My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete His work.
Food is essential. This much is obvious. We need it to survive. If one goes too long without eating then they will die. Yet food is more than just fuel to us. Food can be a delight. It is taste and smell and memory. It is gathering around a table with family and friends. Food brings joy. Food can be art. Food can be comfort or an unhealthy distraction. It is breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon snack, midnight burger runs, birthday cake, wedding cake, post-funeral covered dish, Eucharist. One could probably write the story of her life based just on the food. Yes, we need food, but that need goes deeper than just nutrients. It is an integral part of our human experience.
Then here is Jesus in the Gospel of John saying that his food is to do the will of God. I read that just after I polished off a double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. The words struck me like they never have before. Doing God's work was like food to him. It was essential to his life. He hungered for it. He craved it. I don't know how many times I have read that passage, but the words had never truly sunk in. Jesus relationship to his ministry is like our relationship to food. He needed to do God's work and do it regularly in order to survive, in order to live life at its fullest.
I think back to the Beatitudes: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." And I remember if I am supposed to be like Jesus then my perspective on doing God's work ought to be like the one I say I follow. The act of loving God and loving others should be like food to me. If I am not partaking of that work regularly then I'm going to starve. I must be eager to love and to serve others.
Our eyes start to roll into the back of our heads when we think about what we have to do. It feels like homework. Though it is true that we should see doing God work as necessary to our survival, we can see it as much more than that. I started thinking about doing God's work like food and how there are all different kinds of food. And it is this beautiful table of possibility in my imagination. Think of the dinner scene in Hook or one of Remy's mouth-watering dishes in Ratatouille. Think of Thanksgiving dinner at your grandma's or the best meal you've ever had. There is so much food to be had out there and it is of all different kinds. So it is work that we do, but it is work embodied in a world of possibility.
Sometimes we serve God and it is this great cuisine. It is beautiful worship services or meaningful conversations with the people around us. Other times we serve God and it is like shoving a Pop-Tart in your mouth as you head out the door. All you can do is treat a horrible person with love and they might not even notice it. Sure, that doesn't change the world or light up your day, but at least you've eaten something. Just in our regular meals, the ways in which we serve will be varied. There will be great meals and bland, boring ones. There will be times of feast and famine, moments of great variety and "Holy cow, how are we eating at McDonald's again? Why can't my kids eat something other than a chicken nugget?!" Sorry, I got caught up in my own stuff there a moment.
If we see serving God the same way that we see eating food then perhaps that will help us get out of our spiritual ruts. Sometimes you need to change things up. Maybe you need to shake up your devotional life. Maybe you can think of some out of the box ways to reach the people in your community. In the same way that we say, "Hey, what if we tried that new Thai place?" what if our churches said, "Hey, what if we started teaching free weekend art classes at that apartment complex?" Like the Thai place, it could be a bad idea or it could become your new favorite restaurant. Either way you tried and learned something new.
People like to eat together. There is nothing like getting together with a group of friends for a great meal. So perhaps seeing the work of God as food would help us to become more communal as we serve those around us. When I see people at a restaurant having a good time (in a non-obnoxious way) there is always a part of me that wants to join them. And that is coming from an introvert. As people witness us doing the work of God out in the world, might it be good to see on occasion that we're enjoying the company of each other and of what we are doing?
When we follow Jesus and see the work as food then there is one more thing that we definitely need to do. In the same way that we sit down before a meal and ask God to bless it, we should take a moment and ask God to bless the work. God gave us the opportunity. We should continue to seek God's way as we pursue it.
Those are just a few of the thoughts that came to my head after that passage in John 4 truly hit home. Maybe I should start studying scripture more as I eat. Regardless, I hope that I can start to see following God's way like I see food. I hope that I see it as essential to my survival and also a world full of incredible possibility.