By Michael Ketterhagen
--paraphrase of Psalm 69:9 Ever since I became more of my own person and moved more away from the influence of my parents and the culture surrounding me, and ever since I started to meditate, finding what my true thoughts and purpose were, I have gradually become extremely zealous about taking care of my body. It all seemed to happen about the time in was 25 or 26 years old. I started to find my own values and beliefs about many important areas of my life, especially my body. I began to realize that my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the actual dwelling place of God.
I became passionate about keeping my body healthy, keeping my mind focused on spiritual things and serving others. My lifestyle transformation began while I was studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood. I studied enthusiastically the theological writings of some of the desert Fathers and Mothers. They regularly wrote about the internal divinity of the human being. They repeated often the scripture passages that exhorted followers of Christ, like Paul of Tarsus, to be other Christs. My theological training supported that also.
However, when I married my beloved Mary Krahn, I had many things that needed changing in my life. I drank too much alcohol and smoked over a pack of cigarettes a day—two habits I learned from my farming, rural culture, and family. I overate, especially lots of meat. That all changed when I experienced being “born again in the Spirit” while attending a Catholic charismatic conference at Camp Villa Jerome with Mary and some friends.
From that experience of knowing the presence of the divine, experientially, in me, I wanted to quit smoking and drinking alcohol. I started to read about the spiritual practices of the Essenes. They were a Jewish sect that lived in the desert of Israel before and during the time Jesus of Nazareth was living. They were vegetarians and emphasized the spiritual dimensions of life, like praying every morning to the Angels of water, sun, moon, stars, and everything that had life. They believed that God was in everything, not separated at all from their everyday lives.
I began to believe that the life force of God was also in everything—the animals I was eating, water I was drinking, the air I was breathing. I became obsessed with living as cleanly as I could. Then when my son, Luke, was born I quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, coffee, and soda. I started to meditate more diligently, learning various methods of stilling my mind and of going within to “hear” what God wanted me to do. I moved into my spiritual journey—body and mind and spirit—full steam ahead.
Of course, not realizing it, this was a challenge for Mary. We had always been walking the spiritual path, but when I embraced the rigors of some of my spiritual practices, it was very counter-cultural and hard on her. She was raised in the regular culture world of meat, smoking and drinking, too. Now she had to adjust to my “whims and convictions.” As our family grew we adjusted to a settled life. I was not quite as “consumed” by zeal for my bodily house. I realized that my rigidity for these ideas were not helpful for our family.
However, as many of you might know from sharing my ideas, I am still quite consumed about living in a holistic, healthy way. I still long for “real live food” that grows from the ground or meat from animals that are raised after eating grasses and non-genetically-modified grains.
Our soil and way of eating today challenges that greatly. Most of the food eaten today is processed and packaged and contains lots of sugar. Some nutrition scientists have said quite clearly that our obesity problem comes from eating processed sugar and substances that seem like food, but are artificially flavored and seasoned with chemicals to make us like the taste.
So, now my zeal is not just for my own body, but I am consumed with making “real food” available to all, especially children.
I bow to the Divinity within you.