, too, for supernatural food. In the wilderness, David waxed desperately poetic in his sixty-third Psalm:
“You are my God;
I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You,
my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land
where there is no water.”
Our souls are designed to crave Him as deeply as our stomach rumbles for food after a long day of slim pickings. God didn’t want us to miss this. He didn’t hide the symbolism in parable: he spelled it out for us when he said “I am the bread of life.”
We are supposed to feel as desperately starved for God when our spirits are hungry, just as we do for a food when our bodies are physically famished. Our bodies aren’t designed to last for long periods without eating; so too, our souls aren’t designed for only periodic spiritual dining, taken at infrequent intervals.
Later in the same Psalm where David first declares his wilderness thirst for God, he exclaims what it’s like to finally dive to God after his soul had been starved: “I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!” (The Message translation)
In the Soviet memoir I’m reading, the author describes mealtime in Lenin’s Russia as “soup with rotten sauerkraut, unidentifiable meat (horse?), gluey millet, and endless vobla, the petrified fried Caspian roach fish.”
Is this what your soul has been surviving on?
You don’t need to live like this anymore. There is living water. There is life-giving bread.
The shackles are off; the walls have crumbled.
Read! Partake! Drink it in!
The time for feasting has arrived.