Gluten Free Eating, The Wages of Sin and Being Stupid: A Lesson

Two years ago I sat in a gastroenterologist’s office and described my symptoms—a laundry list of discomforts. When I finished, she asked about my family history, any big flaws in my genetic legacy. I told her all I knew and we looked at each other in silence. Then she sighed, reached into a drawer and handed me a pamphlet.

It said, “Understanding Colon Cancer.”

At two weeks into my 32nd year I had a colonoscopy. Because my doctor told me it was highly likely I had cancer. I sat in a curtained “room” with my nervous husband in a hospital gown and clinic-provided blue one-size-fits-all socks.

An hour later, the procedure done, the anesthesia not quite worn off, we prayed “Thank you, Lord.” Because there was no cancer.

The next week I sat in that same doctor’s office, experiencing the very same painful symptoms that had led me there, and listened as she told me there was nothing else to do. I didn’t have cancer. Wasn’t knowing that enough?

It wasn’t.

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This is a weird post. Because it’s about intestinal problems. And that’s weird and uncomfortable (for both of us—ha!). 

But I promise it’s not mostly about intestinal problems. It’s mostly about those moments when what we should do and what we can do don’t seem to match up. It’s about self control and discipline and not doing what every other person gets to do because we know we can’t. 

It’s about making wise choices even when stupid choices seem so much more attractive.

After my colonoscopy a good friend suggested I try gluten-free eating. Because I was in so much pain and because I’d run out of options, I tried it. And after a few months it really seemed to work. Things were better.

About five months ago, after eating gluten free for a year, things started getting bad again. Coincidentally my pain exactly correlated with a growing addiction to coffee—coffee mixed generously with cream. 

In an effort to figure things out, I made a list of all the foods I knew made me sick. When I looked at the list it became pretty apparent that I was going to have t cut dairy, too.

I’ve been doing this for two weeks. I’m pretty sure it’s working. And I’m furious. Because if it’s working I actually have to do it. 

To give you some perspective, here is a list of foods I can’t eat:

  • Donuts 
  • Pumpkin muffins 
  • French toast
  • Chai tea lattes
  • Onion rings
  • Spaghetti
  • Hamburgers
  • Pizza
  • Milk chocolate
  • Anything breaded and fried
  • Soups of almost every variety
  • Casseroles
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches 
  • All sandwiches
  • Croutons 
  • Brie
  • Ice cream
And here are some pictures of those things:
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Okay, I have to stop this because I’m about to cry…

It is possible that eating like this is one of the top five hardest things I’ve ever done. There are a number of reasons:

  • It’s inconvenient. 
  • It’s expensive.
  • It requires more self control than I can ever muster. 
  • It will never end (I have to eat like this forever).
  • It seems like an imposition on people who love me and have to work around my exhausting dietary restrictions. 
  • And I look like a ridiculous, flighty, might-break-at-any-moment hippie hipster. There’s no way Katniss would ever say “Can I get that with soy milk?”
I saw someone tweet the other day that poor people aren’t lactose intolerant. It’s those kinds of remarks that make me rethink this whole thing…
The bottom line is that I have to do this if I want to be well—if I want to get up off my couch and drive my car without falling asleep and not double over in pain during church.
And I want that. So I’m stuck with restrictions.
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Living a gluten and lactose free lifestyle is a lot like living the Christian life. Doing what God wants (being who God wants) is inconvenient and exhausting and a calling that never ends. It takes superhuman self control and often makes me the butt of jokes. 
Still. It’s the wise thing to do. Living in step with God means abundant living. It means freedom and joy, peace and victory. Doing what God wants saves me from the pain and desperation in which I see friends, knee deep and sinking.
God’s will is a light, when I carry it and follow it, I take sure steps.
A few months ago I “accidentally” imbibed some gluten in the form of three cake pops, a dozen donut holes, and a bowl of pad thai. I was sick for two weeks. 
I called my husband and confessed that I’d eaten stuff I shouldn’t have and I said, “I keep wanting to pray for God to make me better, but I know I deserve this.” I’d chosen those consequences when I chose that food. 
See, for me, eating gluten (or dairy) is the ultimate expression of stupidity. I know it will hurt me. But it looks so good. And it tastes so good in the moment. So I take a bite and I love that bite and I keep taking bites, chewing myself into a coma. 
I do the exact same thing with sin. Stupid…

One time the apostle Paul was talking about grace, about how God never runs out of it. He knew his listeners were thinking, “Yes! This is the perfect excuse to go on sinning. We sin, God forgives. Let’s just keep sinning and keep letting God forgive.” But Paul says, my paraphrase here, “That’s so stupid!” 
He writes in Romans 6:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life… count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…

When we as Christ’s chosen choose sin, when we embrace stupid, we miss what it is to be Christ’s. We heap upon ourselves the pains and disappointments of an old life we’ve already chosen against. We walk right back into a life (a death, really) that in our clearest, wisest moments we left behind.

It’s like me, knowing what gluten will do to me, heading right back to Corner Bakery, loading up on pumpkin muffins. I know life could be better than this. But I’m choosing stupid over wise and missing all the blessings of a healthy small intestine. :)

Christians who consistently walk outside the will of God are doing the very same thing. We’re choosing stupid again and again and missing, just completely missing, the abundant life God offers. 

I know because I’ve lived it…

I’ve sought attention and admiration in accomplishment and appearance only to be disappointed and depressed when the applause of a few failed to make me feel valuable, forgetting that only in God was I made good, worthy.

I’ve shopped to fill the holes in my self, stuffing those holes with shirts and skirts, cotton and silk, expanding the emptiness—knowing all along that only God could truly fill me.

I’ve let pride go unchecked and found myself face down in mud.

All of those disappointments and pains stemmed from stupid choices. All of them could have been avoided but weren’t. 

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The lesson I promised is simple: Don’t eat gluten.

[Wait… That’s my lesson.] 

Yours is this: Choose wisely.

Choose to walk in the light as He is in the light. Pray for self control. Identify the sins making you sick, holding you back in your attempts to look more like Christ, and make a battle plan. Wage war.

Because there’s a better life out there. And it’s free. And it’s hard. And it’s worth it.