What Food Is For

Soul. Body. Soul


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On Nursing Babies and the Nature of God

Of all the memorable moments at TGCW16, probably few will stick in our minds quite as certainly as much as Jen Wilkin’s extended riff on 1 Peter 2:2 about newborn babies and their craving for milk.

Part of the reason is the probability that any of us have ever heard our pastor describe himself as a “lactation consultant” is probably close to zero.   But hopefully another part of the reason it stuck with us long after we closed in prayer and made our way home was because it’s true. And it’s the kind of true statement that has a whole lot more underneath it that’s also true (and good, and beautiful), but until Jen said it, perhaps not too many of us had ever stopped to think about it before.

I started this blog several years ago because I was increasingly gripped by the way God uses food and our dependence on it to depict our spiritual dependence on Him, and I wanted to understand how deep the metaphor might go. Four years of graduate classes in anatomy, physiology, microbiology and chemistry later, I’d only scratched the surface. The more you study the human body, the more you will be awestruck by the way every system, every organ, every cell, illustrates and amplifies God’s words about Himself, and His work in His world.

Which brings me to breastfeeding, and breasts, and what it means to be a woman made in the image of God, versus a man.

Over at my newer blog, I’ve been writing about the influence the rediscovery of imago dei has had on my understanding of what godly living as a woman looks like. My central argument is taken largely from Hannah Anderson’s book, Made For More, in which she lays out the case for how our understanding of womanhood needs to be grounded in our understanding of our being made in God’s image and being in Christ through repentance and faith in the gospel

A reader took my argument to its logical next step by asking how I would distinguish living out God’s image as a woman, contra living it out as a man. It’s a natural question, and not as easy to answer as some quarters of the Internet rabidly insist. But it seems that one place to at least begin the answer is with our bodies and what makes them unique, and what that uniqueness communicates about the character of God.

Which means we really do need to think about the meaning of breasts.

((Cue a bunch of you clicking away in horror))

And maybe even their connection to the Trinity.

((Aaand there go most of the rest of you.))

Maybe you don’t think about these things because you don’t have a house full of emerging women who are asking those kinds of questions in their adorably adolescent way. I do, so it’s part of my job to not just think about those questions, but give my girls answers from God’s Word that are as close to truth as I can find it.

One of the many questions that my girls have asked in relation to this topic is what it means to live like Jesus,who can sympathize with our weaknesses and yet was without sin when (news flash) Jesus was never a woman. Jesus didn’t have breasts, or ovaries, or a uterus. He never struggled with PMS, or any MS at all. He never suffered the humiliation of bra shopping with his mom, he never had to endure the eye-rolling conversations about modesty at youth group, and he never had to deal with creepy boys (or creepier grown men) making nasty comments about their bodies.

These are all true statements, worthy of full acceptance. But they’re not the only statements that are true. Because (second news flash) Jesus was not just a man. He was, and is, the God Man, very God of very God, begotten and not created. He was with God in the beginning when He made women, breasts and all, to display His image.

So breasts are about God. Breastfeeding is about God.

Peter understood that. So did Paul. So did the writer of Hebrews. Jesus certainly did . He reminded everyone that they shouldn’t miss His point about why He invented them.

When a woman raises her baby to her breast and gives that baby what he is begging the universe for, she is reminding that child, and herself, of  those words of Jesus, and many more. She is declaring with her body that she has come that that child may have life, and have it abundantly.

She is saying things about the nature and work of God, in her body, with her body, in a way that a man can never, ever do.

If I spend too much time trying to get my girls all excited about the glories of womanhood in a cultural vacuum, they’re not going to buy it. If my daughters think that the specifics of gender is primarily about which bathroom everyone is supposed to use, they’re going to be frustrated. But if my daughters come to understand that the glory of womanhood is directly connected to uniquely displaying the glory of the triune God, (a glory that is wrapped up in mystery and thus too great to be overly bound by excessive and culturally-derived proscriptions),

then maybe they won’t laugh so hard when someone at a conference alludes to its implications.

Maybe they’ll stop and wonder at it.

Maybe all of us should.

(For more thoughts I’ve written on what womens’ bodies are for, go here.)


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Getting Ready For a Five Star Feast

Being a dedicated foodie, I keep a running list of aspirational restaurants I’d love to experience, should a business trip or a sudden shower of financial blessing permit. Having been blessed to actually realize those aspirations a few times, I’ve managed to compile a kind of “best practices” list that help me appreciate and remember the experience. Some of those are:

  • Dialing up my workouts and dialing down my eating to account for the major caloric investment I’m going to make
  • Browsing the restaurant’s website to review the menu and get a sense of the ambience (and what I should wear so I don’t stick out too much amongst the hordes of the cool and the beautiful)
  • When the day finally arrives and I’m seated at our table, taking a minute to soak in the atmosphere and compare it to what I imagined and read
  • As each course is served, pausing to appreciate it with my eyes, before I begin to eat
  • After I’ve come home, writing an online review to tell others what I enjoyed, or (as does occasionally happen) what surprisingly fell short

These habits help me make the most of these special experiences and inform everything from how I might try and replicate a dish I enjoyed, to whether it really was a once in a lifetime experience, or if it would be worth selling a body part or two to return.

With TGCW16 now only hours away, it’s been a lot of fun to scroll through my social media feed and see how many women are coming for the first time. I have vivid memories of registering for the inaugural one, and arriving in Orlando all by myself, not really sure what to expect. I know the phrase “life-changing” can be a bit overused, but I won’t use it some other time, because in this case that’s the only phrase that fits. The teaching, the fellowship with like-minded women, the bookstore – all of it was a feast for my soul, and as soon as it was over I was already anticipating when I might be able to come back.

In God’s grace, I was able to return for TGC14, and now I’m coming back yet again for this year’s conference. Just like with my restaurant experience, I have a list of “best practices” I’m mentally reviewing, to help me be the best possible Matthew 25 steward of the money and time I’m investing to be here (not to mention my dear family). I thought I’d share them with some of you first-timers in case they’re helpful, and also to hold myself accountable to them!

(My list is fairly high level, but Jenilyn Swett has some great tactical ones as well.)

Redeem Your Travel Time
Whether you’re on an epic cross-country road trip with your church besties, or enjoying the glamor of twenty-first century air travel courtesy of the TSA and 14-inch wide economy class seats, invest some of that kid-free travel time to read through 1 Peter. As you read, feel free to marvel at how Peter’s words to Christians scattered across Asia Minor read like they were written just this week to us in America. The theme for this conference was chosen nearly two years ago, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this was part of God’s sovereign timing.

As an aside, and because one of the leading themes of 1 Peter is submission in the midst of trial, you might have been following along with some of the online back and forthing over the topic of submission as it relates to the Trinity. It’s been some heavy stuff, but it has immediate relevance to us as women. So, for more travel time reading, here are a few links you can follow to learn more, to whet your appetite for the teaching time, or the bookstore:

Eternal Submission in the Trinity – A Quick Guide to the Debate (Andrew Wilson)

Eighteen Theses on the Father and the Son (Fred Sanders)

The Eternal Subordination of the Son (and Women) (Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup)

On Imago Dei and Ways Forward Down a Winding Road (Me 🙂 )

Pray
Whether you’re on the road, in the air, or already in your hotel room, pray for God to speak to us through His Word and by His Spirit through one another. Specifically pray for:

  • The speakers in the main sessions and breakouts – for strength, clarity, boldness and faithfulness to the text
  • Us as hearers – that we would receive what God has for each of us to hear, that we would be strengthened for the seasons that lay ahead; that God would grant those of us who are now in seasons of great trial with special grace and strength, and that if there any with us who do not yet know Christ, that this would be the week where He makes Himself known to them.
  • All of the conference workers and logistics – thanks for their faithful service, and grace for the monumental task of administration it takes to serve multiple thousands of women in one space at one time for four days
  • The city and workers of Indianapolis – that they would know we are Christians by our love for one another, and for them, in thought, word and deed

Budget your Bookstore Time
Oh, the bookstore. It’s an experience worth the price of admission just to stand and survey it in al its vast splendor. How to best avail yourself of a resource of such wondrous yet temporal beauty? Try and visit as soon as possible, but with a firm commitment to buy nothing on this first go through. Just go to get the lay of the land and make mental notes, (or take iPhone pictures) of books you may want to buy. Then go back as you’re able, and choose the books which have kept coming to mind as a result of the different sessions you attend.

Strategize the Sleep Deprivation
“You can sleep when you get home” is a common phrase at TGC Womens’ conference. With several days almost certainly free of kid drama and general family responsibilities, why would you want to squander so many hours of talk time on sleep?! Still, many of you with littles have probably been deep into the 1:1 rule just to get here (the rule that says that for every one day you’re away from your family you need to invest one day in meal prepping and schedule mapping and so forth). So, if you’re like me, you’re arriving in Indiana already a little short on shut eye. Bear that in mind and try and pace yourself with the late night/early morning fellowshipping. Even if your soul is absolutely on fire when you get back, if your body is exhausted, “reentry” into every day life will be a challenge.

Be the Body to the Body
One of the most glorious parts of a conference like this is being surrounded by sisters in Christ from every walk of life. (Yes, introverts, it’s so glorious you’ll love it too.) From the worship in the main hall, to the breakout areas, to the bookstore, you will be amongst women of every age and stage, ethnicity and nationality. You will be able to strike up a conversation with practically anyone and find yourself talking about Jesus and the gospel and eachother and it will be awesome.

But that’s only if you do it. So you should. If you’re with a group, try and make time for moments to talk to women you don’t know. And if you’re one of the bravest of women and you’re here by yourself, that goes double for you. The woman you decide to talk to on shuttle on the way to your hotel could become a lifelong friend. (Hi Cheryl. Can’t wait to catch up with you!)

N.B. There is one very tactical way you might go about this. (Delicate gentleman readers who are lurking – feel free to scroll down.) You are going to be amongst many thousands of women in one place at one time. Pause to ponder the concentration of estrogen that will be hovering over the atmosphere of the Convention Center. Think back to your college dorm days and what was common knowledge about this phenomenon, or just take it from me, a mother of three adolescent girls. It’s not a myth. So pack extra supplies so you can be a very specific minister of bodily grace to another sister in her time of need. She’ll bless your name forever.

Manage the Magnetism of Social Media
In Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle describes how social media feeds and even digital note taking actually interfere with learning, instead of enhancing it. I definitely appreciate following Twitter feeds when I’m not able to be at a conference in person. But for this conference, I leave my laptop in my room, and I stow my phone (okay, after I take a couple of pictures with the friend I see that I haven’t seen since last year). Try it.

Start Preparing for Reentry Now
Another common experience of attending a conference like this is travelling home full to overflowing with the joy of the Lord and renewed zeal and energy – only to return home and, whether in hours or days, be suddenly overwhelmed by a trial – a sick child, a terrible argument with a family member. Especially this year, because of theme, start praying now over the possibility that part of God’s plan for your presence here, is actually to prepare you for that, to actually put 1 Peter 1 into action.

On the positive side, if you haven’t already mentioned to other women at your church that you’re here, do it when you get back, and make some time to talk through what you’ve learned. I’m actually doing this with my daughters – I’m having them read through 1 Peter each day while I’m gone, and Monday morning after Dad has gone to work, we’re going to make brunch in our PJs so we can talk together about what we learned. You can do this with with your husband, or your roommates, or your Starbucks barista on Monday morning. But what happens in Indianapolis shouldn’t stay in Indianapolis. Because what’s happening this week in Indianapolis is about what is happening now, or might happen soon – in your family, in your city, and certainly in the world. And after this week, you’ll be ready.

I’m looking forward to being with everyone!