How to Become More Grateful

The short answer to the question in my title? Do without.

The first meal after you are allowed to eat again, your mouth practically explodes—the pleasant tastes and sensations rocket through your mouth and into your tummy.

If you’ve ever had one of many hospital procedures that call for foregoing your usual diet for one or more days, or if you have ever gone on a liquid-only fast, you know how precious and coveted food becomes.

Your spouse and the rest of the family can eat what they want, you’re stuck with bullion or plain Jell-O, or just water or black coffee/tea. You consciously have to stop yourself from picking up that jar of peanuts, or grabbing half a banana. The pattern of half-consciously grazing after work is totally off limits, so you try to be self-aware. No, you can’t eat that single cracker, or that stray potato chip. If you slip up, the procedure will be cancelled and you’ll still owe them a hefty cancellation fee. Or if you lie about cheating on your preparation and do the procedure anyway, it may need to be repeated, incurring even more expense, or hiding urgent health problems.

So you count the days and hours until you can eat normally again. My recent procedure was Tuesday noon, so all day Monday I kept saying to myself: “Tuesday evening I can eat again! I can be back to normal.” I especially craved apples, popcorn, salads: all the good things I normally eat frequently. I doubt that very many people willingly consent to these kinds of procedures for the day after a big food holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

The first meal after you are allowed to eat again, your mouth practically explodes—the pleasant tastes and sensations rocket through your mouth and into your tummy. This Scripture passage from Isaiah 55:2 came to mind: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

However, too much rich food—of course that is not good! For example, some of my kids and 9-month-old grandson were at our home last summer. I was making scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast, planning to scramble about six eggs in a tablespoon or so of butter. My daughter wanted me to make her son’s egg first, so it could be unsalted and have time to cool off. Without thinking, though, I cooked it in the butter, which was already in the pan. After it cooled, he gobbled it up. About two hours later though, we saw it again, and he spent the next couple of hours getting over it. Bad grandma.

In North America most of us have access to so much food that is not necessarily healthy for us. I heard radio announcers talking about a hamburger with cheese, served on a glazed donut with bacon on top. As one of them quipped, “That should be served with a side of defibrillator.”

After my recent fast for medical reasons, I craved a sweet, simple apple. Apples are so ample for most of us in North America during the fall harvest season. The same with other nutritious fruits and many vegetables.

But how quickly we take food for granted again. Sure, we eat satisfying foods and enjoy yummy tastes and delicious meals, but don’t really stop to savor the flavors—what some people call mindful eating. Without the deprivation, we are soon back into old routines. That’s why some folks fast regularly, to stay more aware of the goodness we enjoy in our food lives.

I am a food addict. The trouble with food addiction is that you do need to eat something to survive. You can get along without coffee, cigarettes, or alcohol. Not so with food—you gotta have it, unless you’re fed intravenously. What is the fun in that?

And so—a key learning and basic principle for all of life—is that you need balance. God made us that way. We need food, but too much or the wrong kind or at the wrong time is not good. Think of God’s command for the children of Israel in the wilderness not to hoard the manna which was always sent with just enough for each day.

Anytime you have an experience of doing without—a fast, a medical test, or a bout with the flu, even though the first taste of food again is extraordinarily good—too soon we return, unfortunately, to “normal.” Too often we consume food without thinking or thanking. We rarely pause to remember the cook who prepared it, the farmer or the factory worker, and the cow or pig who has given his or her life. And the God of creation behind it all.

Who helps put the food on your table? What kind of reminders do you use to help you be grateful every single day?

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Posted 11/20/2014 7:00:00 AM

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