Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Beginning...

I'm beginning an experiment. I want to know what will happen if I begin to distance myself from the American food system and try to eat more like the way people were designed to eat.

I'm not a tree hugger. That is to say, I rarely (if ever) hug trees. I don't eat granola, though I think it's good. I have exactly zero articles of clothing made of hemp and I haven't owned a pair of Birkenstocks since they were legitimately cool back in the mid 90's (what do you mean 'they were never legitimately cool'?). My point is that I'm not a weird environmentalist (not that there's anything wrong with that) or some new breed of hippie. My wife and I will not be homeschooling our kids (easy...just a joke) and we don't own any livestock...yet.

I'm normal. I understand that is a relative term, but by-and-large I believe it to be an accurate descriptor of myself. We watch regular TV shows (The Office was a favorite until recently, as it's clearly beginning a long, slow death) and listen to regular music. I've been educating my three-year-old on the finer musical points of Eminem and Kid Rock recently. We haven't really begun to dissect lyrics yet. We also eat regular food, but that's been changing a bit. More on that later.

Jesus is an important part of our household, though how important tends to vary from day-to-day if I'm honest. I am an ever-agitating blob of emotional instability and so my moods, attitudes and behavior tend to reflect more of the prevailing circumstance of the moment than the King of Kings, but I'm a work in progress. In the last few years, since my kids were born really, I've been increasingly aware of my responsibility to lead my family, reflecting Christ and teaching my children well. To that end, I began to look a bit more intensively and seriously on my own commitment to walking in relationship with Jesus.

Growing up in a pretty culturally-christian circle, I was always sort of under the impression that Jesus represented a long list of rules to follow and that behavior was the point of it all. I also thought being a christian sucked in a holy, boring sort of way. It wasn't fun. It was just a bunch of people acting happy, but they really wished they could be out doing what all the sinners were doing (or, doing it publicly instead of doing it privately). As I moved away from that circle and lived life for a bit I found through my failures and a few well-placed relationships that I had really misunderstood the whole point of Jesus. Jesus is about relationship and behavior has very little to do with it. I will get to more of this stuff in time, but that little bit of background is important to set the stage for what's going on now.

So, as I began to embrace my responsibility to lead my family, I began to pour a fair amount of energy into getting to know Jesus better. As I read the Bible, I kept coming across the principle of fasting...abstaining from something (often food), usually for the sake of some sort of spiritual purpose. It sounding interesting, plus I was getting fat, so I thought I would try it. Sort of a Holy Weightwatchers thing. It seemed much nobler to say I was fasting then to say I was dieting.

I began fasting semi-regularly. The fasts would always look a little different. Sometimes I would only eat fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I would only drink liquids (juices, broths, etc.) and sometimes I wouldn't eat at all. Through a few years of doing this regularly, I began to notice something. Every time I fasted, life slowed down a bit and there was way more peace, joy, contentment, gentleness, and all of the other things that I am usually conspicuously short on. I also noticed that after getting through the first couple of days, I wasn't really hungry and my nourishment didn't seem to suffer (OK...except when I wasn't ingesting anything at all...that sucked). For a while, I chalked all this up to some kind of Heavenly reward for my discipline and sacrifice. After all, isn't this what was supposed to happen as I drew nearer to Christ? I was certainly a better husband and father and I was leading my family better.

I continued fasting regularly, and the results were predictably similar every time. After a couple of years of this and on the heels of some studying of the American food system, I began to have another idea of why this was happening. Jesus repeatedly talks in the Bible about the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand (that is, here...on earth) and about living and walking in the Kingdom. The Kingdom in the Bible brings peace and healing and mercy. It ends oppression and injustice. It sounds like a Utopia that is unattainable which has led many people to dismiss the literal idea of God's Kingdom existing here on earth. But the more I reflected on that idea and on the effects of my fasting, the more I began to wonder if I was somehow experiencing a part of what Jesus was talking about.

Here is the point. This is the single question that I am starting out to answer. What if by eating the way that God originally designed me to eat, I am simply walking into the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

I know there are a ton of other questions and implications that this brings up, and I hope to address as many of these as I can in the days and weeks ahead. I don't know how this is going to go, but this is going to be my journal of a crazy experiment as I chase after more of God and His Kingdom here. I promise to be honest about all the Chicken Nuggets and french fries I eat. I will share successes and failures and I will try to be diligent in my writing. If you choose to follow this process with me, I will do my best to respect your time and energy. I will work hard to be objective and there will be no judgement. Maybe it will be enlightening, maybe not. I do feel fairly confident in this...I should probably go get another double cheeseburger before I get in too deep.