It was small. Just a little piece of a cracker. Pierced. Broken. He offered me a fragment; I held it gently as the music played around us. The deacon shuffled along the line of chairs to share the familiar ritual with the rest of the congregation. And then my husband leaned over, his deep husky whisper curious, “What will you do with that?”
The music continued. But time stopped for me. Good question.
I will admit it. I’ve joined the ranks of anti-gluten-tites. I eschew wheat, barley, millet, and rye products. It’s such a trend. A fad. I fought it for a long time. (Really now, if I followed fads, I wouldn’t have 6 children… or homeschool… or not watch t.v…. No one ever accuses me of being trendy!) But I’ve also spent many hours questioning, reading, searching. A five minute conversation annually with a doctor is not sufficient to answer every health question I have. I’ve been to nursing school. I’ve lived in the hallways of hospitals; I’ve had doctors humbly admit they don’t (and can’t) know everything. There’s constantly room for learning in science. They used to swear the world was flat, after all.
I’m pretty healthy – I eat my spinach and get more exercise than I really want as a mom of half a dozen young boys – but somewhere along the line, my thyroid kind of gave up. I can’t blame it. It’s a hard knock life to be a hormone regulator in a female body. Add to that pregnancies, lactation, stress, too many ramen noodles in college, all the genetic twists I’ve inherited in the generations since Adam and Eve, and big old carbon footprints stomped all over my hormones for the past three decades, and I’m impressed the rest of my body hasn’t rebelled too.
Anyway, I dutifully started popping a daily thyroid-homone replacement pill about eight years ago. But that at best appeases some symptoms; it doesn’t fix the problem or even halt the damage. So I started to do my own homework like a big girl. I kept finding that gluten sensitivity runs hand in hand with exhausted thyroid (specifically the auto immune disease Hashimotos). In fact, it probably caused it. But once your body starts attacking itself, there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it off. At best, you can lessen the attack by not eating the foods that probably started the whole war in the first place.
I didn’t really ditch wheat because it’s not healthy or holy. I think you can be healthy and eat it. I find it in the Bible. True, it was healthier before American commercialism got its hands on it and changed the content to be less nutritious and much higher in gluten (and therefore harder on your digestive system). And the standard American diet includes way too much of it. But I still bake bread. I’m a bit granola that way anyway. I just don’t eat it. I think you can also be unhealthy to swear off gluten. A lot of pre-packaged replacements are unwholesome, full of sugar and chemicals, and just rushing to meet the lucrative trend without conscientiously seeking to fill a nutritional void.
This isn’t a post to convince you that wheat is evil; you can find plenty of other blogs to deal with that. But if my body is trying to kill itself, I’m not giving the enemy any more firepower than I knowingly have to. I’ve seen the holes in my thyroid in black and white (in an ultrasound.) Wheat only drills them deeper.
So there, in the middle of the pew, under soft lighting and gentle music, I smacked against a rock and a hard place. I must care for this body, this temple, this dust and water giving place to my soul on earth. The effects of even a teensy bit of gluten can linger for months in my system. But could I turn away from the Hand that reached out to feed me? Always, so earnestly, my Savior had urged, “Take, eat… Do this in remembrance of Me.” After all, the literal breaking of the Bread of life had cost Jesus’ health too. It cost His life.
I lifted the fragment of cracker between my fingers, feeling the weight of His decision to die balanced on my thumb. My own degenerating flesh, holding the reminder of His perfect sacrifice on behalf of my broken body. My broken soul…
“Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?” God Himself asked Job as he lay aching in the dust. (Job 38:18.) The verse popped into my head. I smiled as the meaning tickled my brain. I was beginning to comprehend. But a little. Bread is filling, life-sustaining, comforting. Bread is made to be shared. Bread is made to be broken. But for me, the very thing that gives life will cost my own. On earth.
“I have fervently desired to share this with you,” Jesus had said, His deep voice choked with emotion. But I shall not taste of it again,” He continued as He grabbed the sides of a fresh loaf and tore them apart. “Not until the kingdom of God comes.” He passed the warm wafers to His friends and they chewed and swallowed, savoring the bites wonderingly. They didn’t know He’d be dead before the next evening’s meal. Or alive forever before the next week was over. This simple mix of ground wheat and water – this held the promise of pain and hope that no other food group will ever claim. Jesus didn’t tear the tofu.
Silently, I passed the crumbling cracker to my husband. He’d have to handle both eighths of a square inch of Saltine this time. Because I will not taste of it again, not with this broken body… But I will remember. This choice not to eat. This bread was costly. It was broken for me. His sacrifice made my own soul whole. He gave me the promise of a new body, unbreakable, unbroken. Someday I will share the bread of heaven – with the Bread of life. It will be worth the wait.
And it won’t go to my hips. Or my thyroid.
Cast your bread upon the waters, you will find it again after many days. Ecclesiastes 11:1