On Self-Cannibalism

One of the scriptures that always intrigued and disturbed me was this one:

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. -1 Nephi 21:26

Forced self-cannibalism from the Savior of the world? I know. I know.

But like so many other things, trusting in God eventually lends itself to a better explanation than judging and dismissing does. So I trusted.

And one day, I was listening to the sacrament prayer and something clicked.

When we take the sacrament (communion in most faiths) what are we doing? We are eating the body and blood of Jesus Christ. His flesh and blood.

We’re not a faith that believes in transubstantiation, so for me, consuming the bread and water offered every Sunday is not a literal practice of cannibalism. But it is a literal saving ordinance.

My guess is that this scripture is not threatening to literally feed people on their own flesh and blood, but is speaking to something just as devastating and real.

What do we do when we take the sacrament? We are offering up our sins and shortcomings. We are offering up our pride and our need to be right, the faults we wish we didn’t have and the faults that we may cherish. We know we aren’t enough, that we’re completely inadequate to sustain ourselves. We are acknowledging that on our own, we will most surely die.

Without food, our bodies die. Without Christ, our souls die.

We need Him like we need bread and water. The act of eating and drinking in remembrance of Jesus Christ is the act of inviting Christ to come inside us, to sustain us and fill us, to provide us with the nutrients necessary to keep our souls functioning down the cellular level (do souls have cells? I don’t know).

The things we eat and drink become the matter that composes our bodies. The blood in our veins was once tap water, the calcium in our bones was once milk and spinach and oranges. Our food becomes our body.

As our souls continually eat and drink Jesus Christ, He becomes part of us. His Spirit, His Atonement, begins to inhabit us, becomes a part of our spiritual make up in the same way that the food and water we drink becomes our own bones and blood.

In the same way that our bodies cannot survive without food, our souls will not survive without Jesus Christ. If we reject Him, from whence can we be nourished, sustained, redeemed, and ultimately transformed?

We need His Love and Law and Atonement. It feeds us, sustains us, and, when accepted again and again and again, it ultimately becomes the stuff that every particle of our soul is made of. We become part of Him, and He becomes part of us, and His Grace is big enough to support and sustain us, and our growth, indefinitely.

The God of all creation has offered us literally everything. He has offered us His Son. If we reject that, what does God have left to give us? He’s already given us everything, and so by definition, there’s nothing left to give. We are left to ourselves for sustenance.

If we look to ourselves for morality, forgiveness, redemption, we shrink. We are too small, too inadequate, to feed ourselves. Dictating our own right and wrong, passing justice and defining mercy for ourselves, we will shrink. There is not enough of me to sustain me, to justify me, to redeem me.

Drawing from my own intellect for righteous law, drawing from my own mercy for redemption, drawing from my own love for my pain, is ultimately as futile a practice as drawing from my own blood to alleviate my thirst, or drawing from my own flesh to sate my hunger. It’s perfectly and utterly self defeating. It’s completely unsustainable.

When we reject the Savior, what do we have left? Ourselves. We are remarkable, wonderful, and worthwhile beings, but we are not spiritually self-sustainable. We are dependent, feckless creatures, and in choosing the Savior, in choosing and applying the atonement, we may slowly come to understand just how much has been done for us (and the rest of the human race), how much is being done for us (and the rest of the human race), and how much will be done for us (and the rest of the human race). We can’t outgrow our smallness if we don’t even realize we’re small. We cannot overcome our own helplessness when we don’t accept the help and tutelage on offer.

We are living in famine, but there is a table spread before us, with an invitation to take as much as we want; the offering is infinite.

So let’s eat.


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