Self-Care, Not Self-Control

Then the devil left Jesus, and suddenly angels came and fed him. Matthew 4:11

Although the Greek word for “fed” can also mean “waited on” or “served” I like to wonder about what the angels might have fed Jesus after a long 40 days of fasting. Is where we get the term “angel food” and if so, was Jesus fed cake? I like to think so.

Almost every clergy ordination or installation I attend includes words about self-care:

  • Church: make sure your pastor takes their sabbath and all their vacation.
  • Pastor: make sure you take your sabbath and all your vacation.

And there are words about the importance of family time and exercise and rest and seeing a therapist. Clergy also take boundary training which often covers self-care and definitely covers self-control (i.e. don’t date parishioners, don’t embezzle money, don’t misappropriate funds, don’t choke people who get on your last nerve.)

Last week, in the it’s-a-new-year-so-let’s-start-new-habits department, The Washington Post – knowing that people want to be healthy and are also lazy – offered six “easy” tips for healthier living and this line struck me: Approach food as self-care, not self-control.

We can look at food as something to we need to withhold from ourselves or something to make us feel better temporarily or something to reward ourselves. Or we can look at food as fuel to have the energy to do what needs to be done.

NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure I believe that sometimes a brownie is the perfect fuel. 10 brownies gunk up the system, but a single perfect brownie is most definitely self-care.

The nutritionist featured in the WaPo article says:

Rather than getting caught up in diet culture’s moral language of atonement and tight regulations, you look inward to tap into what feels good in your body, considering not just your nutritional needs, but also your sense of pleasure, comfort and satisfaction.

Like practicing other spiritual disciplines, this nutritionist suggests that we practice “gentle nutrition” which sounds like a spiritual discipline to me. If we want to have the energy to be the people God created us to be, if we want to guard against everybody’s Big Enemy (cancer), if we want to enrich our lives, if we want to spice things up, then consider practicing eating as self-care.

I am not always a thoughtful eater. Sometimes I grab a yogurt for dinner. But I like the idea of eating as a spiritual discipline, and – as a late bloomer – I’ve been slow to pick up on this thing that probably everyone else knows.

Imagine being fed by angels. Is what’s going our mouths what angels would be feeding us?

One response to “Self-Care, Not Self-Control

  1. I LOVE your take on brownies! One of Andy’s graduate students (an American with Chinese parents) reminded me on our 50th Anniversary tribute tape, that I often served Ghiardelli Double Chocolate brownies when students came to our home for meals. I’ve started buying the brownie mix again, and Andy’s Jamaican home health aide bakes a batch at least once a week! Andy’s not into chocolate, so I share them with Charlotte and Heather and another aide who likes the corners and shares those with her daughter!


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