How I Overcame My Eating Disorder in Seven Courses (Mar 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Scott Simpson

I’ve rarely been really hungry. I’ve occasionally had a little craving for this or that—something sweet, or salty, or chocolaty… Sometimes I’ve had a really specific craving, like for my grandma Simpson’s fried okra, or my grandma Stockburger’s cinnamon rolls, or for my mom’s goulash, or for the fruit-shakes my wife blends up for me. But really hungry? Not so much.

First Course:
I don’t know if the crowd in John chapter 6 are really hungry or not, but Jesus decides to feed more than 5000 of them. He asks Philip what they ought to do, and Philip brings up the issue of cost—it would take a half-year’s earnings just to give them all one bite! You know the story, there’s a boy there with five loaves and two fish, and Jesus blesses the food and breaks it, and they feed everyone and have twelve baskets of leftovers. Whether they were really hungry or not, they ate, and then they wanted more. Verse 15 says that Jesus knew “that they intended to come and make him king by force …” and he decided to head for the hills by himself for a bit.

Having plenty sometimes sparks worry about insuring it will be available tomorrow.

Second Course:
That evening the disciples were in a boat in a storm crossing the lake. Jesus freaked them out by walking on the water—in a storm no less! Once they calmed down and let him into the boat, they suddenly arrived safe and sound on the other side of the lake.

Fear over surrounding storms can cause us to think we’re a lot further from the shore (home) than we really are.

Third Course:
The next morning, all those people who had the big meal finally found Jesus on the other side of the lake, “Hey! When did you get here Jesus?” they said. He told them not to work for food that spoils.

There’s a kind of food that doesn’t spoil.

Fourth Course:
But there’s an additional garnish on that last one. Jesus said don’t WORK for food that spoils. But he hadn’t made the “multitude” work at all for those loaves and fishes, had he? He just blessed them and handed them out. I’m sure now they were thinking, “Work for it? Why work when He’s so good at just making it and handing it out!” But they didn’t say that out loud. They asked the more respectable-sounding question concerning work: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (verse 28).

Get that—what work should we do Jesus? How should we earn God’s favor so we can keep the bread and fish flowing?

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (verse 29)

Jesus doesn’t give a “work” plan.

Fifth & Sixth Courses:
Now, before this begins to sound like your run-of-the-mill grace vs. works dinner, let me point out a couple of subtleties.

1. They apparently had trouble remembering it wasn’t Moses but God who had fed them in the wilderness (verses 32-33).

2. Jesus’ statement makes it clear that receiving the bread or earning the bread or storing the bread or toasting the bread or spreading peanut butter on the bread or even distributing the bread doesn’t give life, EATING it does (verse 51 and on).

It’s tough to remember who’s supplying the food, AND it’s easy to play with the food instead of eating it.

Final Course:
This “eating” thing was apparently so important to Jesus that he makes his absolute worst Public Relations move. He goes into great detail about how his flesh was real food and his blood was real drink and how, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” The people begin to grumble, many leave and the disciples say right out loud, “this is a hard teaching.” Later critics even accused the followers of Jesus of cannibalism, pointing in part to this story as evidence. Jesus knowingly lost followers to this teaching, despite the fact that in verse 39 he said, “I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

In some important sense, following Jesus is less important than eating him.

I live very close to a people—and work with and among them—a people who are still very close to the spiritual nature of what they eat: the people of the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Oyate. You can read their sacred story of White Buffalo Woman by following this link.

I share this because I think our western perspective gives us some trouble with Jesus’ teaching that the Lakota don’t have. In general, we have become deeply disconnected from the food we eat. Our food has become a matter of practicality and so we go out of our way to remain disconnected from the sacrifice that occurs so that we may live. We buy our food at the market, giving us a sense that it is just one of those things we have because we pay for it. This creates some problems in its own right, but the deeper problem we have as a culture is a profound separation between the “sacred” and the “secular,” the “spiritual” and what we like to define as “non-spiritual.”

What’s troubling to the people in John 6 ISN’T the separation the Jesus makes between “spiritual” bread and “physical” bread, it’s the fact that he makes NO separation. He says “eat me” and doesn’t bother to soften or clarify or reframe. Even when he explains later to his disciples “the spirit give life; the flesh counts for nothing,” he isn’t saying, “hey guys—I’m just talking in metaphors,” he is saying, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”

How to Find Your Hunger

  • I preached my first sermon at age 8, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I was baptized at age 9, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I competed in Bible bowl, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I led high school devotionals in my Christian high school, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I went to India to preach in villages at age 17, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I taught at two different Christian Colleges, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I directed one of the largest Christian Camps among Restoration churches, but I hadn’t eaten Jesus yet.
  • I heard, believed, repented, confessed, was baptized and walked the straight and narrow without eating Jesus, BECAUSE all of this made perfect sense, given my upbringing and the rewards that were built in to my life and the culture I inherited.
  • My parents, grandparents, youth ministers, friends and many others drew me toward Jesus, but I think, perhaps, all these Christian people drew me so completely that I didn’t experience God’s drawing until a large portion of my Christian family rejected me and I was able to hear God over the din of all the well-meaning “Christians” I knew. Until I was put out of the camp, I was NEVER hungry enough to be God-drawn.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” (verses 44-45)

How Churchyness Distracts from God’s Draw
God doesn’t usually choose to draw us from WITHIN the “spiritual” categories we’ve separated off from those other, messy, “non-spiritual” things. He tends to surprise us with things like donkey- prophets and Kings born in barns, and our own surprisingly vacuous belly.

  • (Course 1) So, we tend to REALLY enjoy our church fellowship—even saying sometimes that it’s a “little taste of Heaven.” Perhaps that “little taste of Heaven” is what we’re worried about losing tomorrow if we don’t manage to keep the camp vigilantly defended.
  • (Course 2) We tend to become distracted by cultural and political storms that swirl around us, even though we know Jesus as the one who can waltz gracefully through the midst and across the surface, and so we forget that we really are at home in the Kingdom that HAS come and IS within us.
  • (Course 3) We continue to fall into discouragement when Christian brothers or sisters let us down or spoil things because we’ve been gathering sustenance from THEM rather than from the One who NEVER spoils.
  • (Course 4) We continue desperately attempting to distill the master plan, pattern or system that MUST be there in scripture, while Jesus has made it clear that He is the MEAL (and the only valid “plan” is to dig in and eat).
  • (Course 5) We keep looking toward our OWN trusted sources to supply what is needed when God IS supplying all that is needed IN Christ.
  • (Course 6) We push Jesus around the plate to keep Him free from our messy world-juice, and pick at His edges rather than eating.
  • (Course 7) We forget that claiming Christianity, taking on its designating markers, and gaining its community benefits CAN leave us starved and dying inside if we try to draw our SUSTENANCE from Christianity, possessing its markers and embracing its community (rather than from Christ).

Real sustenance is only drawn from Christ. But the good news is, there is no place you can go where Christ is NOT present . True sustenance—the kind that fills and never spoils — is both the RESULT of eating Christ, and the SIGN that it’s Christ I’ve been eating.

What’s the takeaway? Peter sums it up well in answer to Jesus’ question, “You do not want to leave me too, do you?”

Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” They didn’t just believe He had the words of life… they KNEW because they had been dining on the Word that IS Life.

And what’s the fundamental difference between mere followship (no, not a typo) and eating Jesus? Followship (as I’m defining it in my own life) has everything to do with visible markers and ultimate destinations. Eating happens in real time, right-now, filling THIS right-now hunger with the one and only right-now Jesus. And, like my Lakota friends know, the eating is a sacred thing that honors the flesh of the eaten by giving life to the eater. Anything less dishonors the sacrifice.<br><br>Eat Him. I don’t know how else to put it… and, apparently, neither did He.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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