Are you going to eat that?

Beginning in my teen years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food. This is the time of life when most women (and plenty of men) start becoming self-conscious about weight and physical appearance. I was no exception, and began interacting with food as alternately a tool and a weapon. I’m not naturally slender and tend to gain weight easily, so the way I felt about myself was heavily tied to the way I was eating. I would overeat as a tool to self-soothe or eat very strictly in an effort to lose weight. Then food would quickly become a weapon wielded against me as a capricious master, one that I could never fully control. Either I would be “good” during a period of discipline and self-control, or I would eventually start being “bad” and eat more than I ought. My litmus test on the good/bad scale was always my weight. My worry was not about living in freedom as a steward of God’s good creation, but about being thin and “good” in the eyes of our culture.

The Last Supper

It wasn’t until graduate school where I had to attend an Overeaters Anonymous meeting for an addictions counseling class that I recognized that in many ways I was a slave to food. As I listened to the group members share about their thoughts and impulses, I saw myself in a mirror. Food was controlling my life by defining the way I viewed myself. I was consumed by trying to not overeat and then by guilt if I ate too much. As I thought about the 12 Steps, I knew that I had to apply the first two to myself:

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This was a turning point in my life. I stopped seeing my relationship with food as being defined by weight, and saw it defined by sin. My inability to treat food as a good gift from God had caused me to abuse it and use it to meet my own needs and desires in selfish and unhealthy ways. This wasn’t about being thin, this was about being holy.

Here’s a fun exercise, try word searching “feast” in a Bible website like You’ll quickly see that all of humanity has this love/hate relationship with indulgence, and that God cares very much about it. Sin and idolatry come when we take something good that God has made for our flourishing, and try to exert our own control and lordship over it. We treat it as our own rather than a good gift to enjoy.

God gets frustrated with the idol of self-indulgence (or restriction and subsequent abuse of our bodies) because we are abusing what is His, and in so doing we pursue our own destruction. (Jer. 16:8, Hos 2:11) The Lord loves good food and feasting as a source of rejoicing and community.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9

After all, Jesus told us to remember His death and sacrifice through a meal (Luke 22:14-23). Food itself is always very good, it’s only our twisted idolatry that leads us to use it in unhealthy ways.

So what would it look like to be free in the ways we relate to food? To be free from the self-righteousness of false control, and free from fear and shame? In my journey it started with Step 2. I admitted to Christ in prayer that I was powerless to control this abuse in my heart (if your struggle isn’t food, insert your habitual sin(s) that you can never fully control). I had to ask God to do what I could not do for myself: to rewire me to desire food in a better way. I didn’t need behavior modification, I needed a heart change.

Here’s the funny thing about admitting helplessness to God and asking for help…He actually helps us. Over time the Lord created changes in my impulses and thoughts, and the way I reacted to temptations in my environment. He routed out the sinful desires of my heart that were making me a slave, and replaced them with the freedom of humility. No longer do I fear food but am free to enjoy the fruits of God’s earth with gratitude and appreciation.

OCBP Feast

A celebration of joyful community at the CCO’s Ocean City Beach Project last summer

I still pray regularly for the Lord to help keep me from sin in my eating habits, it’s an ongoing process. But always I am motivated by the beautiful hope that Jesus teaches me how to feast with joy rather than shame. As the honored guest at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Matt. 22:1-14, Rev. 21), He invites me into a celebration of full hearts and rich communion.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Moon Festival

Celebrating Moon Festival with IUP Taiwanese students, a feast that brought our nations together

Exile: The national intervention

Have you ever had to practice tough love? Have you had to say or do the hard thing in an effort to get someone’s attention and try to keep them from making a bad decision? Did they thank you for it, or did they think you were just out to get them and make their life miserable?

The exile of the Israelites into Babylon is a part of Old Testament history that doesn’t get a lot of press. How many sermons have you heard preached about God evicting His people from the Promised Land and giving them over into foreign rule? It’s not a particularly pleasant or easy topic to tackle. Part of what makes it so difficult is the harshness of an event that makes it seem as though God was giving up on the people and sending them away out of frustration. Did God reach His limit and have to get them out of His sight?


We should first note that God never lies in wait so He can spring punishment and death on His unsuspecting children. He warns the people in Leviticus 26, before they even enter the Land of Promise, that if they disobey the Law and the covenant they have made then He will remove them from the land.  That was nearly 700 years before the exile occurred. Then God sends several prophets to warn the people that their violence and exploitation can’t go unnoticed and judgment will be imminent unless they turn their hearts back to following the Lord. God isn’t just talking a big game when He says,

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8

When the exile finally happens, God makes it very clear why it’s occurring. The land was full of violence and bloodshed, the people had been worshiping other gods for centuries, and they had forgotten about the poor and there was injustice and inequity throughout their society. They were attributing their prosperity to the pagan gods and they thought that God didn’t see them worshiping others gods in the very middle of God’s temple. Hosea frames it as a marriage between God and Israel in which Israel has been wildly unfaithful and promiscuous.

5 For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
    who give me my bread and my water,
    my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
    and I will build a wall against her,
    so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
    but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
    but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
    ‘I will go and return to my first husband,
    for it was better for me then than now.’
And she did not know
    that it was I who gave her
    the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
    which they used for Baal. – Hosea 2:5-8

In light of this reality, let’s put ourselves in God’s shoes for a moment. I’m going to use a metaphor that is intense and may hit close to home for many people. My hope is to represent as accurately as possible how deeply God is invested in us and how much sin destroys us and robs us of life. I hope that God’s pursuit of us becomes that much more real and powerful.

Imagine the person about whom you care the most and in whom you’ve invested the most. You’ve poured your whole life into this person…now imagine they have become a drug addict. At first they brought their dealers into your home and gave away all of your belongings to those people. And now they’ve run away and are living in squalor in the crack house. They stole your car, emptied your bank account, maxed out all your credit cards, and they keep saying, “my dealers, these are the people that have my back and know what’s best for me. They’re the ones I can trust.”  How would you feel?  You’ve given them everything and only want health and flourishing for them, and they reject you in order to destroy themselves.  How long do you keep giving to them? At what point do you give up?

The exile is God’s national intervention.  God had to physically remove them from the environment where they had enacted all of this destruction.  You can’t get clean and sober and then keep living in the crack house and think you’ll stay clean. You have to change all of your old habits and be stripped of everything that was enabling you to stay in active addiction. God was willing to show them tough love and risk His children resenting Him and yelling, “Why are you doing this? You’re such a bad God, I hate you!” (Ezekiel 18:29-32) Rather than the exile being evidence that God had given up on them and was disowning them, it meant that He would never give up on them and would do whatever it took to protect them from themselves.

If you feel like you or someone you love very dearly has become a lost cause, don’t lose heart. We believe in a God that will never give up and who goes to great lengths to save people who are hell-bent on their own destruction. Even when we repeatedly reject Him and think we’re out of reach, we can never outrun the love of God.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

Not lost cause

 If this has struck a personal cord with you, know that you don’t have to process it alone. Sin puts us and people we love in isolation and trapped in shame, and Christ desires to bring us out of darkness into healing and community. Please seek out a pastor, Christian friend, or counselor and invite Jesus to bring new levels of healing and restoration in your life.