God’s Gift of the Five Senses
Part 4: Taste
There I was, opening the freezer door again. It was a stressful day, I’d convince myself, as I grabbed the carton of strawberry ice cream. I deserve a little treat at the end of a hard day. And yes, I deserve to top my ice cream with a lot of chocolate chips! What seemed occasional had become habitual during the early days of the pandemic. I had never gone through something like this before, none of us had. The roads were eerily quiet. The days were filled with news of rising cases and death tolls. I was stressed out and for a moment, ice cream seemed to make it all go away.
Eating food can become an impulsive response in times of heartache. The taste can have a mood-altering effect on us. That’s why for many of us when we are feeling sad, mad, or anxious, we turn to food as a means of soothing the pain. Mayo Clinic defines impulsive eating as, “quickly consuming whatever’s convenient without enjoyment.” It’s the difference between when I eat ice cream at the end of a hard day, just to try to feel better and when I eat ice cream on a beautiful Summer day with my daughter at an ice cream shop. The former provides a quick, but temporary fix to the feelings I don’t want to be feeling. The latter enhances the enjoyment I’m already experiencing.
Often times, in the spiritual life, we can look for the quick fix in seasons of suffering. The quick fix might come in the form of a prayer or attending a spiritual service, but when these are isolated practices, they won’t provide lasting healing.
A robust spiritual life requires daily attention. Just as we need three square meals a day, we also need spiritual connection points throughout our days. Many religions have these connecting points built into their followers’ daily lives. Take Islam for example, the call to prayer is heard five times a day. Five opportunities to reconnect with their faith and reorient themselves around their faith. I think there is something important we can learn from such a practice. Whether it is through prayer, mindfulness practices, reading scriptures, or listening to a spiritual song, each of us need to find daily nourishment for this journey we call life.
Then when the trials come, we have a foundation that cannot be destroyed. We will have tasted the spiritual food so many times, that we know we are being cared for even when we feel like the world is off its kilter. But if we are spiritually malnourished when the heartaches come, we might find ourselves quickly giving into despair and hopelessness.
This week, try taking an inventory of your daily spiritual practices. Like counting calories, try counting your spiritual connection points. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to find all the creative ways you are connecting with the Divine. It might give you an opportunity to add more or let go of others. If you find that your spiritual diet is less than satisfying, then begin brainstorming ideas that work for you. If you’ve tried the same three practices for years, but they’ve never seemed to provide the connection you’re looking for, then set those aside and try something new. Our spiritual appetite changes over time.
Tasting different foods and drinks can be spiritual practices in and of themselves. Bread and wine are common elements in many faith traditions, but you can also get creative and as you taste different flavors ask yourself, “What does this bring up for me?” Perhaps, there is a bitterness to the taste and it reminds you of a difficult time in your life or maybe there is a sweetness that reminds you of the many blessings you’ve experienced. Allow what you eat and drink to be more than just fuel for your body, let it be an opportunity for spiritual connection. Allow it to enhance the joy you already experience in your walk of faith.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson