A few weeks ago, I stretched out across a plastic table and let my body be rubbed into near-bliss by the hands of my newly discovered massage therapist, who I am firmly convinced has magic coursing through her veins. As we neared the end of our time together, I tried to consciously enter deep inside the sacred space I share with my body, feeling the connection and awareness that having every inch of yourself touched brings. I slowed my breathing and quieted thoughts, and listened to myself. I asked my body what she needed from me. Slowly, tentatively, she answered me back, “Feed me, please.”
I realized as I lay there that I had not eaten breakfast that morning. I realize the same thing as I sit here typing today, somewhere around noon, two cups of coffee and a trip to the grocery store fueling my afternoon.
It’s not that I don’t eat. I do.
But my relationship with food feels fraught with emotional landmines most days, and I get tired of the constant triggers. So sometimes, I just give up altogether–snapping between the wild extremes of eating whatever easy comfort food I can put my hands on and not eating at all like a yo-yo in the hands of someone who is angry but pretending to have fun.
On the days when I am all in for myself, food feels like a gift. Like the most indulgent self-care I can gift my own body. I sautee organic veggies in coconut oil and crack near orange farm-fresh eggs in a pool in the middle. I whirl greens grown by a friend in the blender with her raw yogurt and fresh fruit. I chop my salad ingredients in tiny nuggets that offer wildly satisfying variety in every mouthful.
On my best days, food is an invitation back to harmony with myself, a pleasure to my senses and nutritious to my body and soul.
On my worst days, food is the brain-washing lack who makes my body my own worst enemy.
On most days in-between, I eye food with a wary desire and an anxious knot in my stomach, hoping we can all just figure out how to get along.
I wonder what it was like to eat when we were Eve? When we lived in perfect communion with the creative world and our bodies were not yet scarred by disordered passions and shame. I wonder what an orange tasted like in the Garden of Eden and if Eve let its juice drip down her naked chin to the cleft between her collar bones while she tipped her head back and let her eye lids flutter just a little.
And most of all I wonder what the way back there is. I wonder how we women can reclaim the Eden instinct that brings food back into harmony with our bodies and souls, how we can remember what it means to be truly nourished by what we consume.
I don’t think it was an accident that Jesus made the highest form of union we can share with him this side of heaven an act of eating, of consuming, of taking into ourselves that what gives life and transforms and makes us whole. He knows the heart of our healthiest desires and the deprivations of our unhinged passions. He knows how to feed the one with himself so that the other doesn’t so much starve to death as much as it finds itself satiated into a peaceful, healthy harmony.
We consume his goodness, and in doing so, are made ever more like him.
And the goodness of the earth that we call real food?
Is it possible that what he intended for us was that same experience?
In my favorite story in the Scriptures, when Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from sleep with the words “Talitha Kuom” in Matthew Chapter 5, his final command to the astonished onlookers is to give her something to eat.
Eating is the mark of her wellness. Her appetite an indicator of her strength. Consuming food proves to everyone around her she is, in fact, alive.
I have to think the little girl herself came to understand her healing, her wellness, in that first meal. She reconnected to her body, the same body she had lived in before, but living in it in a newness of transformation because of her encounter with the living God.
I wonder if her first bite was an Eden bite, where her body pleaded “feed me”, and she did, and it was good.
All good. Just plain good. Tasted good. Felt good. Smelled good. Looked good. Good.
No disqualifying thoughts about health, about weight, about how much or how little or in what way to consume it.
Just the satisfying awareness of full and well.
Sisters, I believe this is our God-given relationship with food.
I think he intended for us to hear our bodies say “feed me” and to respond in utter trust in the goodness of that act.
Like that little girl, I believe God wants the pleasure and fullness of food to be a mark of our well-being, of our being alive.
I do not claim to know how to get back there, but I do think we are not only invited but obligated to cultivate our Eden instinct. I do think it is worth asking.
With your next bite of food, ask yourself what it would be like to be Eve tasting this particular thing for the first time.
Invite your body to respond.
I’ll be over here with orange juice dripping down my chin and my head tipped back ever so slightly, remembering too.
Find all the posts in the #EmbodiedFaith series here.