Here I am with Marla for the first week of the 7 read along. FOOD. This chapter felt so familiar to me. God has taken me through my own food journey for the last year and half, and I could so relate with what Jen Hatmaker had to say (both the "I can't take it anymore" and the "wow God.")
My body has always been weird. I have a multitude of reminders that I have a broken body because of a broken world, but the one that could have explained a vast majority of those issues is that I have extreme food allergies. Unfortunately, 30 years ago no one was testing babies, toddlers, young children for food allergies, unless they had an obvious reaction. My momma always fed us pretty healthy food, very little packaged stuff, minimal ingredients, low sugar and fat content. All the stuff we are supposed to have. I was allergic to most of it and had no clue. I felt nauseated after eating at almost every meal for as long as I can remember. I have major sugar spikes and drops that seem to be random. I had behavioral issues, concentration issues, and constantly was alternating between ok and sick. These were all seemingly unrelated, but new research shows that many of them can be connected to constantly being exposed to foods you are allergic to. Rather than having one major reaction I was having hundreds of little ones that were piling up.
A year and a half ago I finally ended up at an allergist's office as a last resort. They did the prick test for quite a few things (75+) and I experienced my first taste of anaphylaxis. My husband had to be called at work to come take me home 2 hours later once they felt my blood pressure had normalized. I walked into the allergist's office knowing 1 food I was allergic to. I walked out with a list of 10 things to eliminate from my diet immediately. I didn't even know what to eat for dinner that night. My entire world turned upside down. How had I made it this far in my life without any awareness that I was slowly killing myself?
I was confronted with my own mortality months before my 30th birthday, and it took me weeks to get over the shock of it. I was in a very miry pit of despair, and had only salad and chicken to comfort my broken heart. Every new thing I tried to make came out as a disaster at least once. My husband is still convinced that a particular brand of rice noodles is actual rice glued together in noodle shapes and if you cook it too long the glue melts and you end up with a hearty ground turkey sauce over rice rather than spaghetti. I didn't have snack food anymore. Shopping took me at least twice as long because I had to read every ingredient on the package. More than once I walked out of the grocery store crying, abandoning my cart half full of awful tasting food on an aisle, because I just couldn't take the constant reminders of what I couldn't have. The final straw was when I went down the anaphylaxis road again after partaking in Lord's Supper. This is a commanded grace that I can no longer have, surely God had to have planned for this way back when Jesus broke the bread!
I got tired of people trying to relate to me by telling me how hard it is to find quality organic fruit. I was hurt more than once by someone who argued that allergies were all in my head and I just needed to rise above. I felt so alone when with friends or family because every meal revolved around people asking me what I couldn't have at the meal, and then telling me how good that banned substance was. I lost 40 pounds in 6 months, mostly because I was not even coming close to meeting basic dietary needs on a daily basis. People would invite us to dinner, I would tell them about my food restrictions and suddenly they would forget to call to schedule dinner. I tried to send recipes to friends and family, post successful meals to Facebook, bring things to potlucks with every ingredient written down, make bread for the entire church so that I could participate in Lord's Supper. Since I tend to live life full force that's what I did with this new-found issue. I was on my own personal crusade to educate everyone I knew about food allergies and tell them how to treat people with food allergies better.
But God had bigger plans than me making sure that everyone knew I was dying on my cross of food allergies. I started to realize how wasteful I was being with the abundance of food I was turning my nose up at because it wasn't what I was used to. Rather than complain that I had to eat yet another rice and bean meal, God made me aware of the millions of lives that would treasure beans to add to their rice, if they even had rice. I saw absolute joy in the eyes of a couple people I gave grocery bags full of food that I had to take out of my pantry. People I love who were struggling to put food on their tables and I didn't even know it until I gave them a bag of noodles. A friend confided in me that she was so thankful for bread that I gave her; her dinner the night before had been a scoop of peanut butter and a scoop of jelly out of the jar because she couldn't afford bread and that's all she had left in the house. People I hugged at church and told them I loved them were going hungry. While I complained about another batch of brownies that tasted awful, I forgot to invite people to dinner. People who would have been happy with any disaster meal I made were being neglected because I was too busy talking to listen. I realized that there are people in my city who have to eat food they are allergic to because that's the only kind of food they have at the local food bank. Starving people all around me and all I could think about was how hungry I was!
And in my hunger God gave me Romans 8. This has been the anthem of my heart for almost 2 years. I am not condemned because I am set free IN Christ. If I live according to what my flesh wants I die, but if I live according to what the Spirit wants for me I live. I am an adopted child of God, and part of my inheritance in the Kingdom is suffering. But I'm not alone in my suffering, Christ suffered, and all of creation groans for final redemption! The Spirit knows what is in my heart and intercedes for me when I am without words to go on. All of these things are being used to conform me into the image of Christ. I was chosen specifically for this life. But in everything I am sure of one thing, NOTHING can separate me from the love of God.
Not even food allergies.
I have truly experienced hunger, and it makes my heart ache for others. Lord thank you for beans and rice... and perspective.