By South Main Church Member, Claire Hein Blanton
My mom doesn’t realize this, but she makes the best spaghetti in the world. I’m nearly positive that Italian chefs would disagree, and perhaps they have a point. It doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best spaghetti and no matter how much I try to recreate it- I can’t. That’s probably the reason I now use HEB sauce, fiber-ful pasta, and ground turkey. It’s a substitute because it’ll never be the original. In the same way, my Mimi made the best fried chicken. I hate the break the hearts of little old Baptist ladies everywhere. Asking what came first, the Baptist or the love of food is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. I’m not sure if my soul is filled with the comfort of food because I’m Baptist or the other way around. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Home is where I’m fed. When I travel, the food just isn’t the same. Jack and my go-to road trip food is beef jerky. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to subsist off of beef jerky, but it’s not the best plan. This may be in part why we don’t road trip much. When I’m away, I can love what’s put in front of me, but I know it’s not home. It’s not where I’m fed.
For the last year (I can’t believe it’s been that long), I’ve been on a diet. Not long enough that it’s just become the norm of how I eat, but long enough that I’ve realized how utterly exhausting it is to have to think that much about feeding yourself. It’s a #firstworldproblem if I’ve ever encountered one. For the last year feeding myself has been a chore before I just don’t know how to not put too much work into the details. Suddenly instead of eating what satiates and taste good, there are concerns over calories and carbs and proteins and sat fat v. trans fat v. good fat v. gluten v. Godzilla. In it’s own way it has been very rewarding. I’m physically healthier, but in overcomplicating how I’m fed, it’s lost the warmness.
This past Sunday, South Main launched its summer “As You Go, Stay Close” theme. We started it in a very meaningful way by taking the Lord’s Supper (if you aren’t Baptist, you may not know that we only do this like 4 times a year). In partaking of the bread and grape juice, I’m reminded that South Main is where I’m spiritually fed. I can go away for a bit and enjoy being in a temporary congregation, but it’s never home. As much as some people feel called to certain forms of ministry or certain countries, I feel called to be part of this family. And when I don’t try to micromanage my spiritual formation, I’m fed.
In watershed last night Greg worked through Peterson’s The Jesus Way’s chapter on the Pharisees. Serendipitously, the section of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics that I’m working through today is about the Pharisees. They miss the point not because they aren’t trying, but because they are trying too hard to qualify their spiritual life. It’s a checklist. It’s a measurement on a door post of how have I grown versus how much you have grown. And I realized today that the constant measurement and worry and comparison is like being on a spiritual diet. In the end you may be trying really hard and reap some benefits, but how much have you starved yourself out of in the process? Where did you miss being fed?
I like having objective tools to measure growth. My goodness how much I loved getting graded in school. Given the right levels of stress and self-doubt and I will starve myself and regiment myself in order to reach some level of achievement. I feed off of it, but I’m never full. Just like the Pharisees were never going to be good enough and follow the rules enough, if we don’t learn to step back and indulge ourselves and give ourselves the grace to fail, we’ll never be fed. It’s a blessing that no matter how much resistance people put up, South Main never stops trying to feed you (figuratively and literally if you’ve ever been to watershed).
I believe that the more we are fed, the more we want to feed those around us, and those checklists and rules and regiments and nutritional facts fade from the forefront. Jesus says that he’s the bread of life, because we rest in the fullness of being fed. It’s returning to our original state and being fed off of knowing that we have returned to home to a feast of fried chicken.
Our greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to allow others to feed us, to fortify us for whatever journey is upon us. I want to drink in so much of home before we leave, not because I don’t think we’ll thrive elsewhere, but I don’t think it will be as satisfying. It’ll be food, but it won’t be the food from home. Even my attempts at home-cooking look like cheap copies.
So I hope that wherever the road is taking you right now, you have some way of being fed, some home for you that can fuel you. And I hope that you’ll make it back home, whatever home is for you and wherever that is.