I have a beautiful memory from my childhood that echoes in my head. It involves the voices of seasoned saints standing proudly in the sanctuary, thanking God for life, health and strength. In fact, more than one person could make that same statement and each time, shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Glory to God” went forth. I didn’t understand how something what seemingly was so simple resulted in erupted praise; especially when repeated. Now here I stand, decades later, and after a full seven days of being sick, feeling empowered to say, ” I thank God for life, health and strength!” I have experienced a glimpse of what the ancestors knew. I have been afforded the grace to move beyond material and into measurable. Each victory can be attributed to God’s unconditional love for me. His love is traceable and authentic – never presenting itself as something that it’s not. I can’t say the same for quinoa…
Last weekend, my mother and I were running errands. Since the collegiate is away at school, normally this task is a solo experience, but because my mother is visiting, I was pleased to have a passenger. After hours of activity, we elected to grab some lunch. This was also significant because afterwards we were going to the grocery store and I’ve been advised, never to go to the grocery store hungry or else you will find yourself purchasing goods that you don’t need and are not on your list (now that could preach)! At any rate, I ordered a salad with quinoa. Seemed simple enough. Since I am gluten intolerant, I felt comfortable with my selection. It wasn’t until about an hour later, that I began to experience symptoms associated with consumption of gluten. Skipping the horrific details, understand when I say that my appreciation for “life, health and strength” is valid. All week, I reflected, researching to get to the root of what made me sick, and the most obvious was quinoa (Gluten-Free Society). What I found became applicable to life in general.
Quinoa is in fact gluten free, but its processed in facilities where grains are, and therefore subject to cross contamination. I also recall as a child being told, “be careful who you hang around,” and “birds of a feather, flock together.” I didn’t fully understand that although you may not carry the desire to do harm, associating oneself with those that thrive in messiness will solidify your membership. I’ve seen how this played out most recently in my professional life. Proverbs 22:1 reads, “A good reputation is more desirable than great wealth, and favorable acceptance more than silver and gold.” This sentiment goes beyond the playground. Even at this point in life, as grown folk, we must be conscious about the company we keep. I am determined to avoid toxic people and toxic environments. When I see glimpses of it, I’m Audi 5000!
Secondly, I learned that quinoa has “gluten like” proteins that mimic those found in wheat, barley and rye, the very problematic foundation associated with gluten. In essence, while not gluten, which would be harmful to me, it shows up as something that appears to be safe, yet its core is similar to that which is concerning. One word – counterfeit! I’m reminded of ancestral admonishment of the fact to not always “believe what you see.” Galatians 6:7 reads, “Be not led astray; God is not mocked; for what a man may sow — that also he shall reap.” This bit of advice is not only applicable to the world, but also within our relationships with other believers. We must protect our spiritual gates at all costs and expose our spirit (wo)man to that which is for the edification of the Kingdom.
Finally, I learned that the definition for gluten needs to be expanded to include such foods that based upon their makeup can potentially cause harm to individuals with a gluten sensitivity. Wouldn’t it be compelling if each of us came with a warning label, indicating our history, our properties if you will that may be harmful to others? For example, “Warning: known to go silent when angry;” “Warning: Listens intently and repeats every word that was heard to others;” “Warning: Jumps to conclusions without possessing the facts;” “Warning: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” What might we need to update in our definition, in how we are viewed or assumed? As we grow in Christ, we must treat our reputation as representations of him in the earth. While definitions may more difficult to upgrade and manipulate, we can treat our history and our present similar to that of a Wikipedia page – which invites updated data. Such as in my case, “Has been known to go silent when angry, but working on it as she develops the skill to share her emotions about a particular issue in a constructive manner.” When interacting with her, its helpful to know in time, she builds the capacity to speak her truth in a way that enables the relationship to remain in tact.” What would be yours? How different might your life be with the utility of such a consideration? Better still, what might life be like for those around you as you share your personal addendum? Do you need a new definition? II Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
So, as we embark upon this week, one that happens to be particularly special as we prepare to celebrate the collegiate’s commencement, I stand and proclaim, “I thank God for life, health and strength!” It’s not cliche, it’s a rich proclamation that resonates with me so deeply, I can hardly keep it to myself! I’m reminded yet again of Travis Greene’s lyrics, “All things are working for my good, he’s intentional, never failing!” Although I attempt to be rather intentional to avoid gluten, it may not always be in my control. Further, there are other foods with similar makeup, that I may not be aware of until after the fact. However, it appears that I need to be even more intentional to abstain from things or people for that matter that possess similar characteristics that are in conflict with who God is calling me to be. I also need to ensure that I am walking in my purpose, on purpose so as not to negatively impact other’s on their journey so that I am not the “gluten” in their life. I need to be as positively deliberate as Christ has been in my life. Let’s do it together!