I have been struggling on and off for years with my health. Namely my digestion. I fight the fact that my diet needs to change. I don’t like to be told what to do. I want to eat what I eat and not think that much about it. And when my gut inevitably flares up, I get frustrated and angry. Then I try to “fix” it for a very short amount of time, get thoroughly depressed over it, and so I stop. I eat what I want. I get sick again. Around and around I go.
Last fall I met with a counselor who helped me untangle some problems in my life that I couldn’t get clarity on. During one appointment she drew a diagram of a child who doesn’t get what she wants from her parent. The child gets angry in protest and this anger eventually gives way to sadness. In order to grow, the child needs to accept the parent’s “no” whether she understands it or not and adapt to her new reality. Then the child can trust and wait to see what the parent permits her to do.
This past week I realized that I have never chosen to accept that my body doesn’t like certain foods and that my appetite is enslaved to what it wants. I’ve called my way of eating “freedom”, but it obviously isn’t freedom if it’s ruining my quality of life. For years I’ve been angry and depressed over this “no” that God has allowed in my life but have never made the choice to adapt to reality. Denial seemed to suit me just fine.
I am finally choosing to accept. To accept my body the way that it is and not the way that I want it to be. And to accept that God is inviting me to a different path. A path that includes being kinder to my body and to stop living in denial of the pain that I cause it. Over and again I have to learn that acceptance and surrender are the paths to real freedom and generous grace. When things happen that we don’t want, we fear we are receiving something terrible, something bad, something shattering. We are like Eve and believe that God is withholding something good, and so we eat the fruit. The fruit doesn’t require trust. The fruit is an easy fix. And that fruit makes us sick.
Instead of getting frustrated with myself over all of this, I decided to get curious. I asked myself, “Aimee, what are you so afraid of?” This simple question helps me get to the bottom of things when I see myself getting controlling, grasping, demanding, and angry. It helps me move away from merely managing my behavior and instead, names the fear that is lurking, prodding, whispering lies underneath it all. Naming the fear exposes it for the enslaving lie that it is.
I am afraid that I won’t enjoy holidays and celebrations. These won’t be meaningful or happy or fun without the food I want. I am afraid I will be isolated relationally from others because I believe that bonding happens over shared food. I am afraid it will ruin my connection and date nights with Mike because we love sharing special foods, and this will strip us of that. I am afraid that I won’t experience beautiful memories of events if I can’t enter into the feasts the same way others do.
It’s pretty apparent that I give food the power to connect me with others and to bring me meaning in life.
Why is my belief that connection and meaning come through food and not the table we sit around?
Why do I believe that I will be all alone, vulnerable, and unlovable without food between us?
Why do I believe that my marriage will stink if we can’t go eat our favorite Mexican each week and drink Vanilla Cokes or Starbucks or eat decadent desserts together?
Dear Food, I love you. Too much. And you are a lousy god.
The Holy Spirit is the One who connects, who gives meaning, who builds community, memories, joy, and attachment. We can all sit around the table together, and the food can be different, bad, amazing, limited, whatever, and it doesn’t matter. The shared table is the important thing, not the food. It’s taken me a long, long time to actually get here. Foodies tend to go down kicking and screaming.
So what about you? Do you sense a “lovely limitation” in your life that you actually don’t believe is lovely? Are you angry and depressed over something that you can’t have or can’t do? A vision, a relationship, food, money, ideals, a home, and on and on? Do you need to adapt to reality, look it in the eye, and accept that God is inviting you into something different? Something deeper, wider, sweeter even if its gift-wrapping is grief?
I don’t have neat + tidy answers. The pain of receiving a “no” in life challenges us to our core. We may never understand why we didn’t get the path we wanted. But we can get curious, ask questions, bring them to the presence of Jesus, and allow His love to heal us, to comfort us even if we don’t receive answers. The gift is Him. He is our ultimate path, fulfillment, destination.
The invitation is to adapt to reality, and the good news is that the Ultimate Reality is Jesus. In Him is all good, all lovely, all love. He is the satisfying Feast. And I am learning to be hungry for Him.