Thursday, April 28, 2016

Powerless Cleansing

by Danetta Kellar

Can’t you see that what you eat won’t defile you? Food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then comes out again.” (By saying this, (Jesus) showed that every kind of food is acceptable).” 
-Mark 7:18-19, NLT

The juice cleanse promised it would change my life. Daily instructions, recipes, and shopping lists were provided in exact detail so I would know precisely what to do.  I was excited to change my life. After all, according to Dr. Oz, Oprah, and the magazines at the local check-out aisle, I was sluggish and tired because I needed to detoxify my system. The verdict was in: I was dirty on the inside.

After three days of following these food rules to a tee, I began to wonder if I was actually becoming more toxic on the inside. My family could sure attest to it. Grumpy, irritable, and starving, I was like a roving maniac, wandering through the kitchen, opening cabinet doors only to walk away empty-handed and empty-stomached. 
Determined, I stayed the course. I was desperate to be clean on the inside.

After ten days of rigid rules and restrictions, I did feel better. Lighter. More energetic. 

But then after a few months passed by, I was dirty again. Slipping sugar in my tea and munching on peanut butter M&Ms while I watched TV. This time around my husband joined me and we cleansed again.

And again.

After two years of cleansing and careful shopping, adhering to rules and regulations that promise to purify, I have come to a conclusion. 

We have confused cleansing with righteousness. 

Food rules, diets, and obsession with anything clean, whole, or natural have hijacked grace and made us slaves even while we were trying to be healthy and holy. 

Something truly good, the pursuit of health, has become an idol. 

Quietly we have begun to measure holiness by physical healthiness and food rules.

We cleanse, and cleanse, and cleanse again. And get dirty again and again. We just can’t stay clean on the inside.

There are many truths we cannot deny. God made food for us to enjoy. Whole, natural, organic food is better for us. The toxins, dyes, and preservatives in processed food increase our risk of cancer. 

How do then we live healthy lives, making healthy choices, without making health and food an idol which cannot ever, ever, truly cleanse us on the inside?

How have we mixed up bodily health and clean eating with holiness?

For many years now I have been cleaning out my pantry, removing all dyes, all processed foods, all preservatives. We have learned how to shop differently, to enjoy real food. We have truly had a lifestyle change and enjoy the benefits clean eating provides.

But even after years of effort and education, the gnawing, recurrent hunger inside me for purity has not waned. So I try harder. I try new rules. Better rules with more rigor, more pressure. Being clean is exhausting.

The juice cleanse may have cleansed my gut, but my heart was a breeding ground for anxiety, frustration, and comparison. My thoughts are easily fixed on my image instead of His, and my performance instead of His grace. My heart harbors pride, anger, and selfishness. No amount of right food can fix my heart problem.

When I am following all the rules, I feel approved, acceptable, attractive. 

When I fail, I spiral downward into an abyss of condemnation, fat talk, and defeat. Both extremes are self-absorption, and devoid of grace. I have mixed up health with my approval, my holiness.

What can be done to calm this restlessness?

Driven to the Word in my search for a solution, I came across this astonishing statement: “food does not come in contact with the heart” -Mark 7:19.

Jesus speaks truth like a laser light that slices right through the darkness of selfishness, exposing the root of the problem. The mix up. The confusion. Food does not make us righteous. 

I admit it. I feel more righteous, more right when I am eating healthy and exercising. I am one righteous-feeling girl on a day I have run, drank 36 ounces of water, and had salad for lunch. Throw in a quiet time early in the morning and I am downright shining with holiness.

What about my friend Fatuma on the other side of the world who works every day in her corn field, and comes home to make the only food available, corn meal mush and cassava, for her family? She has never heard of clean, organic eating. When packaged tea and kilos of white processed sugar came to her village she was thrilled at the convenience. 

She doesn’t have a gym membership and has in fact never heard of one. Her children look on hungrily while she serves us her best chicken, her only chicken, scrawny and with barely enough meat to make a mouthful. Does her skillful management of the food available to her make her righteous, more acceptable? Or should we frown on her when she can afford the white sugar to sweeten her chai?

We have a problem, and we are mixed up. Food does not come in contact with the heart, and it does not make us righteous. 

It can surely make us more healthy in body and mind, more energetic, more productive. We must manage it wisely, as we must manage with wisdom all the provisions which God has so graciously given us. Our bodies were given food as a tool, a provision, a blessing for God’s glory. But we must never, never, confuse food rules with righteousness.

There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). 

There is only One who makes us righteous. Our cleanness will be measured by that standard alone.

In the meantime, I’m headed to the farmer’s market for some organic butter. But I’ll sure be having birthday cake with my mother this week, with no guilt. I am trying to put health in its proper place in my life. Balance.

Have you mixed up clean eating with a clean heart like I have? I have good news for you today. Jesus loves you no matter what you have eaten, or not, today. You are made clean on the inside by Him, and no amount of salad can change that. 

How have you found balance in this area of life? Share your experience in the comments section below. If you are reading this in your email subscription, go to www.richesoutofdarkness.com and enter your comments there.

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