Tilly Dillehay, a Christian Book Award winner, addresses the burden food has in people's lives and offers advice on how to approach food in her new book Broken Bread: Feasting in an Age of Fussiness (June 2020, Harvest House Publishers).
Dillehay identifies the four approaches to food as asceticism, gluttony, snobbery and apathy. These food categories are the various attempts to use physical food to satiate spiritual hunger. Broken Bread is Dillehay's story of the freedom, growth and joy that she has found by drawing nearer to God and no longer letting food be an idol in her life.
Tilly Dillehay holds a degree in journalism from Lipscomb University. In the past, she has been the editor of a weekly newspaper and of a lifestyle magazine, and now she serves as homemaker and mother to two little girls. She writes at www.justinandtilly.com and contributes occasionally to The Gospel Coalition. She is the host of The Green Workshop, an event for women on the subject of envy that is held at local churches. Tilly's husband, Justin, is a pastor in the small town east of Nashville where the family resides. www.justinandtilly.com
Q: Tilly, thanks for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
I am a pastor's wife, mom to three little ones, author, and speaker. I live in a very rural community in middle Tennessee and probably spend as much time thinking about my vegetable gardening and my baby's sleep schedule as I think about anything else. I'm in a season of hands-on work, in other words, mostly unseen. But I also enjoy the work of supporting my husband in his pastoral ministry in various ways and writing. My last book was about the very unpleasant topic of envy.
Q: What is your new book "Broken Bread" about?
It's about four ditches I see women in the church falling into around food. They are: asceticism, gluttony, snobbery, and apathy. It seems to me that much of the angst and obsession around food that I've experienced and witness can fit into this rubric of extremes that we fall into. Then the second half of the book is about the joyful alternative roles of food in our lives-the roles of hospitality, fasting, glimpsing heaven through food, and ultimately, seeing Christ in our food.
Q: Why did you choose to write a book about food?
I see a lot of women, Christian women, who just seem especially prone to veering off into unhealthy or ungracious places with food. I know women who haven't eaten anything in a specific food group for years, others who have been on a different diet every year I've known them. I know many who think of food as a burden, rather than a gift from God. These are women I care about. And I've spent time in every kind of extreme attitude towards food myself.
But I just have experienced so much freedom in thinking about food as a gift to be taken with attention and used to serve others. It's become unnecessarily complicated. Food is something we all have to think about every day. Women especially are thinking about food not only for themselves but often for families as well. We are inundated with information. Culturally, we have unprecedented bounty available to us-but we've also inherited complications our grandmothers didn't have to deal with.
Q: What's the relationship between physical and spiritual hunger?
We are spiritually hungry, and we sometimes approach food as the answer to these spiritual hunger pangs. We're hungry for righteousness, so we erect food rules (like "eat clean") to achieve purity. We're hungry for joy, so we return again and again to food after we should be done, hoping to find satisfaction.
We're hungry for significance, so we use food as a social superiority markers. We're hungry for ease, so we choose to ignore the amazing variety God has provided. Christ intends us to be filled with himself, and then on top of that, he showers everyday blessings like onions, wildflowers, coffee, naps, good conversation, and ice cream. This is the kind of God we serve! He's not as stingy as we are.
Q: Food is a good thing, but it can also be abused. How can we abuse the use of food?
We abuse it when we forget who it came from and what it's for. Food is an incredible gift from God, and he intends it for our personal pleasure and nourishment. He intends it as another opportunity for us to give glory to him by gratefully accepting and generously sharing.
Q: Your book talks about sharing food with others as a way of building community. Why is sharing food important for us as Christians?
Food is such a powerful tool for building gospel connections and serving others. Sitting and eating with someone is an act of intimacy. God's gift of food is also intended for this good purpose-it promotes community and intimacy among people. As Christians, it's part of our commission to feed the hungry, as unto the Lord. This can take so many beautiful forms these days-from physically giving to a hungry person locally, to giving remotely to an organization that feeds people in other places, to cooking and serving a neighbor in our own kitchens. Feeding is a way of ministering to souls by way of bodies.
Q: What is your advice to people who feel that they will never have a healthy outlook on food?
I say, if you know Christ, he intends to grow and mature you in all ways to be more like himself. And he intends to fill your eyes and your mind with himself such that these kinds of concerns and hangups become less and less powerful. He would have you be free, and one day he will.
Q: Where can people connect with you online, and where can they pick up a copy of Broken Bread?
Visit my website, www.justinandtilly.com for blog posts and speaking contact information. They can get copies on Amazon, or wherever books are sold.