I could feel them judging me from where I stood in the kitchen. I could hear the gears grinding behind their faces. The inner workings of their minds trembling with the weight of what their eyes were having to digest. The sudden haze in the room could now be attributed to the steam pouring out of their ears at the injustice that they were witnessing. Four witnesses, ranging from age 10 to age 80 were witnessing an inconceivably evil act of which I was the perpetrator. I, a cold hearted heathen, had committed an unthinkable crime. An unspeakable, irreversible, irreconcilable crime that the jury did not need long to return a verdict on. The room full of vegetarians drew their collective breaths as I made my stunning confession as the judge swings his gavel.
Alas, I cannot deny it.
I am a meat eater
And I think, it is time for me to come clean about my feelings on the subject, but not in the way you think.
My favorite way to see a cow
I found myself in an interesting spot a few weeks ago. I, an avid cheeseburger enthusiast, and self proclaimed steak expert, was in a sea of vegans and vegetarians. This was a fact that I never noticed until meal times when there was not an ounce of protein that existed outside of the form of peanut butter to be seen. Thinking at first it was simply the menu choice for the evening, I rolled with it. One day, then two, three, four, by five I was getting desperate, but I was also feeling this ceiling of pressure. Everyone here was extremly concerned with what they took into their bodies. Even though I was as well, meat was just one of those things that I needed, craved even. By day seven, I'm pretty sure that the chickens in the coup outside were starting to catch on to my glances towards them. This is where the story becomes rather comical, because this is where I started scheming. If one were to check my google history during this length of time, you would either be very amused, or very concerned. Things like "How to make fried kale taste like chicken" and "How to flavor tofu like a cheeseburger" were mixed in there between searches like "What on earth even is tofu" and "What do I do if I'm positive my lettuce is breathing". In the meantime, I did as the locals did. I ate my vegetables, but all the while became increasingly desperate for something unhealthy.
Um, I think its under cooked
I knew the diet they consumed was good for me. I also knew mine tasted better, and in moderation was totally fine as well. What really stopped me was the fear of judgment, which led me to one of my last days in my meatless in Massachusetts conundrum. After being told that lunch was a burger and chips, I raced to the line only to discover that this "burger" was a meatless patty of corn and other assorted healthiness. This was the beginning of the end. Upon arrival to my sleeping quarters, I pulled eggs and added salt, butter to the pan, and made a cup of hot chocolate with sugar in it. Basically, their worst nightmare. Which would bring us to how this blog started. I will never forget the feeling of almost embarrassment when I realized they had seen what I liked to eat. Sure this was a little extreme, but the question from the ten year old (went along the lines of "What on earth are you eating?") told me that my diet choices had not gone unnoticed. Suddenly, I, the proud meat eater, felt defeated by my hunger, and the need to please the people I was around.
But what on earth does my plight for meat have to do with the Church?
The simple answer is everything.
What stood between me, and being myself with what I ate and how I acted was the fear of judgment. The fear of someone noticing that, while balanced, what I consumed was different than their general diet. I feared their thoughts, and what their thoughts would soon be about me if I revealed that I wasn't perfect (or at the very least, flawed in the same way as they were). I was afraid of what would happen if I exposed.
The Body of Christ can be the same way
I have had it repeated to me over and over again that the church is a body of perfectly broken people. Shattered shards of the remnant seeking to be put together by grace. Seeking protection in the perfection of a perfectly whole God. The problem becomes apparent when we can't admit that we are broken. This only becomes an issue when we try to hide our needs and our wounds from the very Body that is trying to heal from those same wounds. If we never admit that we are hungry, we will never seek the nourishment that we desperately are craving. What is scary is that there are times when we as Christians would rather go without help, than expose where we have been or where we are for the fear of being judged.
Can you imagine the amount of lawsuits that would be filed if every time someone walked into an emergency room with an odd injury or illness, the doctor were to shrink away from the wound? What if instead of treating it, they were to pronounce how stupid someone would need to be to be afflicted by it? We could never imagine this happening. Then why sometimes as Christians do we judge others by their afflictions and their challenges? Why do we label them by their mistakes? Why do we limit them to their diet?
"Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgement on disputable matters. If one man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables, the man who eats everything must not look down on the one who does not. The man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does because God has accepted them both." Romans 14:1-3
I not only love this verse because of its parallels to my dilemma a few weeks ago, but also because of its relevance to today. The only thing that separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ is that awkward space in those good ole' "Leaning Tower of Pizza" hugs on Sunday morning. We are all the same. All waging the same war against flesh and spirit as the next person. The difference is how we regard each other.
As I was departing from this vegetarian heaven, I discovered that I hadn't actually offended anyone with my "odd" food tastes. They really didn't care what I ate, as long as I was healthy. Our parting meal was at a Chipotle that happened to be right next to a Five Guys (Talk about temptation. Like really?). By that point I didn't fear being judged, but I was trying to be more conscious of taking care of a small part of a whole body. I think what was interesting is that when the space for the conversations about the differences in diets was opened up, it gave me room to try new things. Besides, I had done a whole two weeks without a burger. What is one more day going to hurt? I think you'll find that if a person is given the safe space and a supportive to heal and grow from their past or current habits/diets they will be more likely to have a healthier outlook.
I have a confession
I am a meat eater
But it doesn't matter because the vegetarians and I can learn from each other. We can grow without knocking on the fact that my usual meal is kept as a pet in the back yard.