Written By: Antonio Cooper
As a waiter comes up to the table so many things are running through my head...
“That steak looks good. That hamburger, blue cheese, bacon.”
I just told my co-workers that I've been vegan for 2 months. Church members have been on this journey with me and have posted Instagram pictures, Facebook shares and now in this moment I am willing to give it up.
I don't know about you, but I've never ever been excited to order a salad.
I mean salad and special outtings don't go hand-in-hand. You don't ever go out to a restaurant with the hopes of getting a salad, at least not for me.
So I order a veggie burger.
The veggie burger comes topped with vegetables, a side of barbecue sauce and a side of french fries.
I'm satisfied, but not content.
What makes an African American male from Las Vegas, Nevada start on this vegan slash vegetarian journey? It started with my kitchen, my mom and my brother. For a long time I thought being vegetarian was the same as being a Leo, Capricorn, Sagittarius, but it wasn't, it was a lifestyle. Something that I tried in high school in 11th and 12th grade.
I remember coming back from my 11th grade year going into my senior year and someone named J Givens, a now famous Christian rapper, started to make fun of me saying...
“Are you on crack man? How’d you lose so much weight?”
I had lost in between the 11th grade and 12th grade year somewhere around 20 pounds. 20 pounds is not that much now, but 20 pounds in high school is like 100 to the people that are around you. But this vegetarian life felt good...
for a little bit.
Now, fast forward a few years later and I am back on meat and I want to try out this new thing that's becoming popular nowadays and it's called going “vegan.”
Veganism seemed like the hardcore, Insanity, P90X version of being a vegetarian. It seemed like it was for the elite. The part two of being vegetarian. The upgrade from the vegetarian life. I decided to try it and for the most part in the beginning I liked it. But most of my conversations about being a vegan went like this...
“I'm a vegan”
“I'm a vegan.”
“You know a person that doesn't (insert blank here).”
For the most part this sums up the public perception of a vegan.
This identity slowly became a drag for me in my vegan life.
It's slowly went from everything that I could have that was healthy for me to focusing on everything that I had to abstain from.
I began to go back and forth, one week I was vegan the next week I wasn't. One week I was eating only fruits and vegetables and nothing cooked, the next week I was eating steak, potatoes, hamburgers and only wanted fast food.
For some reason this bothered everyone around me. I was okay with calling myself a vegan and eating a steak or hamburger from Yard House but everyone else had a problem with it.
I would go home, watch documentaries on Netflix about why the vegan life is the most beneficial decision that you could ever make and then go to a restaurant or drive by a fast food chain and that smell would take over me and I would find myself actually pulling into the drive thru with no regret.
This back and forth journey had me caught up in a range of emotions, a number of conversations, a number of situations where I found myself defending who I was as a vegan/meat eater. I continually listened to people's opinions about how they felt about me going back and forth. Here is what I learned:
A struggling vegan was never encouragement to the struggling vegan.
Validation, yes. Encouragement, no. I noticed that when I failed at being vegan I never went on YouTube and looked up “struggling Vegan.” What I looked up was the people that inspired me from the beginning to become vegan and took inspiration from them. The people that I look to as inspiration always had one thing that seemed to separate them for the people that were struggling.
Conviction was inspiration.
Do people need comfort? Yes. Do people need conviction? Yes.
People need to feel comfort, but see conviction. To this day I've never inspired someone to become Vegan, not that I know of, Why? Because I had comfort but no convictions. I was comfortable enough to be a Vegan, but I didn't have enough conviction to say no to the things that were wrong.
My problem wasn't protein, it was preparation
A very controversial question is...
“Are my desires to eat the food that I wasn't allowed to eat because I needed more protein? Was it because my body was lacking something?”
I'm not here to argue if a plant based diet provides enough protein for the average body, but hopefully we can all agree on this, if I had better prepared I could have planned out the protein I needed, even from a plant based diet. I think sometimes as believers we don't properly prepare.
We don't properly steward our hunger.
We let our hunger get out of control to a point where anything we see looks good even if it's below our convictions.
I didn't steward my hunger.
Spiritual hunger is displayed throughout the scriptures.
Esau was placed in a situation where he had to face his hunger.
The women at the well faced her thirst.
Jesus was hungry in the wilderness and thirsty on the cross.
The outcome in these biblical character’s situation was determined how and if they looked to God for the overall satisfaction and fulfillment or if they compromised convictions in the moment of a craving.
Have you ever been grocery shopping hungry? Essentially that is was what I was doing with my vegan journey.
Walking around, driving around hungry.
Everything I looked at was desirable because I wasn't filled. In the same way if our satisfaction and fulfillment doesn't come from God we are walking around hungry and everything around us looks desirable.
So if I can sum up what I've learned in my hypocritical vegan journey is...
We will crave less if we eat more.
Feed on the things of God and the cravings of the world will seem more and more distant.