Rev. Christy Thomas: Return to discipline of periodic fast

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Over Christmas, I saw Philomena, a well-done movie of evil masquerading as holiness, misguided good intentions, the need for closure, the temptation for revenge and the freedom of forgiveness.

Major human life themes combined with great acting — compelling and captivating.

The story revolves around an Irish woman trying to find her son, adopted nearly 50 years before.

When she learns that he had been adopted by U.S. citizens and had grown up in America, her immediate concern: “What if he is obese? The portions are so huge there.”

That line about the huge portions brought a good audience laugh. But perhaps an uncomfortable laugh — these words hit our culture of excess. Yes, the portions are huge here.

Most human history has been lived in a world of food scarcity. People ate heavily when food was available. The next meal remained a mystery and a constant struggle. Humans were lean by necessity.

To be called “very thin” was not a compliment — it meant not enough food to go around, infertility and early death.

Eating everything possible meant survival for millions of years. Just because food is suddenly (evolutionarily speaking) abundant doesn’t mean our bodies understand that.

So, huge portions, when presented, are consumed. This doesn’t make us bad, or without self-control, or greedy or gluttons. It’s just bred into us, and will take a long time for such a genetic need to disappear.

Because I have been privileged to travel occasionally for extended periods of time, I have experienced upon my return what others who land in the U.S. for the first time experience: shock at how big we are. It’s an eye-opener.

Now the Holy Scriptures tell us that our bodies are important — that our physical selves become the vessel in which the Presence of God resides, a holy place.

Our hands and feet and brains and bodies are called upon to relieve suffering and fight oppression and stand firm against evil forces.

Our ability to live out the calling to do and be good in the world can and often is greatly hampered by the devastation that those huge portions bring us. They drag us down, impose on us the diseases of civilization, shorten our breaths and fatten our hearts.

As I write this, I am at a restaurant with a huge portion of salad in front of me. I am half-way finished with it. I am not in the least hungry now, but am eating because it is there, because, God-forbid, if I don’t eat it, I will “waste” it. But if I do eat it, then I will “waist” it, indeed.

I’m not calling for people, or me, to go on diets. They don’t work. I am just suggesting that perhaps we need to be more aware that our bodies are not meant for modern eating patterns of giant portions.

Real hunger is something almost none of us really know — we graze constantly, food ever present.

I think we need to return to the discipline of the periodic fast.

See what happens if hunger itself actually shows up, rather than appetite. Then, when food is served, wait about five minutes before actually consuming.

Use those minutes to give heartfelt thanks for provision — and pray for those who have not been given that privilege. Pray for those who are skinny by means of deprivation, not because it is a fashion statement.

Perhaps 2014 could be a year when we could return to the appreciation of food rather than the over-consumption of it.

It could be a year where we see each bite as a privilege, and one to be savored, rather than mindlessly consumed while watching TV or driving, or playing with an electronic device.

Perhaps a year to say, “Give us this day our daily bread” and really mean it.

Just for this day, please, enough to eat.

And if I have too much, may I share it with others so they have enough.

THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS can be reached at 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at

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