Throughout the season of Lent, members of the EEN community are invited to send us short reflections of how they are living into following Jesus toward the cross and new creation. Today's reflection comes from Jim Tolbert of Asheville, NC.
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I eliminated most meat from my diet over a year ago because of concerns about my cholesterol and concerns about my impacts on our world. With support from Celeste, it’s been easier than I anticipated. In our culture, it is easy to over-consume unhealthy foods. Our diet can easily fit into what would have been “royal” foods in the not distant past with calorie-rich meats, dairy and breads.
I reflect on Daniel (1:11-16) who chose a similar path thousands of years ago:
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
For Celeste and me, avoiding “royal” foods focuses on three choices: when we plan our meals for the week, when we create a grocery list, and when we pick a restaurant. It is easy to fill the grocery cart with the same foods I used to, or stop in at the same restaurant where I used to order a burger. It is when I set intentions and make choices before I am eating that my diet improves. This is not unlike other habits I have tried to change - the leverage occurs long before the actual behavior I want shifted.
My shift away from eating meat is partially for health reasons, but is also aligned with my intention to care for God’s creation which he placed in our responsibility (Genesis 2:15). The impact on the land and the atmosphere is significantly less when I eat vegetables and seeds than when I eat meat. Even when I occasionally eat fish and eggs I am still reducing the number of servings of meat I eat each week. And Genesis 1:29 aligns with this diet:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.