Ignatius at the Grocery Store

God is in the mundane, but this is a difficult truth for our conditioned and overworked senses to grasp.  The irony is that God is all around us all the time, which seems hard to miss, but because God is in the minutia and commonness of life, we easily overlook God’s presence.  Since food is the lens through which I see so much of life, I couldn’t help but connect this quirk to our eating.

Food, for those who have it, is as everyday as it gets.  If we eat out we can eliminate the step of cooking and the food appears before us in a prepared state, ready for our immediate consumption, but even if we cook the food ourselves, we can remain quite detached from the food itself.  Think about the shopping experience: The shopper enters through an automatic door into a food-lined oasis of culinaria.  Neither avocados nor red grapes seem out of place in the middle of winter, and the already-chopped bags of onions, carrots and celery make the chore of daily cooking that much easier.
The funny thing about it is how anonymous the whole process is.  The shelves are always stocked, and when I can’t find Belgian endive or my current favorite, kale, I wonder why they are out, not considering that perhaps the growing season for winter greens has ended.  The grocery store is that hallowed place where ripe tomatoes spring eternal and the time is always ripe for buying fresh bananas.  There is no such thing as summer, fall, winter, spring at the Trader Joe’s, nor do regional considerations limit what’s available to us.  The Costco in Salt Lake City, Utah, where my mom shops has the same produce in it as the one here in New Haven, Connecticut.  The only season that enters the supermarket is on the holiday isle, where just yesterday I saw bags of cellophane grass and pastel, plastic eggs already edging out the red and pink mélange of Valentine hearts and arrows–and it is only February 12th.  Seldom do these obscurities catch us off guard, they have become so ordinary to our sensibilities.
It’s as easy to overlook God’s hand in the world as it is to think eating strawberries on Valentine’s Day in New England is natural.  But there is surprise all around us.  Everywhere God is waiting to be discovered.  We can see God’s handiwork in the sheer abundance of what is available in our supermarkets, as well as in the smaller details, like the sun-ripened Florida oranges or the dirt-flecked Idaho potatoes.
The following passage from Psalm 139, a favorite of Ignatius, reminds us that God is everywhere.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.

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