Why would such a nice idea stress me out?

I was at an interview last week and one of the questions I was asked was: what sort of things stress you out?

The next day I got a good example of that by email. I’ve been accepted to go on this course, the first session is a whole day on a Saturday (I already knew that) and we’re asked to “please bring pre-prepared food that we can all share for lunch” – result: a very stressed meirav.

Why? Isn’t it a nice idea, that we all bring food and share it? Isn’t it a lovely way of breaking the ice?

It would be, if we all had the same nutritional needs and dietary requirements.

How would a vegetarian cope with such an arrangement? Or someone who is lactose intolerant, for example?

How am I supposed to cope with it, when there is stuff I don’t eat because I’m Jewish but I live amongst the Brits, who eat tons of this stuff and seem to regard it as one of the most basic ingredients of lunch? (ham sandwich, anyone?)

This means I’m going to have to bring stuff that I can eat, and not count on being able to accept stuff from other people. Which means I’m in danger of appearing antisocial, and I hate being made to look antisocial – this is a sore point for me, because as an introvert who is also shy and socially awkward, I already get mistaken often enough for a stuck-up cow without any extra help.

The other sore point is to do with being part of the often-misunderstood and very-often-forgotten-about Jewish minority within the church. (Yes, it’s a Christian thing, this course.) My experience up to now has been varied enough so that I know I can’t count on always getting positive and understanding reactions when this issue comes up, I’ve had some unpleasant and judgemental reactions sometimes from Christians when they heard me mention that I don’t eat ham. I’ve had people quote Galatians out of context at me – in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, which is to do with our status before God, it’s about our origin not counting for our salvation, it is not about losing your identity! The same verse goes on to say that in Christ there is neither male nor female, but I haven’t heard anyone preach that women should adopt male behaviour patterns and stop wearing skirts. I’ve also had people tell me off because we’re under grace, not under the law (by which they mean Torah) but surely that same grace allows me to refrain from eating ham if it’s important to me? Or do they want to place their own man-made law on me that says “thou shalt eat ham”? I get angry when I hear this stuff from people who have not walked in my shoes and have not had to wrestle with the questions I’ve had to wrestle with. When you’re English and you become a Christian, you may experience some head shaking and eyerolls from those who think you’ve gone a bit loopy, but you won’t get people telling you that you are a traitor to your nation and that you are no longer English. Being Jewish and coming to faith in Jesus means that I get these accusations hurled at me and it is crucial to me to show in a tangible way that I have not turned my back on my people. We each have to work out how we live out our faith in our own situation, and for me the decision to refrain from eating pig is important – not because I hope to get brownie points from God, not because I believe I would lose my salvation if I ate a ham sandwich, but because God made me Jewish and my Jewish identity is important to me, and there is nothing in the Bible to say I should stop behaving like a Jew – why would there be, when it’s the Jewish Messiah that I’m following?

But this rant is exactly the one I don’t want to have to go into in the middle of lunch break. :-(

10 thoughts on “Why would such a nice idea stress me out?

  1. As a vegetarian, I’ve just grown accustomed to the fact that when I attend a potluck (which is at least once a month) I’m going to have to bring something that I can make a meal out of. I try to come up with things that might stretch other people’s comfort zones a little bit. When we have a sandwich potluck, I usually bring the fixings for a yam sandwich. When we have a soups and stews potluck, we either bring lentils (Rob makes great lentils.) or I might bring squash soup or something along those lines. On sweet and savory pie day, I make cabbage pie. I’ve been encouraged by the number of people who come up to me afterwards asking for the recipe, or when they have a baby and I’m bringing a meal, they tell me they hope I’ll be bringing my cabbage pie over.

    The one potluck where I feel totally safe bringing dessert instead of a main dish (and I like baking so I like getting this opportunity) is for our baked potato potluck. Even if most people smother their potato with chili, I know there will be plenty of stuff around for me to smother my potato with.

    There are certainly people who don’t get this silly “no meat” thing I do, but also many who not only do get why I bring the things that I do, but who also look forward to seeing what I’m going to bring because they trust it will be something new to them and they’re eager to try it out. And people have also become more sensitive to the fact that I’ll be there and though they’ll bring whatever they were planning on bringing, if they happen to bring something without meat, they often lean over and let me know as I’m standing in line. :-}

    Getting back to the stress angle on this — We’re currently going through stressful stuff in our congregation, to the point where I’ve even had trouble breathing at points during the week because I’m so overwhelmed by it all. But I’ve done what I can do in this situation and I have to keep reminding myself, “You’ve done your bit. Now you Have to step back and let others do their bit.” It’s both difficult and freeing at the same time. I don’t know what the outcome will be (it was very encouraging this morning though) but I’ve done what I can and I need to let that be enough. So do what you can, or what you need to do, Meirav. And then rest in that. Let God work out the follow up details.

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    • Thank you. Especially for that bit in the end… but yes, I did wonder how you’d deal with these situations as a vegetarian. It sounds like you’ve found a way that isn’t too stressful for you – and it makes me realise that part of why I struggle with these situations is not just that I worry about having something I can eat but it’s also because I resent being put in this sort of situation, so I’m inwardly growling about it in a teenagery sort of “it’s so unfair” sort of way. I need to deal with that.

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  2. I was trying to figure out if I should reply here or at multiply… Now makinig decisions like that can be stressful.

    In all honesty, I have never been sensitive to food. Anything goes, as the saying goes… Bt I would be really stressed if the menu doesnt include meat stuff. I dont think i can live on a vegetatian diet.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. It only takes a few minutes to be considerate of others. The bible says we are to prefer others overselves, this is a good example of putting that into practice! Lord, please help me to be more mindful of others!

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  4. rather than having to go into the whole logic of why you don’t eat ham… perhaps a “i find ham too salty thanks…” would suffice… ?

    my father was a life long vegetarian… well all of my life anyway… he delighted in making others uncomfortable about their carnivorous habits… much to my sister’s & my dismay… to the point we would hide… or pretend we didn’t know who he was…

    which has led me to make my choices… but never feel like i have to defend them to anyone… especially those at church functions who seem not to have taken the basic tenants of Christianity to heart…

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    • Hi, nice to see you here! and thank you for the suggestion – my only problem with “I find ham too salty” is that it’s a lie and I don’t do that. Kind of goes with following Jesus and all that…

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  5. yep, that would stress me out too. I don’t follow any special diet but I have so many friends who do for various moral, health, and allergy reasons.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with your bringing your own food and (when asked) say that you’re on a special diet… explaining further if necessary. At our camp I would say that 10-25% of our campers are now on one special diet or another… it certainly isn’t uncommon. Your being brave in “admitting” your dietary needs might allow others to be brave too.

    There is something Biblical about sharing food as a part of sharing fellowship… but Paul certainly makes it clear that we shouldn’t cause one another to stumble over something as irrelevant as what food we will and won’t eat. He is willing to give up meat sacrificed to idols so as to keep his brother from stumbling.

    Surely we should be willing to bring some vegan-friendly, or Kosher, or unsalted, or gluten-free food to potlucks as necessary. Even us non-Kosher carnivorous salt-loving wheat-eaters can do that. I know I’m willing. But how can I do that when I don’t have the Gift of Mind Reading, and nobody’s told me their needs?

    Yup, it’s uncomfortable. Real fellowship sometimes means a bit of discomfort at first. Especially if someone else is feeling guilty for their own less-healthy or less-responsible habits… sigh.

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    • Thank you for your wise words.

      I think that stuff about Paul is important. It’s a principle I’ve had to consider recently due to a Christian friend’s concern about eating Halal meat (the main supermarket chains here have started stocking it without labelling it as such, and some Christians are concerned that we shouldn’t be eating it) – I disagree with her but I recognise that the loving thing to do is to provide non-Halal meat when she’s visiting.

      And yes, real fellowship does involve some discomfort… (And being human means I wriggle and try to avoid discomfort…)

      I don’t think I’d be comfortable saying I’m on a special diet, that terminology doesn’t sit well with me in this context – it sounds to me like something you’d say if you were having to avoid certain foods for health reasons, or for weight loss. But a phrase I thought I could easily use is: there are some things I don’t eat. (Though in the end I didn’t need to explain anything! Hooray! I saw one other person bring her own sandwich. Most people had the shared lunch, but nobody batted an eyelid when I put my own sandwich on a plate.)

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  6. Pingback: Dear Gentile Christians | Meirav's Blog

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