Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chewing Gum?

I sat enjoying my first meal in the ATS cafeteria last week, when my eyes landed on a little sign that was posted on the napkin holder. The sign, which may be helpful to some, was troublesome to me.

It said: “Chew gum. Curb snack cravings.”

First of all, on a research based level, gum has been proven to be somewhat unhealthy to the stomach. The chewing process causes the stomach to secrete acids that erode its lining and cause further complications. When we start to chew our brain thinks it’s going to get food so it secretes digestive enzymes through our saliva glands, which is the first stage of digestion. It then tells our digestive system to prepare for what it believes to be food coming down and more enzymes are produced. This is how our body normally breaks down fat and protein. However, since there is no food, bloating occurs. Then because of the relationship between enzymes and hormones, a hormone imbalance follows. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid and since that isn’t being used it creates digestive dysfunction which in turn causes acid reflux and ulcers. It also can develop into TMJ, a painful jaw disorder (with which I am presently dealing).

Secondly, gum has historically curbed cravings and hunger for me. I could trick my body into thinking that I was eating. It was also a way to trick my mind. Sadly, I was replacing nourishment with empty chewing that satisfied a temporary craving but led to further starvation and devastation to my body. I was able to restrict and feel in control through the chewing of gum. My mouth had something to do, and I could replace my true longing with something that would suffice but not fulfill.

Today, I made the commitment to fast from gum. Today, I was reminded of a former conviction that I felt about a decade ago in high school. I have encountered the opportunity to take communion three times in the past five days. This is a record high, and it has been such a blessing to me. Facing communion each time, I noticed that I was chewing gum. In those events, I either swallowed the gum (which I hear is not so good for the digestive system), or I spit it out in a wrapper. It detracts from my worship experience, and I find the leftover minty flavor tainting my actual experience of communion. The Lord wants my whole heart during this participation.

He wants me to fully encounter His presence at the table of His goodness.
Gum has been a substitute for food. Analogously, I have replaced pure spiritual food with empty “chewing gum” of different sorts. Whether it has been running, restriction, friendships, TV shows, shopping, or various other activities, I have sought to replace the good spiritual food of relationship with the Lord.

“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Isaiah 55:2

Why would I waste time and stomach acid on nothing but chewing, not being satisfied, but delaying hunger? What would I waste precious energy and resources on serving other masters rather than the Most High?

He is the real nourishment. He is the bread of life. Abraham Maslow says that “man cannot live on bread alone, unless he has no bread.” I had no bread, because I was wasting my chewing on gum. Now, I truly cannot live on bread alone, because I have experienced that need met. Now is the time to replace the emotional gum with Spiritual riches.

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