On Being Gluten Free, God, and Community

It’s all the rage now — gluten free, grain free, dairy free, SUGAR free living. But it hasn’t always been the rage. In fact, eight years ago, a simple blood test revealed that our son was allergic to peanuts, and that was about the most castrophic news that anyone near us had ever heard. Just trying to keep the peanuts out of his diet was a stressful task for family, friends, and teachers.

At first, I was embarrassed by my son’s allergy. I would make separate treats and carry them discreetly in my purse. Bu then, a funny thing happened in our church. There was an explosion of food allergies! And while it may not have been convenient — or cool — to have allergies, we parents started bonding over our kids’ peanut-, dairy-, soy-, and wheat-free lifestyles.

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At first, we got excited and shared recipes and great brands. But then things got a little more serious. We started deeply caring about one another’s kids. We started looking out for each other’s families.

“No, Ben can’t have a cupcake, but he can have the twizzler stick….”

 

We over stepped the boundaries. You know, those nice clear lines that say “Do Not Cross (because I have it covered).” We realized that as much as we watched our kids like hawks, kids will be kids, and we needed more eyes watching them. We knew we weren’t going to catch everything. And we also needed friends that would be willing to speak up and protect our kids, sometimes from themselves. We had to let people in because it was serious and it mattered.

It felt really good to have someone else care, especially about the most precious lil’ things in the world to us. But then, unexpectedly, things went even deeper. Because we cared sometimes, we now cared all the time. In fact, as I write this, six years later(!), I still feel the worry weight of a friend who lives nearly eight hundred miles away. I still worry with her about her son’s allergies. There’s some that would say that’s enmeshed behavior. I call it loving my friend and being willing to bear her burdens with her. But, for sure, that’s a whole ‘nother level of caring right there. That’s like … what … family does. 

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Getting to this final step seems to be really hard for us in western societies. We follow the same pattern over and over. We hide. We share superficially. We bond almost as an accident. And then we have this hesitation built around these questions: Should I really care? Will you let me care? Will you let me love you? Will you care back? We have to consciously tune down our fear filters to experience this explosion of blessing.

But what if community is more than being able to be strong next to someone else who’s strong? What if the only good community really already starts with the assumption that we’ve been hit. If we haven’t been hit by the big ones — disease, financial burdens, divorce, or addiction — then we’ve certainly been hit with disappointment, loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger, and cynicism.

What if, in the middle of admitting that you are in the center of that ‘hit,” you HAD to let someone love you? What if you had to let someone provide your gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dinner because you would be sent into shock from eating just anything on the plate. Could you do it? Could you let someone love you by caring for your body? Could you do it, trusting that they WOULD care for your body? Could you do it without feeling guilty or fearful or controlling about it?

And could you do it with God? Could you do it with the things He provides you?

Sometimes the restrictions in our lives open doors to friendship and support and love like we’ve never received before. Sometimes, gluten-free can just mean wall-free. I can’t keep my wall up around you anymore.

 

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