I grew up in a Christian home and so we always had a blessing before our meals. Somewhere along the line I became a bit antagonistic towards the blessing. I thought for sure that it was just a cruel and unusual way for our parents to delay a much anticipated meal for a few more moments. In those days I was hitting growth spurts and consequently was experiencing what I thought was “hunger” in a whole new way.
Part of me wondered why we brought out this tired old ritual three times a day. We thanked God for food that I had seen my mother purchase at the grocery store. We often said the same tired prayers weather rhyming or just very short like, “Thank you God for our food, Amen.” We went for short whenever we could get by with it… After all we didn’t want our food to get cold.
When I was on my own I admit, I let the blessing slide, except for a few occasional pious moments in the college cafeteria, but that was mostly for show or obligation. In my coldness I never could really wrap my head around why we were thanking God for food that I picked up off a shelf or out of a cafeteria canister. And maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe calloused blessings come from those who don’t really know about their food.
In my mid-twenties things began to change. I was awakened to the reality that food doesn’t magically appear on a grocery or pantry shelf. While reading Genesis I came to the realization that God was the inventor of some pretty cool stuff… like taste buds. Not only had he invented taste buds but all the stuff that they can taste. I really enjoy coffee now (an aquired taste I know). Part of me chuckled at God hiding the coffee bean inside of berries like a well hidden Easter egg… can’t wait till they figure this out. Then there are things like tree nuts, peanuts (which aren’t true nuts), strawberries, and other fruit, not to mention bacon, steak, bacon, fish, bacon, etc. (oops almost forgot… bacon).
Not only did God invent all of these flavors that we can mix and match creatively in our dishes, but he also sustains them. Do you know how difficult it is to grow some of these things? I got into gardening back when I thought it would be easy… you almost need a chemistry degree if you want to get your soil PH just right. Then there are bugs you have to worry about and if not bugs, disease (my squash plants were almost wiped out because my neighbor’s squash had a disease… It was a sad year).
Even though fruit literally grows on trees, trees are complex systems in and of themselves that often require diligent provision and maintenance. If the frost hits middle Florida at the wrong time of year the Wall Street Journal will report it and your orange juice will cost you more. When hail falls from the sky, pro-longed droughts occur, and other “acts of nature” we see it reflected on the super market shelves both in cost and volume (supply and demand I guess). You stop eating your sandwich with tomatoes because Wendy’s can no longer sell it to you at a decent price with a tomatoes slice on it.
But does that register when we pray? Do we see all of these things as in the hands of God? Do we thank him for the taste of bacon (because I don’t know if it’s really that smart to ask him to bless it to your body). Do we thank him for inventing this really weird beast with four stomachs that makes really tasty meals like steak and brisket (sorry if you’re a vegetarian)? Do we thank him for the ability to work and provide for those we love? Do we thank him for those who have provided for us, when we were too young or unable? Do we thank him for the ability to taste?
Recently I read Psalm 104 as part of my devotional reading plan. Part of it stuck out to me and reminded me to rescue the blessing from becoming a hurdle to get past to a divine moment to be savored: