How did faith play a role in shaping my food and faith experience?
Food was very much a part of my growing up and interactions with both of my parents’ families. Food was not the only reason why we came together. We came together to rekindle, reconcile, and just have fun together, but food was an expression of our culinary expertise, our history, and one of the ways to pass down family traditions and recipes. Whether we realized it or not, food was metaphorically validation of our person hood, status in the family, and popularity. I grew up with mostly women providing the meals for our Sunday and repast meals, and they were sensitive about their dishes. They put their all into these dishes as these were extensions of who they were. I have witnessed numerous “church hurts” over a kitchen and have experienced great jubilees over a meal with my fellow congregants where we have built fellowships into lasting relationships.
When it comes to physical heath, food and I have a love-hate relationship. Food and I have been through many changes together throughout my life. Food has made me happy and has made me sad; food has strengthened me and food has made me lethargic. The good tastes of food have filled both my stomach and my soul, while overindulges in food have left both my stomach and soul full of repentance. Food has been my comforter and at times left me feeling neglected. Sometimes I offered my food to others, but mostly my selfishness did not want to share my food even if a family member asked. Food has been in almost every high and low moment of my life, celebrating with me and being there for me during times of loss and repast. Food has made me healthy and food has made me sick to the point I needed surgery. Food was my drug of choice to eat away my issues, circumstances, and my very low self-image. I was uplifted in my spirit and mind with each bite, but my body gained each pound that eventually caused me to rethink this love-hate relationship.
My decision was to get a handle on this “eat until I drop” mentality before it kills me physically. I began to view myself through the eyes of God, which helped me see that I am the child of the Most High God. God created me and my body with a purpose. My body is “…the Temple of the Holy Ghost…” (I Corinthians 6:19a). I stopped using my supposedly “fat genes” as an excuse for being plus-size and eating like I didn’t have any sense. My dad and his sisters were severely obese and I did not think anything of it until I became an adult. I realized that to live a longer life and avoid heart disease, I must make changes now. Therefore, I began to alter how I cook my food by using olive oil, baking instead of frying, monitoring portions, and increasing my intake of healthy options like steamed vegetables. Also, reading labels on packages has helped me stay away from foods with high sodium.
My faith has been strengthened and wonderful wisdom has been poured into me while sharing a meal. I truly believe that faith and food are intertwined spiritually because both can nourish the soul.
–Crystal Rook, PHW Intern
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.