I’ve been teaching my children how to eat for nearly 14 years. You think maybe once you cover that at age 2 and 3 and 4, you might be done in that parenting department. But lessons on food and health and manners have followed us all the way into the teenage years. In part, because children always need reminders, but also because our family has transformed in our eating over the years. We’ve come to embrace the spiritual side of food that speaks to the way we are nourished and provided for, and not merely the physical fulfilling of our appetite.
We don’t really have a bunch of rules about what we can and cannot eat. But we have committed to feeding ourselves well, making choices that honor the way God intended to provide for our physical needs with created foods that nourish our created bodies. And in this journey, we’ve discovered how satisfying and healing certain foods can be, while recognizing how other foods contribute to our grumpy moods, headaches, fatigue, and our less than normal bathroom visits.
My children are learning how cereal just doesn’t sustain you through the morning like eggs and oatmeal do. And how cupcakes and candy usually lead to disrespectful attitudes and irritable moods. But that doesn’t keep me from fulfilling a request of Fruit Loops for a birthday breakfast of choice; it just keeps me from buying it every other day. And it doesn’t stop us from enjoying sugary sweets at times of celebration; it just stops us from indulging in processed sugar regularly.
It’s more about the awareness, than the not participating at all; about the daily practices that form habits, not the strict avoidance of unhealthy food all together.
And so, I don’t prohibit them from making their own choices in or away from home. I don’t want to control what my children eat….I simply want to make known to them the choices they have before them, and the consequences those choices may have on their bodies and spirits. For what we do to our flesh influences our spirit…and what we do to our spirit influences our flesh. This is the design of a God who created us as whole beings made of spirit, mind and body that co-exist in relationship with each other.
Yesterday I watched online as Lupita Nyong’o stood beautiful and strong to accept her Oscar at the Academy Awards. Her black hands held that golden statue with joy, and I felt proud for the young Kenyan woman, an unlikely candidate to receive such affirmation and recognition. Her acceptance speech was full of emotion and gratitude, but her words that linger are the ones she spoke to a different crowd.
Lupita give a speech at a luncheon for black women in Hollywood, hosted by Essence. She addressed race and beauty and how they intersect in modern society and her own life. As Lupita spoke about her personal struggle of living in a world where white skin dominates the beauty industry, she confessed her own inability to see herself as beautiful, and she shared something her mother used to tell her.
You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you, she would say.
Lupita has come to realize through her own journey that her mother is right. She offered her audience of women a solid piece of truth to digest: You cannot rely on how you look to sustain you. Beauty isn’t something you can consume. It’s something you just have to be.
I love these words. And I can’t wait to feed them to my children — a whole new lesson in what to eat and what not to eat per say. Because let’s be honest: we eat way more than just food each day. We devour the images of beauty and perfection that we see all around us. We consume the lies that tell us who we are and who we ought to be. We digest the expectations of a culture, and they quickly shape for us an identity that hinders who God created us to be. We eat so much virtual every day that we’re to the point where children struggle with what is real, and what is not.
Today I’m mediating on what I hope my children will choose to satisfy the hunger of their hearts. May they not look to materialism and fashion, accomplishments and technology – like empty calories that fool us into believing we’re satisfied. But may they consume the choices that give them life! May they feast in abundance on all that empowers them to live into the person and work God is shaping in them. Like fellowship and community over virtual realities. Truth over lies. Love, not fear. Bridges instead of walls. Peace over defensiveness. Love of self, instead of acceptance from others. The word of God, rather than the messages of our time and place. Equality over compartmentalizing. Hospitality, not judgment. Real breathing and living stories, instead of fleeting fantasies and fairytales.
More than broccoli and carrots and spinach…these are the things I really want my children to eat. These are what will bring about the abundant life God desires for his creation.
You can listen to Lupita’s beautifully articulated speech here.