Reflection

unintentional ascetic

The Ice Cream Girl, August 11, 1913. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Ice Cream Girl, August 11, 1913. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Or, how food allergies are training me in righteousness.

Several years ago, when I first discovered that milk products were off limits, I couldn’t be around anyone who was enjoying them. I threw a temper tantrum in a grocery store when Eddy wanted to buy a block of cheese for a snack. I’m so skinny, no one would guess, but I’m a glutton, and food, whatever kind of food I’m craving, is my right.

And after milk went coconut, shrimp, lobster, black tea, alcohol, caffeine, and, the killer, wheat. Pretty much all my favorite foods require one of those ingredients. But, lots of people deal with food allergies, intolerances, and special diets. I’m not special, I know, and I’m not complaining, anymore.

This has been a good gift, and, not just for the obvious reason, that I can no longer consume an entire package of Oreos in one night. This has been a good gift for my inner person. I’ve never fasted before– I think I’m too physically unstable– but, in a way, I’ve been fasting all this time. I’m just beginning to see God’s good work in it.

In the United States, food is everywhere and readily accessible and cheap. In suburban Wheaton, I can take a five minute drive to Jewel-Osco, or to McDonalds, and spend two bucks on a bag of chips, or a double cheeseburger. There is very little I can’t afford, at least, besides those beautiful 6oz tubs of  imported water buffalo mozzarella. Food is so easy, and in this kind of world, I got tricked into believing I was entitled to it. And, then, one day, I lost access to all of it. I walked into a McDonalds, and the only thing on the entire menu I could eat was a 20 calorie side salad.

I was in denial for the first couple of years. I tried a weird diet to heal my guts and I bought digestive enzymes to denature the allergens before they reached my intestines. I thought I was entitled to eat the foods I wanted. I prayed for healing, and really thought, if I prayed hard enough and ate healthy enough, one day I’d wake up and be able to eat ice cream again. Not so. One day this past year, I woke up, and realized that God was trying to heal me of my gluttony and self-entitlement instead.

In small steps, I am becoming more and more detached from food. I don’t put my hope in being free from dietary restrictions anymore. I don’t believe that ice cream is a norm. I can celebrate pizza with friends and not take a bite of one. And although food is still one of my favorite pleasures, food is also, more than ever, a gift. Sure, it hurts a little when everyone else is enjoying a homemade pecan sticky bun, warm and fragrant, just out of the oven, and I’m staring at my empty plate. But I can now say that pecan sticky buns weren’t made for me, and I was made for another world.

Could food allergies, too, be pure joy?

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One thought on “unintentional ascetic

  1. Ellen-Daile says:

    Dietary restrictions are crazy. Before I was pregnant I was vegan and during that time I realized what a hold food had on me. I realized I had been living to eat- not eating to live, and switching that mentality hasn’t been easy for me. I’m just vegetarian now, but may go back vegan. The power of food is so tricky. But once it’s realized it’s easier to overcome.

    Like

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