I would say I am a bit of a granola-junkie. I think I could spend a good 15 minutes just in the cereal/granola aisle when grocery shopping. There are so many kinds all made with similar ingredients but drastically different from each other. I always try to stay away from those with added sugar. I just believe the combination of good quality foods is the best way to go because they are all real. My body is real, not processed. I am not genetically modified or concocted from a bath of chemicals, so I would prefer if what I am putting into my body is not that way either. And I share this sentiment with one of my favorite granola brands. One that has accompanied me on many cross-country and international trips because, well, it’s pretty much the best.
It is “purely elizabeth.” Honesty, now that I am looking at the bag and typing the name out, I realize the brand is all lowercase, which I am a fan of, aesthetically. Besides the point though. So my good friend elizabeth is doing it right. My favorite flavor is “Maple Almond Butter.” Non-GMO. High quality ingredients. And a high-quality motto to match them.
“Eat purely. Live Purely.”
Elizabeth takes a “holistic approach centered around my (elizabeth’s) Pillars of Living Purely: You are what you eat, follow the 80/20 rule, good health is more than just diet, and live your best life.”
Big time, elizabeth, truly. I want to expand on the last two, so we know what she is talking about specifically.
“Good health is more than just diet. Exercise, stress management and healthy relationships are equally important.”
“Live your best life. Live with intention. Innovate, evolve, grow and be grateful.”
You see, then, why I am such a big fan of elizabeth. She desires to be purely herself, which includes the food she puts into her body. Notice the beginning and end of her Pillars of Living Purely. The beginning is “you are what you eat,” and the very end of the meaning of living your best life is “be grateful.”
These pillars, by themselves, are beautiful. One might say they provide a path to “winning at life.” Something I think we all resonate with and desire to some extent. The only thing about trying to win at life is the inevitable losses. The reality that as much as we all might desire in one moment to follow the 80/20 rule (“80% of the time being your healthiest self and 20% of the time indulging guilt-free”), there are many other moments where it becomes more like 20/80. And disclaimer- eating the whole bag of purely elizabeth maple almond butter granola, however delicious and GMO free it may be, does not count for being your healthiest self. Tragic- trust me, I know.
So why spend so much energy and effort trying to win at life when the burnout is real? When it is not a matter of if but when the losses are coming? This is why the pillars by themselves are beautiful but the context we put them in or the expectations we have of them in relation to ourselves is key. If we expect to create ourselves, in a way, by elizabeth’s pillars of living purely or any pillars at all, we will run out of gas and sputter. Because we are expecting the pillars and our ability to keep them to give us meaning. Then, when we have those moments of 20/80 or any sort of failure, we get discouraged, and discouragement alone is enough to derail us from taking up the effort again at all. We think maybe we just aren’t cut out for this or it’s just not for me and settle for less than what we are meant for. The truth is this will ALWAYS be the case when we look to create ourselves. You have already been created! And this is incredibly freeing because there is so much more rest and peace when we confront the reality our being comes from somewhere/Someone else. But it is so subtle and so tempting to keep those checklists and give meaning to our existence by the tasks we accomplish or the exercise we get or the diet we stick to. Our intentions are good, don’t misunderstand me. Like I said, eating and living purely are beautiful things, but it is when we depend on them for meaning and look to them to “win at life,” that the disappointment and discouragement lead us to burning out. Why? Because these things are inherently not the source of our meaning or life. They aren’t supposed to be. They foster good habits and help us to live wholly ONCE we determine where our meaning comes from, and even then, we have to keep tabs on them to make sure they don’t creep back into sourcing our meaning.
Breathe in deeply the truth of our existence. We are creatures. Created beings with limitations. We are not autonomous. I do not tell my heart to beat or my lungs to breathe in air. My body has been designed to do this. Let this be the good and gracious thing it is. The devil has no knees because he is too proud to kneel. Are we? God has given us the free and unmerited gift of His love and our meaning comes from responding to God’s love. And responding to God’s love means kneeling before Him as our Mighty Creator, being embraced by Him as our good Father, following His voice as our trusted Shepherd, running to the outstretched arms of His crucified Son on the cross, letting ourselves be filled with the graces of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says, “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” [Matthew 16:25]. Isn’t it true in some senses we use dieting, eating, exercising, money, materials, alcohol, drugs, even other people, in an attempt to save ourselves? There is some sort of self-sufficiency and self-dependency at play. There surely is for me. I can even use things within the Church, good things Christ has given the Church to be visible signs of Himself. How many days has Blessed Adoration become part of my daily checklist rather than an act of love, running to the outstretched arms of my Savior? How many times have I thought about how it will make ME a better person, how it will help ME win at life rather than pondering the mystery that the victory has already been accomplished? This doesn’t lessen the amazing grace of Blessed Adoration or mean I shouldn’t go but rather I need to check my heart. How often do we get turned off by the Church because we “don’t get anything out of it?” Perhaps, the Church should be wondering why it doesn’t get anything out of us? I don’t gather time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to myself; it gathers me. Life is not an “ego drama” but a “theodrama,” as Bishop Barron puts it. The story is not about me saving myself but the Christ Jesus saving humanity. I don’t create the story but rather play my part in it. The only way this seems unsatisfying or dull is if I don’t realize the depths of beauty and meaning and joy and love bursting from the story of the God of the universe desiring union with His people. The only way this can possibly be undesirable is if I don’t have knees.
Living purely- following pillars of eating healthy and exercising, having quality relationships- and going to Adoration help unveil my part in the story. Help to unveil all I was created to be, not help to create myself. These things do not get thrown out or villainized or itemized when they are kept in the context of responding to God’s love. I give my life over to Him. They are part of my response. Gifts He has given me to know myself and know to Whom I belong. The more I discover myself the more I give my life over to Him. He is the One and only source of life.
“For now nothing which had not been sweetened by the honey of the most sweet name of Jesus, nothing which had not been seasoned with the salt of sacred scripture, drew my attention so entirely to itself.”[St. Aelred, Spiritual Friendship]
When you lose your life for the sake of Jesus, you become who you were always created to be. A child united with his or her Father. It may sound scary to lose our lives, to give up control. But who gave us our lives in the first place? Not ourselves. It is only scary to lose our lives if we don’t trust the One who we are losing them for. If I know someone loves me and they ask me to do something maybe I am unsure of, I am moved to do it because I trust them. This is hard for us because we all have trust wounds. Abuse. Abandoned. Loss. Unwanted. Used. Please know you are not alone. Jesus Himself sees you. Bishop Barron, again, says there is no where you can run from the Father that you aren’t running into the outstretched arms of His Son. There is nowhere to run from Life and Love Itself. St. Athanasius, in his treatise On the Incarnation, talks about the reasons why Jesus, the Messiah, allowed Himself to die the most humiliating and horrific death at the time. He suggests crucifixion was the only public death where one dies with his arms outstretched. In His death, Jesus embraces all people. The Son desires all to return to the arms of the Father. Not in merely a sentimental or abstract way. God so desires us to share in His own Divine Life that He gives us His own Body. The Body of Christ.
“The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God.”[CCC775]
“The word ‘Church’ means ‘convocation.’ It designates the assembly of those whom God’s Word ‘convokes,’ i.e., gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.”[CCC777]
You are what you eat.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your fathers, who ate the manna and died, the one who eats this bread will live forever. [John 6:53-58]
Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Real food…real drink. Non-GMO.
“Therefore, the Eucharist, as the presence of the cross, is the abiding tree of life, which is ever in our midst and ever invites us to take the fruit of true life. This means that the Eucharist can never be a kind of community builder. To receive it, to eat of the tree of life, thus means to receive the crucified Lord and consequently to accept the parameters of his life, his obedience, his “yes,” the standard of our creatureliness. It means to accept the love of God, which is our truth-that dependence on God which is no more an imposition from without than is the Son’s sonship. It is precisely this dependence that is freedom, because it is truth and love. May this Lent help us to free ourselves from our refusals and our doubts concerning God’s covenant, from our rejection of our limitations and from the lie of our autonomy. May it direct us to the tree of life, which is our standard and our hope. May we be touched by the words of Jesus in their entirety: “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).” [Pope Benedict XVI]
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus is heaven. Now and not yet. God does not work solely in the abstract but in the corporeal. In the flesh and in our bodies. “Those nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.” When I receive the Eucharist at Mass, the real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, I become what I eat. My identity is unveiled, and I become who I was created to be. Knowing I am limited and cannot save myself, giving my life over to Life and Love itself, I ask for the grace to trust entirely the words of Jesus, that whoever feeds on Him will live. I trust the Someone who loves me and asks me to receive Him. His yes to His death on the cross is my yes to true life and freedom and love.
The last words of sweet elizabeth’s pillars are “be grateful.” The word “Eucharist” from the Latin “eucharistia” means gratefulness, thanksgiving. Jesus is the first and the last (Rev 22,13). Before His crucifixion, Jesus gave thanks to His Father before breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples. He gave thanks before He Himself was to be given over. This, then, is the Sonship. The Love of the Father and the Son. The “yes, Thy will be done” (Luke 22,42). The standard of our creatureliness. Nothing is withheld. All is given in Love.
This is THE story. I love elizabeth’s maple almond butter granola and her pillars of living purely, but they do not fill me, bring me to tears, or give me life like the Bread from heaven. Like that sweet honey of my Savior. If I am what I eat, I choose the Body of Christ. “Eat purely. Live purely.” 1000/1000. Not GMO but JMO. Jesus modified.
Good Father, make us Your own. Help us know where our meaning comes from. You alone are our source of life, and there is no depth or length or breadth we can run to escape Your love and the loving outstretched arms of Your Beloved Son on the cross. We are not meant to create ourselves, Father, but rather trust You and trust who You made us to be. Free us from self-sufficiency and egodrama. Keep us from the pride and rejection of Your love that befell the devil. Let us find ourselves on our knees. Humbly awaiting the Bread of heaven. You became flesh, Lord, taking the nature of humanity as both completely divine and completely man, so we might feed on Your own life, substantially not just symbolically. With the precious gift of Eucharist, with eucharistia, we give ourselves to You. Empty ourselves so You, alone, may fill us. I am Yours, Father, make me Your own. In the Name of Your Beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.
I love you dad,