It was an object lesson if ever there was one. Due to ongoing health struggles, I had recently converted to a gluten-free, no refined sugars, “whole” foods way of life. Countless hours of internet research had uncovered the dastardly dangers of processed foods, and I was doing my utmost to “purify my plate,” so to speak. My meats and produce were organic, my milk and eggs were from a local farm, and I was convinced that my culinary diligence would purify and protect me from a toxic world. And perhaps without realizing it or ever saying so, there was a fair bit of judgmentalism toward anyone who would deign to eat chicken cooked in industrial seed oils or pop pesticide-covered strawberries into their mouths. That is, until one day when I got a letter in the mail from Costco.
As I walked back from the mailbox, I opened the letter to find some dismaying news. The two pound bag of organic berries I had purchased was being recalled. For what, you might ask? Hepatitis A. Yep. The letter instructed me to cease and desist from all further consumption, throw out the bag, and visit my local Costco for a refund. I was also instructed to immediately visit my doctor to receive testing for Hepatitis. I was horrified. Here I was, working so hard to make pure choices in a toxic world, and just because a food-handling employee didn’t wash his hands after using the restroom, my pristine organic berries were tainted, and I had potentially contracted a disease.
To be completely honest, I was more than horrified…I was angry. As the Lord does with His children, this little debacle was His means of exposing my heart to His penetrating purity and light. Why was I angry? Well, I was angry because I thought I didn’t deserve to have something bad happen to my health because of my superb food and health law-keeping (my own law, of course, not God’s). In my flawed way of thinking, I had developed the idea that if I did the hard work of eating clean, then I would be shielded from the sickness and health consequences incurred by those who wash down their Twinkies and French fries with a Diet Coke. They deserved it, not me.
I was angry because I thought that safety and wellness was my due reward for my diligence. The thought that I might get ill, not because of poor choices, but ironically, precisely due to healthy choices, violated my sense of justice and revealed my control-seeking tactics. I had unwittingly made a silent agreement with God that went something like this: If I make good choices, then You need to honor those choices so that I can exert control in a scary and threatening world and shield myself from danger.
In His mercy, God was at work. He was showing me that my choices are not ultimately definitive. Yes, I must seek to make wise choices as a means of worshiping Him and loving others. Yes, I will continue to eat clean foods as much as I can. But I cannot deceive myself into thinking that my life ultimately rests in the control of my own choices, even when they are good choices. If my best efforts end up being the very means of my undoing, and that reality makes me angry as though I don’t deserve it, then my motives were not worship of God, but rather, worship of control, safety, and protection.
The good news is that God is at work in our hearts and lives. He aims to expose and uproot the harmful ways in us, enabling us to bring greater glory to Him as the Ultimate Controller of all things. Where has God exposed this craving to control in your own heart, and how will you respond to His light? After all, He can use the most mundane shopping trip at Costco to reveal His truth and grace, if only we have the eyes to see and ears to hear.