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Monday, November 14, 2016

"Full" (Asheritah Ciuciu)

TITLE: Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction
AUTHOR: Asheritah Ciuciu
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (240 pages).

We eat a lot. For some of us living in affluent countries, we eat several meals per day. Food can be plenty of satisfaction but it can also give us a false sense of security. We can feel full to the stomach but empty in the soul. We can pile up the calories and still feel hungry. We can spend all the money we have on food and still fail to get any sense of accomplishment. Food is an important aspect of life but it needs to be put in proper perspective. For fullness comes not from a bloated stomach but a devoted heart. For author, Asheritah Ciuciu, "Our problem is not really what we eat. It's why we seek fullness in something that will never satisfy." In other words, it is not the what we fill ourselves with but the why we do that. We are warned against "food addiction" that can turn into "food fixation." Our food problem is not the lack of food but the lack of satisfaction. This book is about deciphering our inner search for satisfaction, to arrest the ways of dissatisfaction that we can pay attention fully to the things that truly satisfy.

Ciuciu meticulously exposes the various ways in which we can possess an unhealthy fixation on food. We try to lose weight and spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to design the best diet for our bodies. We research on the best foods available to fit our menus. We comb supermarket brochures for the best deals. We even cut coupons in order to lower our food costs. From low-fat recipes to cholesterol worries, organic to natural foods, food networks and Youtube ways of cooking, we spend a lot of time thinking about food. We use food as a way to relieve our stress. Food therapy tends to be preferred than prayer and fasting. Perhaps, we need to put on the armour of God to deal with the food of idolatry! Ciuciu lists top ten lies we can tell ourselves about food, that we either deserve it or need it.

The author proposes a more wholesome and holistic way. Instead of hungering after food and drink, we can awaken our true desire for God, something she calls "holy hunger." She sees an inverse relationship between people seeking God and people hungering after food. The reason why people don't seek God as much is because people are too preoccupied with food. In fact, many people think more about what to eat for breakfast-lunch-dinner, than to think thoughts about God. This is one reason why fasting is a powerful spiritual antidote. Ciuciu gives us tips on the different kinds of fasting: Normal, partial, absolute, and supernatural. While it is biblical, we also need to beware of turning fasting into something to boast about. One way to measure how addicted we are to food is to simply go on a fasting exercise. Learn to feast on God's Word like FEAST, which stands for Focus-Engage-Assess-Spark-Turn.

Gradually, we turn the corner of food as idolatry to experience the fullness we truly need. We discover what triggers us behaviourally, emotionally, environmentally, etc. We learn to turn our attention to God at each juncture. Learn to thirst after the Water of Life, hunger after the Bread of Life, and God's will as the food of life. Doing all of this will make us new, to see food in a whole new perspective. Food is a good thing. It is a gift. Learning to see it with the perspective of the Word of God will enrich the meaning and gift of food. We can then see food as a ministry of service where we build community around God using food as opportunities to increase joy. We cultivate good Christian fellowship through sharing and blessing one another with our skills. We learn to steward our resources by sharing with those in need.

This is a very good book not just about eating and drinking but about looking at the reasons for our desire to eat and drink. It goes beyond the hunger pangs to seek out the inner drives of the human heart. More importantly, it shows us that we may eat for a day and eventually feel hungry again the next day. Food can satisfy only for a short term. In we want something that is truly lasting and will fully satisfy, food alone will never cut it. I often think about the frequency in which we feast. There are many ways in which food can be beneficial. It can bring people and families together. It opens up opportunities for people to build relationships. It allows us to make important connections over a casual meal. It also helps us focus on important tasks without being distracted by a growling stomach. At the same time, we need to be careful not to let food become an addiction. With rising food costs, many people will increasingly find ways in which to put the necessary bread on the table. As I thought about the Lord's Prayer, there is a certain phrase that says: "Give us this day our daily bread." It is a direct plea to God to supply for us what we need. This challenges our spirituality in three ways. First is the creation aspect which reminds us that God supplies our everything. As much as we would like to think that we can buy food, remember that our ability to purchase, our society we live in, the food supply infrastructure we benefit from, if God had not provided seeds, enabled food growth in the first place, there will be nothing for us to begin with. Second, is the Creator reminder for it tells us that whenever we think about food, think about God. That is why we give thanks at every meal for this practice acknowledges our food sources. We cultivate a thankful heart that will help us not to take what we have on the table for granted. It has to do with the development of the inner person of gratitude. The third way is the community aspect. The use of plural pronouns is an indication of the purpose of food. It is about togetherness. Food is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Read this book not only because it shines a light on our true need but also because it helps us see food and eating on a whole new perspective: God's. For in doing so, we will learn what it truly means to be full. Let me share a quote that teaches us about food and fellowship:

"For many Christians, the term fellowship conjures up images of people chatting over coffee and donuts. When it comes to food and fellowship, Christians lead the way. Or so it seems. Too often, food becomes the focal point of our gatherings and fellowship becomes an afterthought, a spiritual label we can slap on our meetings to make them sound more righteous than they are.
Perhaps the best place to start is to define our terms, looking at what it means to fellowship in the first place, and then examining ways food can both foster and hinder fellowship."

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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