Green and organic living is hyper-popular. I went to Whole Foods recently, mostly to marvel. Towers of cheese, containers of organic salsa, pesto, spinach dip, brown paper bags of dried fruit, meats labeled grass-fed, organic… It must be better for me. There’s something attractive about that word… organic. It sort of rolls off the tongue like a song.
Until a year ago, I assumed that everyone got sick on cleaning day. Just polishing a mirror with Windex sent me into snotty sneezing fits. My skin itched, my head throbbed, my stomach gurgled. So I did some research, tossed out the bleach and ammonia, and began cleaning with old-fashioned soap, vinegar, and water. When I first began using it, I thought I was cleaning the way my great-great grandmother did- scrubbing wood floors with vinegar, disinfecting surfaces with essential oil. As I began to simplify my routines, using fewer and fewer chemicals, my research kept referring to this way of life as “green”. I suppose that word is easier to sell than “old”. I persisted in my research.
I found that many people were pursuing green living. In fact, so many were pursuing it with such fervor, it was as almost as though they thought they could actually catch what they were pursuing: unending life. We yearn to defeat death; it is evident on our shopping lists.
Reality is that no matter how clean I live, I will die. No matter how organic my salsa is, no matter how pure my water is, no matter how “green” I clean, my skin will sag, my hair will turn gray, and my bones will get tired. My body will succumb to death.
Such a dark declaration for a generation that is hungry for light. What broke my heart was watching my peers pursue a full life, and fail. We are tired, we are hungry, we are depressed, we are infertile, we die young, and we are broken over it.
God, I groaned, You promised us abundant life! Why would He promise us a spiritually abundant life, but neglect our physical bodies? We were physical beings before the Fall of Man. Our physical nature is not a result of sin. Unfortunately, the Church has left physical health for the world to sell, forgetting that our physical nature was created by God, and that it should be our joy to care for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.
Neglect of the physical nature is not a new concept. Christianity has wrestled with this form of deceit since gnosticism. I confess that I used to subscribe to this brand of Christianity. I neglected my body till it snapped, and I sat before leaders whose ideals I had agreed to, and was asked not if I had allowed myself to eat and sleep, but if I had done my devotionals on a daily basis. “No,” I confessed and hung my head in both shame and exhaustion, for I had failed to defeat my physical weakness with spiritual strength. I went home to heal, and found that the journey that began with painful failure has led to abundance in Christ, and a greater love for His Church.
The years that followed have been filled with research. There are numerous diets and cure-alls out there, all of which claim to be the miracle for what ails you. My healing came with no gimmicks. I recommend no better health plan than that of our Creator. I close my eyes to rest as I sleep, for the Lord is my shepherd, He knows me, and I know Him (John 10). I eat because He provides. I dress in what He clothes me.
I believe in mankind’s beauty as both physical and spiritual beings, and I would negate my point that God is the God of our physical lives if I neglected to write about the lessons he has taught me regarding healthy living.
My first discoveries were with cleaning products. The disinfectants God provides through nature eliminate somewhere around 75% of germs, compared to bleach’s 99.9%. Bleach seems like the better choice, but God provided a defense for us in a fallen world through essential oils like lavender and oregano. They kill just enough germs to keep our immune systems from being overwhelmed with sickness, but leave just enough to inoculate our systems to build resistance.
Regarding food, eat it how God provides it. Processed white wheat, for example, burns through our systems too quickly for nutritional absorption. Ground whole wheat berries contain the nutrients and enzymes necessary to nourish the body more efficiently. Fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value with processing, and multi-vitamins will never match food in efficient absorption.
I have also been surprised at how my pursuit of healthy living has often paralleled the commandments for living for the Israelites. One example is that of Exodus 34:26, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” I had a recipe for beef that required it be soaked in milk, and it caused digestion problems for the entire next day. When I stopped cooking meat in milk, the stomach aches went away.
What astounds me most is that as I reflect on how my habits have changed physically, as taking care of my physical becomes my joy, as God becomes the God of both my spiritual and physical life, my heart rises up in my throat to sing, for my God is good.