My Search for Meaning

This weekend, I’m glad I don’t have cable service. Reading the news and watching clips of President Obama speak about this tragedy in Connecticut has been enough to reduce me to tears. Reading the list of names and seeing pictures of all the victims, particularly the children, has made me feel sick with grief. I’ve sobbed at least twice in the past 48 hours imagining all the pain the families of Newtown are going through.

It’s times like this when I really start questioning the meaning of life.

As President Obama asked in this incredible speech, “Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?” Even without being exposed to the horrific violence and evil that seems to permeate our culture, I’ve been asking myself these big questions lately. I’ve been having a rough time since I graduated college trying to figure out what my purpose in life is, and what career path I should take to make the biggest positive impact on people’s lives that I can. I know I want to help people but haven’t quite figured out the best way to do that.

I settled on nutrition because I see a huge need for major changes in this country and our eating habits. Not just because of obesity, but because everyone is getting sicker, and we’re becoming more confused about what “healthy” means. Children are being born already malnourished, and are being raised on formulas and cereals that are further contributing to their suboptimal brain development. Eating disorders and body image issues are rampant – I know this from personal experience struggling with my own body image on a regular basis. The food culture in this country is in crisis, and I truly hope that when I get out into the ‘real’ world, that I can be making a difference in people’s lives by re-educating them on how to eat real food.

But to me, that’s still not enough to satisfy my desire for deeper meaning in my life.

The last year has been especially difficult for me. I’ve experienced a lot of disappointment and heartache as certain things in my life haven’t turned out the way I’d hoped or planned. I pride myself on hard work and I tend to be a perfectionist, so when areas of my life that held promise or excitement end up crumbling, I typically take it as a personal reflection of my ability and/or worth. As these disappointments have been piling up, my confidence and self-esteem have taken a serious beating.

This fall, however, I finally decided I’d had enough. I didn’t want to try be in control of my life when it was clear that my plans for myself weren’t working out or were leading me into disappointment and suffering. I was sick of trying to make things work out and failing. I was tired of feeling worthless and feeling like every relationship I put my heart into was a waste of time.

I got to a point where I realized I needed more than human help – I realized I needed a savior. I needed God.

I don’t talk about religion on this blog very much (…or at all) since it’s obviously a touchy subject. In a nutrition community where evolutionary theory reigns supreme, you tend to get a lot of condescension when the topic of God is brought up. I’ve heard people say more than once that if you don’t believe in evolution, then there’s no point of having a discussion about ‘science’ because there’s no way you could understand.

Hearing this from people I respected, and being very scientifically-minded myself, I struggled for a long time to reconcile my beliefs in a higher power with my belief in the ability of science to explain natural phenomena. Sadly, for years I suppressed my desire to know more about God with a desire to have more ‘intellectual’ knowledge and to be respected by those who I believed to be more well-educated than me. I hid my feelings of doubt and suppressed any interest in learning more about religion, which I thought was clearly a ‘crutch’ for uneducated and superstitious people.

Which of these books is the most accurate?

All of this changed a few months ago when I realized how little control I had in my life and how every time I tried to make decisions on my own, without caring what God might have to say about it, things ended badly. I also realized that many of my decisions were coming from a place of extreme insecurity and desire to please others. I was more concerned with being popular and well-liked by others than doing things the way God wanted me to or the way I felt was right. Constantly striving to ‘make’ others care about me was leaving me face down in the figurative dirt.

I finally realized that living my life to please others was leaving me empty and feeling even more worthless every time I was rejected by someone I cared about. I also realized that my intense desire to feel loved and valued was coming from having a “God-sized” hole in my heart. I was trying to fill this hole with relationships, achievement, physical appearance, and popularity – and everything was falling short by a long shot. Stuffing a God-sized hole with earthly ‘treasures’ is a guaranteed way to feel unfulfilled.

For the last few months I’ve been committing myself to learning more about God. I found a church that I’m absolutely in love with and have been spending a lot of time with new friends I’ve made there who have helped me get through some tough times. They’ve also shown me how powerful God’s grace can be, and how accepting Jesus as your savior is the first step in a transformative process that can help you overcome sin. For me, my major sin has been idolizing others and putting the approval of others over God, and it’s caused me a great amount of pain. I’m so grateful to finally have God’s help in moving past that tendency, and to start making changes in my life to start living in the way that He designed me to live.

I know this post has been very personal and somewhat off-topic from the ‘ancestral health’ theme, but I wanted to share my personal story with those people who may feel that this community is somewhat intolerant to religion. I wanted to let everyone know that believing in God does not mean you lack intelligence or understanding of science. I also wanted to say that not believing in evolution (eg. man from ape) does not make you ignorant either – I’ve been reading about evolutionary theory and have been surprised to find out how much dissonance exists in the scientific community. I know plenty of PhD and MD intellects who believe that God created the earth and that He sent His son Jesus to take the punishment for all of our sins.

Being a Christian does not mean you can’t be an intelligent contributor to the Ancestral Health movement.

I’m sure I’ll take some flack for this position, but I really felt called to make this statement publicly, because I want to express my support for other Christians in this community who feel their beliefs have been belittled by others. My belief in Jesus does not prevent me from understanding nutrition science and making recommendations based on that understanding.

I suppose this public declaration is the next step in me prioritizing God over other’s approval. It’s a scary one for me, because there are many people in the Ancestral Health community who I greatly admire but who also have significantly different beliefs than me. I don’t want to alienate or anger anyone, but I also feel very strongly about standing up for what I believe to be true. I can’t continue to suppress my beliefs for the sake of impressing others. I’m living my life to serve God now and I hope part of that is being a resource for other Christians who want to be part of this community but feel torn about their beliefs.

As an aside, I want to thank Chris Masterjohn for helping me to feel better about this issue, because not only do I have enormous respect for his scientific intellect and general brilliance on the topic of nutrition, but he also is a committed Christian who has written before about the intersection of Christianity and Paleo. I also was fortunate enough to have some great conversations with him at the Weston Price conference on the topic. So if you’re worried that being Christian means you don’t understand science, I’d like to see someone tell that to Dr. Master-J!!

I’d like to close with a verse from scripture that can summarize what I’ve said in this post. (It’s been amazing to me how insightful and culturally-appropriate the Bible is, despite having been written almost 2000 years ago.)

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

  • Tonja

    I am SO happy you posted this… And thankful you took the leap of faith. I’m a Christian too and sometimes feel a little different in thinking to not only the Paleo community, but also when Paleo is presented to my Christian circles. I jokingly call myself the “conservative hippie.” You have my support and I’m so glad I know this about you. Put Him first and regardless what happens, it will all somehow still feel right :)

    • Karmann

      Well said, Tonja! I’m the same way and feel the same way about Laura’s article!!

    • Laura

      Awesome! I am definitely a “conservative hippie” too haha. Tattoos, incense, and yoga plus a weekly church service and a bible study group? Totally normal, right? I’m hoping to introduce paleo-style eating to my church once I graduate!

  • Ric

    Well said. This really warms my heart.

  • http://carissacollins.wordpress.com carissacollins

    Thank you so much Laura! This has been very encouraging to me because I too am a Paleo Christian. I hope that you can be even truer to yourself as a blogger and as a person now that you’ve published this declaration. I hope that you find even more support in your future endeavors! Keep shining :)

  • http://gravatar.com/dickieandmarge dickieandmarge

    Good for you!

  • maria

    Thank you for sharing this! I feel similarly.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for posting this. I am at a crossroads in my life and had just made a serious life change this morning. Reading this makes me feel reinforced about my decisions. Thank you.

    • Laura

      Glad I could help, Elizabeth!

  • http://realfoodheals.wordpress.com Katy

    I only just recently started following your blog but I am so happy and proud of you for making such a public declaration for your Christianity! I am even more of a bigger fan and supporter of you now that I know this about you. God bless you!

  • PaulL

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Laura. I’ve been following you for a while now, had the pleasure of meeting you briefly at the Sustainable Dinner at Diana’s this summer, this post exemplifies why I do so. You are real, heartfelt, and honest. This world will be saved through people like you, DianeS, George, and the many others in the Ancestral Health movement who continue to stand up for their beliefs yet approach others with love and understanding.

    Thank you again!

    • Laura

      Thank you Paul! I hope I do make a difference, at least in some small way! :)

  • Petra

    Thank you for this post. I am also a Christian that lives Paleo lifestyle. I appreciate your honesty and boldness. Refreshing!

  • http://ittybitsofbalance.wordpress.com ittybitsofbalance

    A to the MEN! Major kudos to you for taking such a step of faith. I became a Christian about a year and a half ago and felt weird not blogging about it until one day I woke up with the utmost of convictions on my heart to spew it all out. It’s crazy how the world can really morph our views of what is important as we start to care so much of what others think.

  • Chris Burn

    Well done! It makes so much sense to believe in a Higher Power!

  • Mary LaFayette

    Well said! Thank you for posting this.

  • kristin

    super awesome post! for the past couple of years i’ve been overcoming a multitude of problems in my life through a new faith i found in God (i converted from being a not active protestant to an active catholic because it was my fiance’s faith) and through paleo eating/lifestyle principles. for me, both elements work together really nicely to keep my life on track health-happiness wise. i also feel like they intuitively go together at least in my mind… i know what you mean about the paleo community seeming very anti-religion though… however, ive found a few really great blogs written by paleo Christians, such as redeeming the table and wellness mama. if you don’t already read those you may like them! im sure there are many others too but those are my favorites. it is also cool to know Chris Masterjohn is a Christian.

    i really relate to a lot of the sins that you are dealing with, which are so similar to mine. i love your pinterest boards and all of your quotes about faith, they are some of my favorites ive found! love that quote from Galatians you shared. another one that i think of a lot when i am struggling to overcome what others may think of me is from the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” That one has helped me a lot. God bless you in your journey and thank you for sharing your struggles and spreading your positivity through the world!

  • http://twitter.com/bkaellner Brad

    Good guys/bad guys… vilifying doesn’t help us address the root cause of the issue. Laura, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to help people too. Have you read “Half the Sky?” Although I don’t share your religious beliefs, I really respect you for standing by what you believe!

  • http://babyptprimal.blogspot.jp/ Debi

    Laura,
    Each of us finds meaning in different ways. I have always lived my life as a Christian, but never truly believed until I saw how amazing the body is and how incredible this world is. I still fight with my husband and others who see these things and believe they manifested on their own without a higher power, versus me who believes. At times I feel their lack of faith takes more fight from them to stay that way than me just believing… I don’t fight to believe, I just do. It makes sense to me. It doesn’t just give me purpose, but gives meaning to the purpose.
    Glad you found your meaning and your purpose. I think that once you’ve found it as an adult, especially a scientific minded adult, you’ll remain firmly planted.
    God bless!
    Debi

  • suzpaleonetwork

    Wishing you a happy and peaceful 2012 Laura!

  • Karmann

    Laura,

    Regarding evolution: there’s a great (albeit, a bit cheesy) documentary on the subject of God’s creation and evolution. It’s called “God of Wonders” and you can find it on Netflix Instant Watch.

    A great point that this movie illustrates is the difference between the evidence of micro-evolution and the theory of macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is something you can see (e.g., different species of dogs have been developed through the generations). But macro-evolution is still just a theory (i.e. we have no concrete evidence to suggest that the dog genus came from another genus all together). Hope you can watch it and hope it helps settle your mind between your faith and science!

    In my scientific education and work, it has often boggled my mind that, on the one hand, science students are taught to question everything, investigate all avenues, but on the other hand the scientific community has beliefs that we are NOT to question, like evolution and the big bang. (Honestly, I think you have to have more faith to believe that everything came from nothing than to believe that an almighty God created the universe.)

    And on that topic, also check out Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”.

    Blessings to you!!

    • Laura

      I have seen that movie “God of Wonders”! I also spent some time talking to a Biology PhD who is now in med school (so yeah, he’s smart) who has done years of research on evolutionary theory and he thinks its bogus. And he’s a born-again Christian who was not raised in church at all. It’s crazy to meet people like that!

      I agree it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in a higher power.

      I’ll check out that Ben Stein movie, thanks for the recommendation!

      • Mr. Metatron

        The number of mistakes you’ve made here is just awe-inspiring (about what evolution means, about whether evolution and belief in god can coexist, about atheism and faith, etc.). And you folks wonder why non-Christians get condescending with you sometimes. Your lack of understanding is frightening.

        • Laura

          There’s a big difference between believing that humans evolved from apes, (or that all life forms evolved common ancestors in general) versus believing in the adaptation and microevolution of distinct species. As far as I’m aware, intelligent design theory and the so-called “theory of evolution” are in opposition to each other.

          Can you give me an example where you think I’ve made an “awe-inspiring” mistake in this article?

        • http://gravatar.com/srfahmy srfahmy

          A lot of non-Christians aren’t condescending, but are rather quite gracious and quite open to dialogue. Others might be because they’re presumptuous in their philosophical understanding and aren’t well-versed in rigorous arguments from a theistic point of view (but instead are familiar with the straw man type of caricature arguments, which admittedly some believers rely on). The vast majority of scientist-types (I’m a scientist myself) whom I’ve encountered, who also happen to be condescending, usually tend to have awfully non-rigorous approaches to philosophical thinking. They often embrace philosophical absurdities and are often entirely unfamiliar with what it means to think rigorously outside of the scientific method (and sometimes within the scientific method). The scientific method is not the most rigorous method of thinking. Deductive logic (as in mathematics and other disciplines) is more rigorous than science, and science in fact relies on it. Most scientists are entirely unprepared to discuss matters of science and faith on a rigorous philosophical level. This includes the likes of Richard Dawkins, who may be a good scientist, but less than an amateur in terms of philosophical rigor (and the amateurish errors shine through many of his arguments).

          Other people who are condescending might in actuality be more knowledgeable than those with whom they’re discussing, and this may be the reason they’re condescending. It’s still never a good justification for being condescending – there really is no justification for being condescending at all. I quite often discuss things with others who are substantially less knowledgeable than I am on certain topics, or markedly less rigorous in their analyses (knowledge and rigor are not the same thing), and I still make an effort to be gracious and to avoid being condescending. I don’t always succeed, but I always try. I suggest you do the same :-)

          Cheers!

  • Laura

    Thanks everyone! I just wanted to share my beliefs because I know there are others out there who want to be involved in this community but feel that religion is seen as less intellectual. It’s taken a lot of study and even some evidence analysis for me to come to the conclusion that Jesus is who He said He is, and it’s created some major changes in my life. I hope I can be an example to others that religion and Christianity specifically are not at odds with intelligence and scientific knowledge!

  • Barb

    Wonderful post. I’m also a Paleo Christian. Well said thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/duinne Brooke Reed Hartle

    Awesome post! I am a Paleo Christian (giggle) as well! :) Did God create everything? Yup. Did we evolve from Monkeys? Sure. Why can’t we have both Science and God in our life? He gave us a brain for a reason! We will never know everything but we will know what we NEED to know if we just ask him and then LISTEN! And I think God is pointing me in the direction to become a Holistic nurtitionist (paleo style!). Helping people is serving God. :)

  • Annette

    Beautifully written! Sending you lots of love, prayers and good energy!!

  • http://gravatar.com/samanthajfox83 Samantha

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been going through very similar struggles and it is so encouraging to hear that I’m not alone in the Paleo community or in the female community at large. Blessings to you and Merry Christmas!

    • Laura

      Definitely not alone! :)

  • http://www.healthylivinghowto.com Vanessa

    Have to say, I absolutely adore this post. I do not define myself as Paleo as I don’t believe in evolution, however, respect much of what the Paleo movement espouses. I have been conflicted about this for quite some time. Thank your for writing this post.

  • http://paleodiabetic.com Steve Parker, M.D.

    Another Christian here, Laura. There may be more of us in the paleosphere than we realize. The atheists seem to be more vocal.
    I struggled with evolution versus Christianity a while back and wrote a blog post about it that some my find helpful, especially my references for further reading: http://paleodiabetic.com/category/religion/

    -Steve

  • http://khaledallen.wordpress.com Khaled

    Timely post. A few years ago, I was fanatic about my Paleo diet and CrossFit, but with absolutely no spiritual wide at all. This left everything purposeless and hollow. Eventually, I dropped off the healthy living because it had no meaning, but recently, I’ve made the assertion that to be physically healthy requires that you be spiritually healthy as well. Just as nutritional health is tied to movement health, body health is tied to spirit health… I’ve begun to meditate and practice Buddhism as part of a life dedicated to bettering the world, and the Paleo, natural movement facet serves that by bettering myself. I think spirituality is essential.

  • http://mylifeinapyramid.com Heba @ My Life in a Pyramid

    Really inspiring post, Laura. I commend you for being open and sharing your personal journey … it’s not easy to be transparent about spiritual matters especially in American culture, which prizes intellectualism and individuality, above all else. However, I strongly believe that humans need “more than bread” to survive … in other words, even those eating the healthiest, most balanced diets, but don’t have peace or are tormented emotionally, can be supremely unhealthy as a result. So even from the perspective of someone who wishes to be in optimal health, depending on a Creator and feeling the power of His redemptive love is quite important. Now I know this is coming at it from a selfish angle, but it’s something we don’t think about usually. People think we’re doing God a favor when we’re His followers, when really, it results in improving our own lives and our health … Thanks again for opening up. Happy New Year! :)

    • http://mylifeinapyramid.com Heba @ My Life in a Pyramid

      The ‘more than bread’ comment is referencing Matthew 4:4 :)

  • http://aguysmusings.blogspot.com Sherif

    Thanks so much for the encouraging post, Laura! Firstly, I want to say that this post is quite brave, at least to me. I haven’t been able to declare my Christian faith so publicly and in such clear language in recent years.

    I found that it has become very challenging to talk about it in the scientific community. I’m a scientist in training (working on a phd in biomedical engineering), and have not been able really to discuss the topic of faith at all among my colleagues.

    At the same time, I’ve privately tried quite hard to think about faith with intellectual honesty and I hope one day to be able to write about my study of certain philosophical arguments, etc.

    In case it’s helpful, and if you haven’t encountered his work before, one very prominent scientist who is a professing Christian is Francis Collins who has a PhD in physics as well as an MD. He was the head of the Human Genome Project and now heads the National Institutes of Health. I’m currently listening to this talk and Q&A by him, which he gave sometime ago at UC Berkely:

    http://youtu.be/DjJAWuzno9Y

    He also has at least one book on the same topic of God, science and evolution, which I intend to read.

    • Laura

      Thanks, I’ll check that out!

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