Around the end of June, I found myself exhausted. I had to nap after a run in the morning. I would try to take a 10 minute rest, but would find that I had slept through my timer and waxed all the way through two hours of sleep. The morning that I woke after a three-hour nap, I began to get scared. I was building in my running mileage, but not enough that I thought that I should be experiencing lethargy quite to THAT degree. I began to look more closely at the activities in my life. WHAT was wrong with me? Had I been bitten by a tick and come down with Lyme Disease? I didn’t remember a bulls-eye rash of late. Did I know anyone with mono? Maybe I picked something up … just out and about?
It took me a day or two to figure out the culprit. What was it?
And since the ice cream was in the freezer and I was burning so many calories through exercise, I decided that I might have just a wee-little-tiny-itsy-bit.
I am allergic to chocolate.
I remember as early as seventh grade, drinking Carnation Chocolate Malt Instant Breakfast and taking an Actifed before I left for school. Mom had me tested for allergies around that time. Allergy testing then was much more elementary than it is today. I remember being sent home with a typed sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper that had a list of the most common allergens. They included tomatoes, corn, legumes, chocolate, peanut butter, milk, cheese, egg, wheat and seafood … oh, and mold. I still remember feeling overwhelmed and wondering “How will we figure this out?” I also remember that the doctor told us to remove all of these items from my diet and add them back one at a time until we figured out the culprit(s). Yeah. Right.
I don’t remember ever pursuing the source fully. I am sure mom tried. But, how in the world do you work with a combative seventh grader, a public school lunch diet and an unending possible allergen list?
And, you know, my symptoms weren’t THAT bad. My eyes were a little watery, my nose was stuffy and I sneezed fairly often. I felt like I had a long-term, small-symptom cold.
Actifed became a staple in my daily regime.
Fast-forward to my early twenties. I was exercising and felt good. Weekends were wonderful. But, Monday afternoons, my symptoms returned full force. After much pondering, I finally connected the sneezing
to my mid-afternoon candy bar. I didn’t run out for a snickers bar on Saturday afternoon. But, Monday through Friday, when the afternoon lull would settle over the office where I worked, I was the low-man-on-the-totem-pole that was sent to the store for a trash-food pick-me-up.
There it was! The root of the problem was chocolate. I learned to go back to the Actifed-with-Chocolate habit.
When I nursed my little ones, I dropped all caffeine and chocolate. It was when I weaned them
and added chocolate BACK to my diet
that I could see just.how.greatly it influenced my body.
When I was weaning Joy and began to enjoy my irritant again, it began to exacerbate itself in a new form. I became witchy. I still remember an afternoon in the kitchen in Bainbridge when I flew off the handle about something nutty … like …. shoes being left in the dining room. By the end of the ten minute rage, I had covered my frustration with family members using more than one glass a day, dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, an apple sticker that was removed from the fruit and stuck to the counter, gnats that swarmed in the pecan grove and wobbly wheels on grocery store buggies. I remember taking a deep breath and asking very slowly – out.loud –
“What is w.r.o.n.g with me?”
I looked down at my arms and was certain I could feel the blood passing through my veins. It was as if I was withdrawing from some drug and needed another hit.
It didn’t take me long to put it all together. Chocolate was doing this to me. Memorial Day weekend of 2002, I told my friend, Linda, that I was going to try a week without chocolate. I have had very minuscule bits of chocolate since then.
Until June ….
And really … those tiny little flecks of cookie are so small, I didn’t think they would matter. Oreos aren’t even pure, real chocolate! They have sugar and butter and flour … and a little bit of chocolate powder, right? Harmless, right? I mean … it had been years since I had been in contact with chocolate. A t.i.n.y bit shouldn’t hurt, right? Surely there is some degree of grace in the amount that my body can tolerate.
And I probably only had a single tablespoon of ice cream each day for about three or four days.
I didn’t sneeze. My eyes didn’t water. I didn’t have any cold symptoms at all.
I didn’t seem to be having a reaction! Yay!
“Seem” is the key word in that sentence.
While there were no sneezes, I was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d.
I really and truly thought that I was extremely sick.
It took me several days to figure it out, but I realized that
chocolate was causing a reaction. It just LOOKED different than ever before.
And I thought about the parallels between
our physical world and the spiritual one.
We often think that the smallest little toying with
some weak form of sin as being
Surely, we have some amount of resistance, right?
We can handle a minuscule amount of contact.
And … really … it’s not even pure … there are all these …
other things mixed in … that make it weaker? Less offensive?
In fact, the other stuff … the milk, butter and flour? … they are GOOD for us!
Our bodies … our lives … our personalities are all different.
Just like my “allergen” may be different from yours,
so are the triggers for my life to spiral out of control in sin.
An “R” rated movie may affect you in the same way that pity party affects me …
because an “R” rated movie might draw you into a life long battle with porn and lust
while I struggle with self-doubt and self-esteem issues that can easily be labeled sin.
Gathering with certain friends may lead to a nasty encounter with gossip
that draws in one soul …. while leaving another unaffected.
Alcohol, food, lying, pride … the list is long …
because just about anything can be used by the enemy
to cause us to sin …
if we don’t pay attention.
It is quite easy to be fooled into thinking that
just a little bit
of this or that
We can handle it.
We can tolerate it.
maybe we are completely unaware
of the area of our life that is
wrecked, exhausted … even sabotaged
by the participation
in that particular sin.