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.
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