Sometimes, a Rash Is Grace

Over the course of my reading TheoCult posts, I’ve read several regarding food/body.  Stuff like this and this from Naomi, and this from Steff.  They’ve talked in really profound ways about the fact that we are whole people.  What we put into our bodies impacts more than we might think it does.

Six months ago, I read this post byTravis.  I remember feeling very uncomfortable while reading it; particularly:

What we have done with food in our country and culture is disgusting. America worships food. We consume in a way that a corporation can lure us into a mediocre restaurant, with mediocre food, at a mediocre deal with the tagline ENDLESS. We convince ourselves that we can eat until that price is a great deal. How shameful is the gluttony in our hearts?

There is nothing wrong with feasting. It is quite biblical to celebrate by feasting with your family and friends. What does the word feast even mean when we over eat at every meal? Is there any room for a feast in a culture that constantly eats? What does feasting cost? What does a lifestyle of feasting cost?

As far back as I can remember, food has been my go-to place of comfort.  No matter what else is happening, food always tastes good and makes me feel good.  As a result, I’ve always been overweight.  Just to leave for boot camp I had to lose 75 pounds.  Even in the Marines, I fought my weight the whole time.  And it wasn’t that I wasn’t exercising.  I was running at least 15 miles a week and lifting weights and doing calisthenics.  It was always my diet.  I’d eat and overeat all the time.  When I got out of the Marines, I kept eating whatever I wanted but stopped the exercise.  And now I’m back to being significantly overweight again.

I’ve always wanted to be healthier, but food has been such an ingrained part of me that it seems impossible.  And the exercise thing?  To answer that, I turn to The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis:

But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.

71013-_6So, where did that leave me?  Food seemed an impossible, immovable mountain, and I didn’t have the drive to exercise because it had been beaten out of me in the Marines.  Where to turn?   [Insert pin here; we’ll be back]

About 18 months ago I developed a rash on my right hand’s ring and middle fingers.  It looked and acted exactly like poison ivy, so that’s what I assumed it was.  I’m fairly responsive to poison ivy, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Then, it didn’t go away.  Three weeks, four weeks, two months; rash is still there.  Then I started getting rashes on my chest and stomach.  Then my left hand.  Currently I have rashes on much of my right hand and arm, chest, stomach, right leg, and a little bit on my left hand and arm.  We tried different laundry detergent, different soap, topical oils and creams.  Nothing really changed.  [Insert second pin here]

I read through a book during Lent with a group of brothers and sisters.  The book is Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray.  In the first chapter he says:

I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire; and if there is the fear which says: “Oh, my desire is not strong enough, I am not willing for everything that may come, I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything”—I pray you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: “My God, I am willing that Thou shouldst make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.

Back to the first pin.  I went to God with this:  “I am not willing to change how I interact with food on a practical level.  I want the health without the work.  But, I am willing that You should make me willing.”

To the second pin.  About two days after I prayed this, my rashes reached a point where I was willing to try anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to get rid of them.  I didn’t want to go to a doctor and get a cream that would treat the symptom.  I also had the ideas from Steph’s and Naomi’s awesome posts bouncing around in my head.  As a whole person, I want to get to the bottom of this.  I was also thinking about the fact that this happened right after I had asked God to make me willing to change how I interact with food.

So, Annie (my wife) started researching.  She is an amazing researcher and was 100% behind me in the changes we decided to make.  Seriously, maybe in my next post I’ll just write about what an awesome researcher and how supportive she is.  She found some things to try, and it was drastic.  I went five weeks without refined sugar of any kind.  I was drinking green smoothies and eating vegetables.  Salad without dressing.  I even fasted for seven days.  No food.  Just water.  FOR A WEEK!  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been trying to get rid of these rashes.

They’ve gotten a little better, but they’re still not gone.  I’m going to see a natural doctor on Friday.  But that’s not my point.  If I have to have rashes for the rest of my life, I’m okay with that.  They’re proof to me that God is good and is not willing to let me settle for what I want.  I want to eat junk food and feast all the time.  But, like Travis said, where’s the room for feasting when you feast all the time?  If I overindulge all the time, then the prescribed times of indulgence lose their sweetness.  It’s not healthy, and God never intended for it to be that way.  So He’s changing my attitude, and He’s using discomfort to do it.

Two thoughts:

1.  Be careful what you ask for – Sure, you can read that in the way it’s meant 99% of the time.  This has been really hard for me and my family to walk out.  It hasn’t been easy, but God’s been good.  However, be careful that you’re not asking for too little.  If you ask for too little, it’s easy to take credit when things change.  Ask for something monumental; so monumental that you can only give credit to God.

2.  God’s grace isn’t always comfortable – I equate my rash with Jonah’s whale (great fish for 1024px-Pieter_Lastman_-_Jonah_and_the_Whale_-_Google_Art_Projectyou KJV’ers).  If it hadn’t been for the whale, Jonah would have died in the Mediterranean.  God could have let that happen and sent some non-knucklehead to Ninevah.  But He didn’t.  He sent the whale as Jonah’s salvation.  The whale was God’s grace poured out on Jonah.  My rash is evidence of God’s grace in my life.  Sometimes, the thing we have that we don’t want is the vehicle God uses to bless us.

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3 thoughts on “Sometimes, a Rash Is Grace

  1. Awesome post. I really appreciated this: “If you ask for too little, it’s easy to take credit when things change. Ask for something monumental; so monumental that you can only give credit to God.”

  2. What a blessing from a kind God to see Christ in you! Great post- needed in my life.

    (Your “old” 2nd gr teacher;)

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