Recently the Lord has given me a thorn in the flesh – I have become gluten intolerant. I don’t know if I have celiac disease or an allergy but I frankly don’t care -it’s all the same – no more GLUTEN for me! When I eat gluten my stomach suffers from mega-pain and my hands crack and peel as if they were chapped. As soon as I get gluten out of my system, voila! My hands will go from bleeding to heeled over in a matter of hours. But being gluten free is easier said than done, there is hidden gluten everywhere. Some caramel even has gluten! Agh!
Okay, okay, I just have to remember through Christ I can do all things (Phil. 4:13). And in my weakness, He will make me strong. But darn it, it’s so-o-o hard. I mean there is gluten everywhere. But then I realized that this is how sin is – it is often hidden and packaged with innocuous caramel ribbons like a caramel macchiato (can you pick up the internal lust here?) But sin will cause my psyche and my Lord as much pain as if I had eaten gluten. And even though it comes in pretty, little packages with pretty, shiny bows, sin (and my reaction to gluten) is really ugly.
Friday night I was getting ready to watch a movie and I was wishing for pizza. Gooey, messy, cheesy, thin-crust, Pizza Hut pizza. And then I thought of the pain I would be in. I just shook my head and wished for a magic pill so that I could just have gluten every now and then, and I even entertained the thought “maybe I could do it just once and suffer?” Wait, isn’t this what we do with sin? We tell ourselves the lie “maybe one time won’t hurt.” Just one little time, it wouldn’t be all that bad. It would just be choosing sin over Christ one more time, which is why Jesus went to the cross for me.
Let me ponder that thought for a moment. Jesus went to the cross for me. This means that if I tell a lie, or gossip, or have sex or whatever, it is as if I were driving the nails into His hands. As I wrote this I saw the cross laying upon the ground and Jesus being laid upon it. He didn’t struggle or rail against it as I would have. As the nails were being driven into his hands I visualized it. As each nail went into one of His hands I thought of one of my sins: pride, avarice, lust, gluttony, the list is endless. It was as if when the centurion raised his the hammer over his head to drive the nails through Christ’s hand and nail them to the cross, each of my sins were being cried out in a loud, ringing voice. His hands were literally pierced for my sin. His blood flowed for my sin. What is my suffering compared to His? As I cried, I began to revel in my little, piddling suffering of being gluten intolerant. If Jesus wants me to be gluten intolerant, so be it. If gluten can become my catalyst for avoiding sin, if I can see my thorn and use it wisely, then I will gladly rejoice in my suffering. They say pain brings growth.
Then I thought of Paul. He had a thorn in the flesh. No one knows what it was, but I think the reason we don’t know is so that we could identify with him in each of our individual infirmities. Or maybe he was gluten intolerant and didn’t want his symptoms written down for posterity? (Have you noticed that I am being extremely cryptic about my symptoms, especially for moi?) 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 says “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
The Bible says that sin is pleasurable for a season (Hebrews 11:25). But that season will pass so quickly. I know I have chosen to do things in the moment and then later regret them. Like going out for sushi (I know it’s not a sin, but overspending and gluttony is). Anyway, there are days sushi is filling my head (and wanting to fill my stomach). I will hear the cry of the fish over-and-over again in my head. And somehow, before I know it, my van starts driving towards the calling sushi bar. But when it’s over, I’m never truly sated, except for a moment and then I am crushed with guilt and shame that I just did it again. That’s how sin is. It calls you, it doesn’t satisfy you, and it makes you feel awful. But more than that, it makes God sad.
How many times have we thought about sin and justified it by saying that “I’m free, I’m an adult, blah blah blah.” Wrong. When we sin, we are not free. When we sin, we are in bondage to that sin. When I was a smoker, smoking owned me. It wasn’t a choice, it was a need. Romans 6:16 says “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” There’s no freedom in sin, it takes you further than you want to go and costs you more than you want to spend. It’s never free.
So today (and we only have today) I am going to choose life and choose it abundantly. That means no sin. For me, that also means no gluten. No sex, no drugs, no rock n’roll (oh yeah, rock n’ roll is okay). No Pizza Hut, no Little Debbie’s, no Hostess. But I have a Saviour who has given me more than Pizza Hut. He took my sin, that I might enjoy life to the fullest. So what’s a little gluten? Wait, isn’t it like just a little leaven? “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Cor 5:6-13).
When I associate with gluten, I have a reaction. When I associate with people who are choosing to dwell in sin, I start to sin (that’s a spiritual reaction). Wow, I’m actually beginning to appreciate being gluten intolerant because it is such a picture of sin and staying separate from the world. And what’s worse, sometimes gluten acts like hidden sin. Jesus promises that sin that is hidden will come to the light. Mark 4:22 says “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.” That is true of gluten too. If I eat something and there is gluten in it, very shortly I will either have cramps or my hands will begin to crack and bleed, or both. Nothing is hidden. Saturday I went to Sam’s and had a sample (okay several samples). One of them was yummy but then after the fact I read the box. Whoops. Sometimes when we make choices we don’t read the box until after either. Less than three hours later I was in pain. That’s how sin is. It sneaks in and causes pain.
Today, just for today, just for this moment, I am choosing to do right. I am choosing to not sin and to not eat gluten. When you do it one day or one moment at a time, it’s not as hard as if I see it as a lifetime. Hopefully though, I can string together a lifetime of days and moments. They do add up. Selah.