When you awake in the morning to find the sun has gone missing, the cloud cover seems so absolute, you wonder if it will return. Walk down the stairs, or down the hall, and put on the kettle. Switch on your coffeemaker. As you mingle beans or leaves with steaming water, imagine the warmth is pouring into you, revealing your strength and flavor. As you take your first sip, accept the gift of energy taken from the sun and stored in the inmost places of plants, tended and harvested by fellow sojourners on this path. Take a moment to whisper a prayer of thanks for those hands, for the creation that brings sunshine to your cup on a dark morning.
Maybe, next, you get out a frying pan, or a cereal bowl. You may be pulling together ingredients alongside someone else, or maybe others are depending on you for food. It may be that you are simply nourishing yourself. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” they tell you. But breakfast is not something you should do. Instead, when you wake, tune in to your body. How do you feel? As you begin to feel stomach flutters and rumbles, ask yourself, “What am I hungry for today?” You may notice that you haven’t stocked up for your specific hungers, the foods that bring you joy. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you shouldn’t be ruining it with carbs and bacon, right? Pause, for a moment, and consider a God who created carbohydrates, too small to see, but packed with energy. Consider a God who has made all things clean, even the flesh of pigs, formerly off limits for the faithful. Let your mind dwell on a God who says, just days after he has risen from the grave, “Come and have breakfast.” Picture the fish he would have fried for you on the beach if you had been there.
Don’t stop listening to your body as the day continues. Ask yourself if you are thirsty, or hungry. Speak kindly to yourself in response, as if you were a beloved child or friend. Pour yourself a glass of water, your favorite temperature. Cut a slice of lemon or lime or cucumber, if you like, and drop it in. As you drink, remind yourself that you were created to need water for the healthy working of every corner of your body. Consider a God who brought Hagar to a well in the desert, even as she feared that she and her son would die. Notice the way your brain perks up as you drink, the way your headache eases.
Don’t ignore those first hunger pangs as you hunch over your computer, or hover with little people, or work with your hands. Listen. What is your body telling you? Sometimes your body tells you secrets. An iron deficiency can manifest in a craving for meat or you may be crying out for potassium when you’re drawn to a banana. Perhaps you’re making a lunchtime salad. As you chop and slice, think about each element, about the lengths each one has come to be with you now. Think about the people who grew or raised these things. Think about the work needed to enable you to purchase them or the backyard garden that housed them. Think about a God who decided there should be so many vegetables and fruits, so many varieties of food. Remember this is a God who thought you were a good idea.
It is later in the afternoon, and perhaps now you need a snack. Can you put aside all thoughts of calories and shame as you give yourself the gift of level blood sugar? Can you recognize that you are worth that beautiful mandarin orange, that piece of peanut-butter toast, that plate of cheese and crackers? It is said that when we are more mindful, the quality of what we eat changes. We veer away from the soggy French fries, not because of expense or shame, but because we are caring for ourselves with love. In your body, you hold all the memories of what you have eaten. You know the difference between something that will take you higher and what will make you feel sluggish or sick. Meditate on the ways food brings you life. Food is, very simply, sustenance. With it, you are sustained.
As the day draws to a close, you may be with family, at a gathering large or small. You may be celebrating, looking at a table filled to the brim with tradition. Or your meal may be simple. You may, in fact, be on your own. In that moment, draw your shoulders back; carry them with dignity. Be generous with your body. Fill your plate with the good things that you or someone else you love has prepared. Think about all the care that has gone into feeding you today, the care that has gone into dinners you’ve shared with friends, and family, every meal ever made for you, no matter how simple. Eat to satisfy your hunger, savoring each bite. Eat until you are full and then stop, basking in the joy found in edible blessings.
If you are in the company of people, pause for a moment. Look around the table. Notice the hush or the cacophony of voices. Allow this table, this moment, to remind you we are all invited to the Table, where we can sit and stay. Good things have been prepared for us, perhaps our favorite.
Take a sip of wine, water, sparkling apple cider. Let it join you with the hosts who have gone before, including the ones who are in your presence now, asking you to pass the potatoes. As you do, pass a smile, a look. Take a moment to be grateful not only that you are not eating alone, but that you are eating with these exact people.
Keep your fork, for when dessert comes. Allow the sweetness of the finale to wash over you. Let this taste follow you into your evening rest. Let it linger so that in the morning you remember and you are thankful.