Today I did something I haven’t done for five months: I ate a cheeseburger.
I ate meat. I haven’t even eaten fish since the spring, and today I had a cheeseburger. Quite deliberately. Quite intentionally.
I feel like this requires some explanation.
This spring, after much going back and forth on the subject, I had decided to become a vegetarian. I didn’t like the cruelty of the meat industry, or the way that humans living in America no longer needed meat, but they still chose to kill things to get it. It seemed wasteful to me, it seemed cruel, and I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. Also, I had found, through meatless fasts in the past, that refraining from meat allows me to focus better on God, so I had two reasons for giving up meat.
That was my reason for leaving meat at the start, but as life usually does, my experience began to change me. My beliefs began to change and my veggie lifestyle became important to me for a different, unforeseen reason that’s a little hard to articulate. The closest I can get to explaining is that by choosing not to eat animals, I was removing myself, just a little bit, from the cycle of life-death-new life that characterizes life on earth.
I was refusing to take life for my own benefit in this one small area, and as such, it caused me to think about this “circle of life” more consciously and more frequently. It became a conversation point between God and myself. I’ve learned a lot through it.
But recently, things have been changing. Like I said, my reason for refraining from meat had changed. It was now a way to focus on the cycle of life and death, and reminding me to talk to God about it. What I learned was that death isn’t evil. Physical beings experience death.
Spiders lay their eggs and then die, then their eggs hatch and the cycle continues. Plants and animals are born, die, decompose, and fertilize the soil, allowing new plants to grow in their place.
Death–the natural death of physical beings–is hardwired into this earth and there’s nothing wrong with it. Death that isn’t physical–things like spiritual, emotional, and intellectual death–is not natural, and I believe that one is the result of sin. (I could talk a lot about this, but I’ll save that for later.)
In essence, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with eating meat, if it is done with the right attitude. As creatures with the capacity for morals, we do have to pay more attention to whether it’s okay or not, because if we do something we think is wrong, it will damage our soul, making our next moral decision harder to see. That is what sin is, and why it leads to death.
If refraining from eating meat could teach me about respecting life, I figured I could learn something by eating it, as well. There’s nothing wrong with the cycle of life and death, so there was no reason not to try, since it was for “science.” So I did.
It didn’t make me feel the way I expected it would. I expected to feel guilty and weak (and I did feel that way when I ordered my burger). But when I took my first bite, it surprised me in a subtle, grounded way (it tasted good, but that wasn’t it. I’ve never been a huge fan of meat, anyway).
By refraining from meat, I can better see the cycle of life and death and appreciate and respect it. By eating meat, I humbly recognize my place in this cycle. It was a powerful feeling, a beautiful feeling.
It just goes to show that we can find God wherever we look for him. With God, everything becomes a chance to become more like him. Eating versus not eating meat is just another one, it seems.