(By Christina Gagnon)
Flamingos. Such fascinating birds with vibrant pink feathers and incredible balance as they stand on one leg to eat. They are beautiful and mysterious creatures and often the subject of fairy tales and folklore from other countries. The word “flamingo” comes from the Portuguese “flamengo” meaning flaming.
I was intrigued to find out not too long ago that flamingos are not actually pink. The chicks are born a greyish-white color. The crustaceans and algae that they eat contain the same carotenoids as carrots and tomatoes. These color the flamingos until they are vivid hues of pink.
“You are what you eat.” As kids, we used that saying on the playground to subtly criticize the eating habits of some of our playmates.
In 1826, French author Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” The phrase wasn’t translated into English until 1930, when Victor Lindlhar, an American nutritionist, advocated that food controls health. What a person eats influences how they live and their overall health. We are very familiar with this line of thinking today.
In healthcare, sometimes we see people whose skin is tones of yellow, orange, or green because their liver is not working properly.
What we take into our body and how our body works in some cases is made visible physically on our bodies, thankfully, not generally to the same extent as the flamingo!
As I was passing the time reading about flamingos, I was stopped by the thought that this speaks to my spiritual life too. What am I eating spiritually? What consumes my time? My interests? On what does my heart focus?
When I am stressed or overwhelmed, I binge read. I can spend hours curled up with books, especially ones I’ve read before, avoiding whatever is bothering me. But this is instead of doing the thing I know is most important. Spending time reading God’s Word and working through my emotions with Him ought to take priority, yet far too often I give the excuse that I don’t have enough time.
Where our heart feeds determines our spiritual life. What our heart feeds on determines what type of people we are and what type of Christians we are.
Is our diet composed of earthly elements? Work? School? Play? Friends? Relationships? Entertainment?
Or is our diet primarily feeding on God’s will and word? Those examples above aren’t are wrong. They are all God-given, actually. The problem lies in whether we are acknowledging God and centering our hearts around Him or focusing on what these earthly things can do for us.
The flamingo’s ability to stand on one leg for long periods of time, even while sleeping, demonstrates a unique grace and balance. How balanced are our lives? How graceful are our spirits?
The flamingo has the special ability to filter out the muddy water from its mouth as it scoops up mouthful after mouthful in search of the crustaceans and algae at the river bottom. It strains out the useless stuff and absorbs that which is necessary. And as it takes in the needed nourishment for its health and well-being, its body is transformed from a nondescript grey to a vivid shocking pink.
What we feed on as Christians affects us. We can’t always control everything that comes in, but we can filter out what stays and what goes. What we allow to stay will color us. It will color both how we are seen and how we see. We are what we eat; our physical health is affected by the things we eat, and so is our spiritual health. What are you feeding on today?