Grow: Faith and Food Allergies – Growing through Difficulties
There are many different ways for children to grow. They grow physically, as evidenced by their too-short pants. They grow mentally, which hits home the day you spell something to your husband at the dinner table and your six-year-old knows what you said. But our children’s spiritual growth is something that can be harder for us to put a finger on. I pray regularly that God would use my husband and I, their Sunday School teachers, and Christian programming and music to help me children grow in their faith. However, I find it much harder to trust God to use the hardships they face in life to help them grow.
My younger son has food allergies. While there are plenty of children who have more severe allergies, or are allergic to more things than my son, allergies have still presented a significant challenge to our family. I literally have nightmares several times a year (usually before Halloween and before Easter) that my son has eaten nuts. Food allergies have affected our holiday gatherings (no more pecan pie), our ability to eat out (no more Five Guys – sniff sniff), and our go-to picnic lunch menu (farewell to the American classic, PB&J). However, as a Christian, I do not believe that things happen by accident, and so I attempt to face the challenge of raising a child with allergies with faith that this is something God can use for good in our lives. Here are some things we have learned:
My children belong to the Lord
This is something I have always said is true. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I have strived to hold the lives of my children in an open hand. They belong to the Lord and it is he who has numbered their days. While it is one thing to say that this is true, it is another thing to live like it is true. Dealing with my son’s food allergies has forced my faith to grow some teeth, if you will. The fact that your kid’s lunch could kill my kid is just a tad stressful. But I refuse to put him in a bubble and so I choose to live in faith of God and his good plan.
My family and I have had the opportunity to be served by others
I like to think I’m a pretty independent gal. I guess you could say it’s an American thing. But God didn’t create us to each live on our own little island (if he had, let me assure you our island would be nut-free), and the loving-kindness that our family and friends have blessed us with is a gift I do not discount. We’ve gone to plenty of birthday parties where my son’s party favor was especially designed for him, or where the hostess assured me that she’d checked the ingredients of the cake to make sure it was fine for him. One friend even bought her own jar of soynut butter so he’d always have something to eat for lunch at her house. While the “my kid has a right to eat peanuts and you should just homeschool” craziness of the blogosphere makes me want to crawl in a hole, the loving-kindness of my friends has encouraged our family and strengthened my faith.
It has caused us to be more compassionate
When I was a school teacher, I had a child in my class with severe allergies. Looking back I am sorry that I didn’t do more to reassure his parents that I took the situation seriously and would work hard to keep their son safe. I simply had no idea what it was like until I was actually in that role. So, as result of my son’s allergies, there’s now a whole new group of people who I can relate to and be sensitive to. My son is a rough and tumble kid. If you make him mad, there’s a fairly good chance he will tackle you (don’t judge – we are working on it!). And yet there is a flip side to all his toughness; one that is actually quite in tune with other people’s feelings. I pray for him that as a result of his allergies he would be more caring toward others than he would have been without them.
|My poor baby with hives all over his body.|
I could go on about all the other ways God has provided for us and taught us through this situation. Once my son spent a whole week dreading an allergist appointment where they would be doing a skin test. We talked and talked about how God would be with him and give him strength and peace – and literally as we pulled into the doctor’s office parking lot my son stopped crying and said, “Mommy, I have decided to be brave.” True, he can’t always eat the cake at birthday parties, but he remembers that God cares about him and can give him peace when he is scared. And that, folks, is a lot more important than cake.
I do pray that if at any point God is finished teaching my son and our family what he wants us to learn through food allergies, that he would heal my son’s body so that it would work properly. But even if that day never arrives, I hope and pray that our whole family will continue to have faith, and lots of nut-free fun, for many years to come.