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Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Apple a Day Does Not Keep Strangers Away

While at work one day, I decided it was snack time and proceeded to the breakroom to wash and slice my shiny honeycrisp apple that had been staring at me from my desk all morning. I was on an apple kick that week, and thus excited for my tasty treat. I took my time washing it, using the fancy apply slicing/coring thingamabob, arranged it nicely on my paper plate, and then proceeded out the breakroom door.

That's when it happened. A stranger asked me for a piece of apple! At first I was horrified, though I quickly schooled my features so my face wouldn't show it. What do you say when a stranger asks to eat right off  your plate? I said yes, of course, cause I was stunned and didn't know what else to say.

The stranger took a slice of apple, told me how they never think to buy apples and how mine looked so good. She then thanked me for sharing. I walked away a bit miffed, even though I had been nice to the person's face. I mean, what kind of person walks up to a stranger and asks to eat part of their snack? I mean, this isn't recess!

As I walked away thinking these thoughts and turning over in my mind how rude and uncivilized that person was to take part of my snack, I was quickly hit with the realization that I was more concerned about a piece of food (and an apple at that!) than the well-being of another person. I nearly stopped dead in my tracks on the way back to my desk because I was so stunned by the realization of how my mind and heart had just acted toward that person. Things like that can only be defined in one word: FLESH.

I'm reading a book right now by Jennifer Kennedy-Dean called "Altar'd." It's about transformation from living in the flesh to living in the resurrected power of Christ in us. She describes flesh like this:

"Flesh is proud, possessive, demanding, grabby, angry, envious, wants to own and manage and manipulate and get its way. Flesh caters to its appetites--physical and emotional. Flesh is self-conscious. Flesh demands its own way. Flesh is all about the 'I.' I want. I will. I did. I feel."

Well, I'd like to add that flesh is also all about the "me, my, and mine." Stay away from me. Leave my stuff alone. That is mine.

My strong reaction to the stranger wanting a slice of apple clearly met all of the criteria for flesh. It was ugly, and it needed to be stopped. Actually, it needed to be put to death.

I decided that I needed to really think about what had just happened and try to trace my reaction back to the heart and thought patterns that had dictated it. I thought back to my childhood and how I was raised in relationship with food. I grew up with three brothers and a father who were all... "excellent eaters." Some nights, my mom would actually put the food on the table and fill her plate and mine before she called the boys and dad to dinner! That way she and I had a chance to eat before the table was picked clean.

I also remember going to my best friend's grandparents' house for lunch one day a week in high school to eat Nana and Papa's "leftovers." They thought I was so strange for being excited to eat "leftovers," till I explained that, in my house, there was no such thing as "leftovers." It was like manna from heaven! Multiple dishes set out like a Smörgåsbord  buffet... divine. 

So in looking back, a big part of me was subconsciously trained to guard my plate and eat as much as I thought I might possibly want. I always made a point to fill my plate to capacity on the first round. Otherwise, the boys would eat it before I had a chance for seconds. And when seconds presented themselves, I jumped at the opportunity to grab more before it was gone. Can you say, "Over-eater in training?"

I'm not complaining about my upbringing or blaming my mother or family for my faults. I blame them for other stuff like trauma from being coerced into eating fish bate that he told me was "caviar" (big brother), having them shake up my cat in a suitcase (little brothers), giving me a perm like Orphan Annie cause I was born with red hair (mom), and I don't know where to begin listing things for dad. For these things, I will seek counseling at a later date.

But I do realize now that it's important to look for and stay aware of habits that may have been around since childhood. We were born in flesh, not the Spirit of God. Flesh has deep roots. I didn't gain weight overnight, and a healthy lifestyle may very well take some "unlearning" of habits as well as learning new ones. More than that, my reaction to a thing as more precious than a person is a big problem when it comes to Kingdom priorities. Mine are out of whack, and that means FLESH is the culprit.

What was my focus? Food and me. It was my apple. I wanted it. I craved it. I would have it.

What was my reaction to the stranger? Leave me alone. Who do you think you are? My "needs" are more important that yours.

Yep, that's all fleshy sounding to me. So how do I deal with this now that God has brought it out of the darkness of my heart and into the light?

Kill it.

Jennifer Kennedy-Dean explains, "sanctification is the process of dragging flesh out of hiding, naming it what it is, and surrendering it to crucifixion... It can't be dressed up or cleaned up. It has to die a messy, bloody, merciless crucifixion death... The path to resurrection passes through crucifixion."

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

  1. I had some confession to do. "Lord, forgive my heart's reaction to that woman and my love of a thing more than her."
  2. I had some surrendering to do. "Lord, you've exposed this sin so please deal with it. I want to be more like you."
  3. I have crucifixion moments ahead. "Lord, keep me aware of every time this flesh wants to react instead of your Spirit. Present new moments for me to obey and choose the Spirit over the flesh so that the flesh is put to death!"

So back to my apple and the stranger. Who knew such a short encounter would yield such a "come to Jesus" moment for me? I decided that one way I could work on keeping a person higher on my priority list than food would be offer my plate when people were around. Let me just say right now, doing this is awkward and weird. But, I try to walk out of the breakroom now with an "open plate" policy. When I'm eating out, I try to remember to offer samples to those with whom I'm dining. The food experience needs to be transformed to a people experience. The meal cannot mean more than the fellowship.

What would you do if a stranger asked to sample your plate? Does the food on the plate hold more value than the person on the other side of the plate? Being overweight is just one consequence to my reactions in the flesh and out-of-whack value system for food. But praise the Lord that He is sanctifying me and bringing to light those things of the dark that have kept me a slave to sin (and food) for far too long!

Faithfully, fluffully yours,