Why Does Feeding People Make Us Feel So Happy?

Why Does Feeding People Make Us Feel So Happy?

This summer, I am learning to bake, prepare meals, and can our garden produce on a much smaller scale than ever before. A batch of whoopee pies makes about two dozen. That’s approximately one picnic’s worth in the days of four sons living at home, but an endless (and overwhelming!) supply for this empty nest. Thank heavens for hungry house guests!

I was simmering a six-quart kettle of spaghetti sauce on the stove on the day my Bible reading plan sent me to John 6 and the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. I’ve been known to feed an extra four or five people who showed up at the last minute around supper time, but that’s more a result of a well-stocked freezer and pantry than any power of multiplication.

The Lesson of the Lunch

Turning a little boy’s lunch into a satisfying picnic dinner for five thousand men–plus women and children–was more than just a cool party trick. I find it incredibly interesting that this is the only miracle recorded in all four of the Gospel records. Jesus had lessons he was trying to drive home about sustenance and salvation, abiding and abounding, belief and betrayal.

Because he was more interested in feeding people than in establishing a “religion” or overthrowing the Roman empire, he began to lose followers at this point in his ministry. The well-fed crowd scrambled to make Jesus king, but he had NOT received the gift of bread and fish from a little boy to initiate his own coronation banquet. He is the King who gives gifts and who sets the standard for hospitality by offering up his own body as true food and drink.

The science assures us that caring for others in practical ways releases feel-good hormones in the brain, but I think there’s more at work here. When we crack the eggs, flip the pancakes, crisp the bacon, pile the cookies onto a plate and pass them around the table, we image our giving God. In February, when I pour this summer’s sauce over noodles or serve dilly beans with Thanksgiving dinner, I’m invited to a little reenactment of Christ’s feeding of the five thousand in which a little something was made into a lot, in which whatever was offered to God miraculously became enough!

When I pour this summer’s sauce over noodles or serve dilly beans with Thanksgiving dinner, I’m invited to a reenactment of Christ’s feeding of the 5,000. A little was made into a lot and, offered to God, it miraculously became enough!

And Now Let’s Talk Books…

Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer

For me, prayer is the most challenging of the spiritual disciplines. I over think, second guess, and catch myself falling into prosperity gospel patterns of praying for my loved ones as if the most important things in life are safety and success.

Last year, I spent ten months praying the psalms as a corrective measure, so I was eager to read Answering God for more insight into the psalms as “tools for prayer,” as “prayers that train us in prayer.”

Will I manage to pray through all one hundred fifty psalms in thirty days as Peterson recommends? Not if I’m going to get my garden harvested and into jars, but one per day is enough to answer his directive to pray “sequentially, regularly, faithfully across a lifetime.” With his characteristic scholarly-yet-pastoral voice, Peterson takes readers through major themes, examining the psalmists’ use of language, metaphor, and rhythm, the influence of story and of memory, and the telltale evidence of liturgy within the psalms.

I have found this to be one of Peterson’s most challenging books, so I wasn’t surprised when I learned that it is part of a good many seminary programs for spiritual theology. It was well worth the effort–and I read parts of it twice! As a result, I am coming away from the experience committed to a more rigorous practice of praying the Psalms.

Holding You in the Light,

“Prayers are tools, not for doing or getting, but for being and becoming.” #EugenePeterson in #AnsweringGod

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47 thoughts on “Why Does Feeding People Make Us Feel So Happy?”

  1. Our eldest moved out a year ago so it’s lovely having the whole family back for a meal (I prefer in a restaurant or with take away so I enjoy it more) but it’s the sharing time over food that is the ritual…something special about that. #Dreamteam

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  2. Michelle, this is profound and well worth remembering next time I’m reluctantly cooking – ‘When we crack the eggs, flip the pancakes, crisp the bacon, pile the cookies onto a plate and pass them around the table, we image our giving God.’

    Meanwhile, I’ll help you take care of those whoopie pies. Yum.

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  3. It’s always interesting to me that although I’ve never really enjoyed cooking, I pour myself heart and soul into preparing meals and feeding my loved ones for family celebrations – and now that the nest is emptying, that includes weekly Sunday dinners! I’ve credited what I call the “Mennonite Grandma Effect” but perhaps as you suggest, it is also an opportunity to participate with Christ in gathering around the table and sharing a meal. What a blessing!

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  4. At the feeding of the 5000, the disciples actually participated in the miracle, not just stood to the side observing, as they did most of the time. I imagine their joy and satisfaction multiplied right along with the bread and fish, for being part of Jesus’ awesome work–even though they fulfilled the role of servants. An important lesson for me to remember: Become a servant and earn the right to share in the marvel of his work. / Thank you for including the recommendation of Eugene Peterson’s book, Answering God. It sounds like a spirit-stretching read!

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  5. It’s taken me several years to learn to cook for 2 instead of 6 and even so I find that I can cook less often since there are usually leftovers. This year our gardens are very productive so I’m canning more than I have in a while. I think I’ll even try dilly beans this week – I have not made them before. I have always enjoyed feeding people. Thanks for making this connection.

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  6. I am just picked up my first Eugene Peterson book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and had no idea he started translating The Message because of his desire for today’s people to pray the Psalms. It is such a wonderful book, and I’m determined to read more of his work! And thank you for this perspective on cooking – I’ve never liked it much, but with five kids 13 and under, it’s a big part of my day, and I have a hard time not resenting that fact.

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  7. My mom used to cook for an army. Now I do. But I am seeing the days on the horizon when I have way too much, since I won’t be feeding three hungry teens.

    I’m so glad you are finding ways to share your surplus. I’m sure it’s bittersweet, but life just changes and we learn to adapt.

    Thank you for sharing this at the Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop
    Laurie

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  8. This reminds me of something said about Edith Schaeffer: “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons.” Cooking is not one of my favorite things to do, so I’ve had to remind myself often it’s a ministry to my family–a ministry Jesus did as well. This also brings to mind the last few lines of a poem called “The Kitchen Prayer” by Klara C. Munkres:

    Warm all the kitchen with Thy love; and light it with Thy peace
    Forgive me all my worrying and make my grumbling cease.
    Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea
    Accept this service that I do, I do it unto Thee.

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  9. Your title of this post caught my eye. Immediately made me think of my grandmother. Soon as you entered her house she started trying to feed you and she wouldn’t stop until you ate something. It obviously made her happy 🙂

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  10. Michelle, I love this and now know why hosting gatherings feels so good. It is God’s love. Thank you! Also I have been reading one Psalm a day with “Spurgeon and the PSALMS”. I pray, read, pray, journal – I am learning so much. This sounds like a good book too.

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  11. Michele, love this! I’m not much of a cooker or baker any more. It’s just me nowadays, it’s so hard to cook for 1 person. Don’t get me wrong, I do cook. I have to be really intentional about measuring just enough for me. I don’t get to see my kids very often. My youngest will come to dinner with her boyfriend or bring a friend, then I’m happily cooking more and making a desert. Thanks for the book recommendation sounds interesting.
    Visiting today from IMM #5&29

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  12. Michele, the older I get, the more I have come to enjoy cooking and especially baking. Weirdly, there used to be some fear involved … maybe that I couldn’t do certain things I’d never tried before? The first time I made bread with yeast–in my mid-40s, I think–was quite a day for me. 🙂 Now trying new recipes is fun … maybe an indication that it’s never too late to gain confidence in some area or another? And what an encouraging thought, that we “image our giving God” when we engage in the very daily work of preparing food for our loved ones.

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  13. This is a wonderful way to look at the meals we cook and serve to family and friends. Thank you for your insights, Michele! And Maine and whoopee pies do go together! I haven’t had one since we left Maine!!

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  14. I remember way back in a very difficult time of life when a person I knew who was a therapist asked me if I felt cooking was nurturing. Back then, I thought it was a sexist question. But I have evolved over the past twenty years to realize that it does help me feel as if I am nurturing others.

    I tried to buy the prayer and psalm book but it’s not being published till May, 2023. 😦

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  15. Thanks for good encouragement today. Several years into this empty next season, and I find I have gotten a bit lazy with cooking. I always use the excuse that “it makes too much.” Well, how about I just share some of that abundance!? Who would have thought it:) Thanks for shaking my brain up a bit – oh and for whoopie pie recipes too!!

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  16. What – I just read the attached post. Great poem – but no recipe. Sigh. Too funny. I really should read all the way through before I comment. And surely I can find a recipe….I’m just craving a whoopie pie!

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  17. There is something so satisfying about feeding people but I had never thought of it as imaging God. What a beautiful picture! I need to remember that when I think I just don’t have time to invite those guests and wonder what I can serve that won’t take too much time. Sigh!

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  18. Another wonderful post, Michele. I just love the way you weave everyday tasks into thought-provoking lessons about God’s goodness.

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party. I’m featuring you this week!

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