I sat down winded. I’d rushed to get to youth group Wednesday and needed to catch my breath. The kids were lining up to get their dinner so I had a minute to collect myself before I had to be sociable. The dinner I’d inhaled at home felt like dead weight in my stomach.
It must have shown because the minute she sat down, Chloe the group’s most inquisitive member said, “Does your stomach hurt Kären?”
Chloe would never lean over and ask me anything quietly so now all eyes were on me.
“No, I just ate too fast.”
Everyone went right back to what they were doing but I knew the door had been opened. Chloe was going to ask as many questions as necessary to satisfy her curiosity.
“Did you have dinner before you came?”
“Why—can’t you have pizza?”
The conversation went from there with Chloe listing everything being served to find out what I could and couldn’t eat. Fortunately, it was a short list.
“You can’t eat any of this?” she kept asking thinking somehow my answer might change from previous weeks.
I’m used to it with her and she’s so sweet I can hardly get mad. It’s a bit tiring though because the answers haven’t changed. For a couple years now I’ve had to be very careful about what I eat to avoid an auto-immune flare but in the last three months I’ve had to be even more cautious. Some recalled Chobani Greek style yogurt made me sick and recovering has proven difficult. The list of foods I can’t eat is much longer than what I can.
I try to joke about it saying that it’s not going to be lupus that kills me it’s going to be yogurt but some days I can’t even make myself laugh with that one. I’m nowhere near death but my skinny jeans are baggy. To most folks this seems like a dream come true but no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on losing weight or gaining weight is not a calorie battle—it’s a mental battle.
Before I could change the subject Chloe had to get one last question in. She saved the best for last though asking, “How do you keep your head on straight about it?”
“It’s not easy,” I said. “I’m like everyone else. I don’t like having restrictions. Nobody does.”
“I try to focus on what I can have though and also the people at the table with me—like you. I can’t eat what you’re eating but I can still be here.”
“Does that work,” she asked.
“It works when I’m with people. It’s much harder when I’m alone. That’s when I struggle the most with wanting what I can’t have.”
“I think it would be the opposite,” she said.
Later that night after I got home Chase came in the room and handed me a penny. When I asked him where he’d found it he said, “The cafeteria”. I started cracking up. At this point nothing but a food penny would do to end the day.
I couldn’t help but think about Chase and Chloe and what they know but don’t know. They know they want to be in a group but they don’t consciously know why. What they’ve subconsciously figured out though, is that life’s challenges are easier to face when you’re surrounded by people who care. They’re harder when you’re alone. Life like food is meant to be shared.
I was thankful for the reminder they both offered me. My tendency when I’m fighting any mental battle is to isolate myself. I’m like a turtle. I pull my head inside my shell and try to just tough it out only to struggle more. It’s the worst possible strategy.
Life as a Christian is meant to be lived with others. God never works with a believer independent of their circle of family and friends. His grace is distributed through relationships. The trick is seeking them out so you don’t become isolated by your struggles. It’s about coming to the table even if you have to pass on a plate.