Monday, 23 August 2010

Ubiquitous Contamination

(This post continues the thread begun in "Something worse might happen to you" and Life Savers.)

A fortnight ago, Jeff and I and our four kids went to dinner with a couple from our church and their adult son. They took us to the local Chinese restaurant to celebrate the birthdays of all three men.

Now, this particular Chinese restaurant serves crab. But, knowing I am allergic, we didn’t order any meals with crab. Instead, we had pork, and chicken, and beef, and tofu. Plain rice, with no poisonous prawns. The problem was, our food as contaminated. Someone in the kitchen hadn’t washed a pan, or a dish, or a knife properly after preparing a crab meal for someone else that night. And one or more of our meals had tiny, invisible crab toxins in them.

Shortly after we left the restaurant, I began to cough, which is the early sign of an asthma attack for me. By the time I got home, I knew I needed to take an antihistamine tablet. And within a few minutes, I was asking Jeff to stab me with my epi-pen and ring triple zero. I sat on the couch, my hands shaking, my shoulders heaving as I struggled for breath, tears flooding from my eyes, as I sat waiting for the ambulance. The medics gave me oxygen, commended us for doing the right thing using my epi-pen, and took me to Royal Perth Hospital for the night to recover.

Now I didn’t plan to eat the crab that had contaminated the food I ate. I didn’t ask for it. But, I knew it was a risk when I ate at that restaurant. That’s why I carry my epi-pen with me. Lately, I've been reading food labels a lot and discovered that shellfish is an ingredient in a lot of foods where I wouldn't expect it, such as the jar of Thai Green Curry paste I nearly bought last week. It's also a possible contaminant in foods that I thought might be suspect, like the pre-packaged frozen fish from the company that also sells frozen crumbed prawns. And it also might be present in foods that come as a complete surprise to me, like the pea and ham cup-a-soup packet I couldn't buy this week.

I’m learning that shellfish, just like sin, is pervasive. Sin can be there in my life, even when I think I am obeying God just fine. Because God’s definition of “sin” isn’t just the big, bad acts that I think of when we hear the word. Sin isn’t just doing things like committing murder, or stealing, or even telling a “little white lie”. Sin is whatever I do when I ignore or disobey God. So that includes every single act that I do when I don’t deliberately choose to do it for God.

Examining myself for this sort of "invisible, yet still deadly, sin" means asking myself questions such as these:
Did I put God's glory or my own personal desires first when I voted on Saturday?
Is there a more godly way of spending my Sunday evenings, after I come home from evening church, than just plonking myself down on the couch and watching Bones? (Is watching TV just a way of shutting off my mindful responses to what God has been teaching me through the sermon/s?)
Do I choose to work for the glory of God when I wash the dishes and fold the clothes, rather than letting the dirty dishes pile up by the sink and the clean clothes pile up on the couch? (Do I recognise the value in my sanctification that comes from putting others before myself?)
Do I pray honestly and earnestly "in everything", or is prayerful dependence on God something I mouth platitudes about while my prayers actually consist of occasional one liners that demonstrate my unwillingness to depend utterly upon the sovereign grace of God?

And like the food contaminated by crab particles that were miniscule, but nevertheless poisonous, I need to face the fact that any sin, no matter how small in my eyes, separates me from God and would, without the saving intervention of Jesus Christ, inevitably lead to eternal death. (That's hell, folks.)

Examining myself for this sort of "miniscule, yet still deadly, sin" means asking myself questions such as these:
Do I keep all of the minor promises I make to my kids (mostly to get them to stop nagging me), or am I really telling a deliberate lie each and every time?
Are my interactions with my husband characterised by loving, submissive service; or are they flawed by occasional derogatory remarks that show disrespect towards him, constant nagging that reveals my unwillingness to recognise his headship in our marriage, or bitterness over the way he spends his "free" time?
Is my attitude to food, and chocolate in particular, one that magnifies the God who created everything - including the cocoa bean - or is it one of unthankful gluttony that seeks to slake my thirst for the joy that is found in the immense goodness of God in what Augustine called things of "the lowest order of good"?
Do my short but snappy bursts of anger at my kids reveal a heart that is burdened with pride, impatience, and self-will; or a heart that strives to be humble, patient & enduring, and selfless?
What does my impatience with everything from the rate at which my children tie their shoes to that driver in the lane ahead of me say about my contentedness with the position God has given me? What does it say about my (earlier in the day) prioritisation of my own self-centred activities over daily necessities, that led to the need for my present haste and consequent impatience?

Perhaps you might ask yourself similar questions. And don't put off finding the time to answer.

If you're not a Christian, you should also ask what your answers say about your need for God's saviour, Jesus Christ, who took the punishment for your sin for you already on the cross.

If you're a Christian, the Holy Spirit within you will counsel you as to how you should live. Listen to Him!


Kellie said...

Sharon, what a lovely series of posts. I'm so thankful God protected you in Oregon!!! But you've taken a frightening event and made some important spiritual parallels. Your self-directed questions about miniscule sins could have been written by me. Have you read the book Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss? I just read it this summer and I it has had me reflecting on sin and the sanctified life ever since. Wonderful book! I keep meaning to blog about it -- my head is always full of blog posts, but I rarely find the time to get them done. : )

Sharon said...

Thanks for the feedback Kellie. You can see that this took a while to float around in my head before it finally became a blog post. Sometimes we need time to work through things before we can post about them.

I haven't read the book you mentioned. Actually, I am slowly reading through Augustine's Confessions at the moment with a friend and finding it very helpful in exposing some of the sins in my own life that I had been unable to see, or thought insignificant. It has been easier to read than I thought it would be, in terms of literacy skills required to understand it (not nearly so dense as Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric, for example) but at the same time much more of a challenge to me spiritually than I realised would be the case before we began to read it together.