There comes a time in our lives when we must take a step back and evaluate if we’ve allowed things, created inherently good, to take such a central role in our lives that they in effect become a god. It is my hope that you, my fellow men have begun to do exactly this in all aspects of your life.
God has given us a body and since we are made in the image and likeness of Him, our body is good. He’s given us enjoyment and pleasure, and all of that is also very good. But it is when we take these goods and make them into a deity that we can become prideful, leading to a certain snobbishness towards those who do not hold our high standards. I want to tell you the story of one such instance in my life.
Once my wife and I began learning about clean eating, we enthusiastically commenced the exciting but tedious journey into whole, local food. We found local farms, CSA’s, and co-ops and devoted a good portion of our budget to local farm-fresh meat, veggies, eggs, and raw milk.
My wife would drive to 3 farms every week to provide wholesome food for our family. In an attempt to rid our home of toxins, we threw out our plastic, threw out the junk food, and dove head first into this new lifestyle. The deeper we got, the more prideful we grew. We began to think not only was our way good, but it was the only way. Nutritional pride was creeping into our hearts.
It was about that time almost 6 years ago when my wife became pregnant with our 4th son. Our first three children were born perfect, healthy and robust. Surely this next child would be the same, perhaps even healthier seeing as he was getting the best nutrition and least toxins out of all of his siblings.
To our shock however, Dominic was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder which profoundly affected most of his body’s systems. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t eat, his heart had holes, his brain was under-developed. He was “broken” as the world saw it.
As the weeks and months passed we would wonder how we could have prevented this, what we could have done differently to avoid his genetic mutation and suffering. After all, my wife had been taking great care of herself through optimal nutrition before and during the pregnancy. All that work, all that careful preparation were met with the words of the doctors “take him home to die.
We saw Dominic not as a mistake, a poor outcome from an otherwise meticulous planned pregnancy, but a specific will of the Father to call our family, and many others, to greatness. We looked at this child, with all his tubes and lines, all that is formed wrong with wonder at the goodness of our Lord. In the instant of his birth, God seized our pride and instead gave us supple hearts, completely relying on Him.
Following his birth, the pendulum swung in the completely opposite direction. We literally lived in the hospital for 4 months, eating greasy hospital food and getting fat. We were in stress-overload, just trying to survive. We felt awful, looked awful, but our spiritual lives had never been more vibrant, more alive, or more trusting. We experienced God in a real, tangible way. His presence was thick, comforting, and steadfast. Our baby received the expert medical care he needed to survive and though our bodies were broken, our souls were really living for the first time.
The plumb has returned to the middle now these days. No longer does my wife have the time or energy to drive to 3 farms a week to gather our fresh meat and veggies. A child with profound disability pretty much cures you of that. But we do we can. We buy good, whole, real foods. We eat clean. We severely limit junk, though we do indulge on special occasions and feast days. My wife prepares real food for our meals most of the time, but if we’re running out the door for a doctor’s appointment or daily mass, we sometimes use prepared breakfast foods when necessary.
My point is this: no matter how much we try, suffering is an inevitable, and I would add necessary, part of the Christian life. All the clean eating in the world is not going to prevent suffering if God so deems it good for our soul. While we do have a responsibility to avoid preventable diseases, we should not be surprised that optimal nutrition doesn’t always guarantee a healthy old age.
We should be eating clean however to give honor to the One who created our bodies, to give thanks for the gift of our body, and to show Him we do not take this gift for granted. We eat clean to be able to perform well and give our all to others. We eat clean for our families, to give our bodies the fuel to be the husbands and fathers for which we were created.
We must all analyze our lives, our particular circumstances and decide what is doable for our families. Perhaps farm runs are within reason for your family. That’s great! But if adding just one more thing will send your family into stress overload, do what you can. Make your changes small and incremental, and build as you are able. But remember, beware of the pitfall of pride and thinking that you are the master of your destiny.