MONDAY, MAY 24, 2010

If Jesus is the Bread of Life...

I eat gluten-free.

My gf-ness is so intertwined with the things of daily life - sharing coffee, getting lunch, being invited to dinner - that it's hard for a single day to go by without a reminder that I am different.

I am a Christian.

A Bible-reading, church-going, Jesus-loving, Presbyterian, seminary-degreed, theology studying Christian.

I have been gf since September 2009 and a Christian since the age of 5.

Before I was gf, I had no idea how a food allergy or intolerance could impact social situations, particularly Christian ones. I wasn't expecting how my new gf lifestyle and my Christianity would affect one another. I never realized how many church-related activities center around food! Morning prayer breakfasts, youth group pizza parties, taking fellow church members out to lunch, fellowship suppers at funerals, joyous wedding feasts.

What made me the saddest, after I discovered my gluten-intolerance, was that suddenly I couldn't eat the bread of the Lord's supper unless I was at my home church (where they use individual cups for the wine and are fine with me bringing a rice cracker). Heck, if the congregation I was visiting practiced intinction - dipping the bread into the cup of wine or juice - I couldn't have the wine either.

At first, I sacrificed my health in order to not be a bother. I'd eat the bread of the Lord's supper anyway and pray for Jesus to protect me from the glutinous monster. (He didn't). In order to be polite, I'd nibble on a dessert I knew would wreak havoc with my system in a matter of minutes.

I struggled to practice Godly patience when explaining my food issues to people who assumed I was faking, seeking attention, or blowing things out of proportion. I struggled to assert myself with waiters, chefs, and servers when in public, afraid I would appear rude.

Often, it seemed (and still seems) easier just to stay home.

Still, I am learning to give this part of my life daily, continuously to the Lord. I am learning to take comfort in the fact that the Good Shepherd walks beside me in the tedious aspects of life - hourly label reading, anyone? -  as well as the freer ones. I am learning that, perhaps, there is something for me to learn about dependence and grace from this trying malady. I am learning to appreciate food, good and safe and tasty food, as nourishment and not simply convenience.

Day by day, event by event, bite by bite, I'm still learning, making mistakes, getting sick, getting well, trying again. And that's the reason I'm starting this blog. I want to explore what I've learned and hear about what you have learned about being gf and a Christian. How do you navigate being a Christian and being gf? What topics would you like to see discussed? What stories do you have to share? What tips can you offer for those of us who are fairly new at this whole gf game? How can we educate our churches, youth groups, and Sunday school classes about the dangers of food intolerance and allergies?

And, perhaps most importantly, how can we remain gracious and learn to follow Jesus more closely in the face of what can sometimes be a tedious, inconvenient, and downright infuriating food issue?

Jesus is the bread of life. Is it okay that I need him to be a wheat-free, rye-free, oat-free, barley-free version?