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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mark Twain and Food Aversions

When I was young my grandfather had a wonderful old copy of Mark Twain short stories that sat on the dresser in their guest room. I remember reading these stories, some of which still have a profound impact on my thinking today. One of the tales involved a man who is visited by his own conscience. The two engage in a lively discussion on how the conscience tortures the man but all the while the conscience (light because of the man’s current lack of guilt) slips away every time the man tries to lay hands on him. The man points out the unfairness involved with having a conscience. If he passes by a beggar without giving money he feels guilty but if he gives money he regrets contributing to an alcoholic’s habit and feels guilty anyway. He can’t win.

In the end the man’s mother shows up and weighs his conscience down with a guilt trip of epic lengths and depths, allowing the man to murder his conscience and go on a guilt free crime spree, but that’s not the point.

The point, rather, is that our moral compass isn’t always the most reliable guide. A lot of times we simply can’t win. We’re torn between neglecting our children and neglecting our spouses, between the gym and cleaning, between being polite and speaking out to point out something that someone else really shouldn’t be doing. It’s hard to weigh right from wrong. It’s hard to tell the difference between our own personal tastes and morality. Is the choice between right or wrong simply a personal preference? Like the choice between coffee and tea or apples and oranges? I have to believe that there are firm moral standards, things that are always wrong, because if it is all relative, then nothing we do, or that happens to us, really matters and that isn’t a world I want to live in.

Speaking of personal taste (and I promise this eventually winds its way back to the topic at hand), food aversions are a really annoying part of pregnancy. My first pregnancy had some mild cravings but nothing out of hand, but with this one. . . Ugh! This baby doesn’t like tomatoes, or coffee, or dark sodas, things that used to be part of my daily routine. Having this whole other person inside me has messed with my mind and my taste buds. It’s not that these items make me sick. It’s that they no longer taste good. A few sips into a cup of coffee and I realize I don’t even want to be drinking it. I put it aside and the once precious brew goes to waste.

I once had a pastor who liked to use pregnancy metaphors in his sermons (which always led my preteen imagination to the uncomfortable image of said preacher pregnant, not pretty.). I remember him telling stories of how a pregnant woman told him how glad she would be to eat what she wanted to eat again instead of what the baby wanted and how this was like having Christ in you.

While I knew that Christ in me was the hope of glory and that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, the pregnancy thing just creeped me out at the time, but you know what? He was right.

If having a lemon sized infant in my womb can make me hate once beloved coffee, having the Son of the most high God in my very soul should make me hate what He hates and love what He loves. He should kick and fuss every time I lie or judge my neighbor rather than love them as God’s quirky creations. He should crave through me, causing me to desire good fellowship, good words, and good deeds. He should override my likes and dislikes, not destroying the nature of who I am as an individual but refining it into a more Christ-like version, a perfected version, one that sees the good but discerns the bad enough to avoid stepping in it or emulating it.

I believe that even if I get the chance to “kill” my in born conscience like Mr. Twain’s fictional man, my born again soul would have Christ at hand and that would serve me even better.

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