Monday, April 18, 2016

Food Labels and the Glory of God

All I wanted was a mid-day snack.  I meandered into our kitchen to find leftover pecan pie.  This was really exciting...until I looked at the food label.  "Serving Size: 1/8th pie.  Calories per serving: 470."  In front of me was this delicious looking pie, I was hungry, and what seemed like a really small piece of pie was going to sink my calorie budget for the day.

I had multiple options at this point.  One was to say, "heck with my calorie counter!"  The other?  "Let's just have something else...something I don't want to eat, but should because it's 'healthier.'"

For anyone who struggles with food and body image, you know that this can be a common struggle.  Maybe you don't count calories, but it's hard to feel any freedom in whatever you eat, especially if you have someone, or something, holding you accountable.  It's when calorie counters and food labels become the unwelcome party guest.

Comedian Brian Regan even jokes about it in one of his routines.  In talking about Fig Newtons, he said this:

"I read the label, do you know what the serving size is for Fig Newtons?  Two cookies!  Who the heck eats two cookies?  I eat Fig Newtons by the sleeve!  Two sleeves is a serving size!"

Brian's one-liner offers insight.  The boundary of a food label didn't stop me from wanting to justify what I wanted...which was as much pecan pie as I could muster!  

Now, nothing is wrong with big pieces of pecan pie.  Nor is anything wrong with no pie at all.  But if you do a deeper study of my heart, you'll see what's really wrong.  

On one hand, I believe freedom and joy will be in eating whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want.  Forget the food label!  On the other hand, I believe freedom and joy will be found in staying at a healthy weight!  And, especially as I get older, these two things are becoming more and more mutually exclusive!

But what does God say about freedom and joy?  
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 14:17)

God's Kingdom is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  So while pie can give momentary satisfaction, I have eternal joy in the Spirit.  While losing or maintaining my weight is good, I have nothing to prove to other people, because I have eternal joy in the Spirit!  So while we have boundaries like food labels, they become avenues to greater freedom and joy.  Freedom from feeling the need to eat to feel happy, and freedom from the need to look good to impress!

I did end up eating the pie.  But only half of the serving size.  It was just enough to get a delicious taste, and I didn't need more.  I praised God for what I had, and for what He made.  Boundaries like food labels can enhance joy, because it points us to the God of all joy.  He's found in Jesus Christ, and He is far more joy-giving than even the sweetest slice of pie.