Dichotomy & Divine Devotion
By Maike Stepanek
Here is a question: have you ever had the proverbial carpet pulled out from under your feet? If not, and you feel like you need or would like this experience, have a baby.
It is Tuesday midmorning and I am not as late as usual for Lukas’s appointment with his wonderful pediatrician. As we hunch over my child, examining his recently worsened atopic dermatitis, Dr. Hwang presents me with two options for my 4-month-old son. She tells me I can (a) see a skin specialist who will prescribe a cortisone cream, or (b) cut all forms of dairy from my diet. I cringe. Don’t get me wrong, I would die for my son, but dying to self for the benefit of my son, now that seems like an entirely different kettle of fish.
Vaguely aware of the rest of the conversation about inoculations, my mind turns to the steaming hot buttered toast; crunchy granola with thick, creamy yogurt; gooey, cheesy homemade pizza and tall glasses of cold milk, all of which I will apparently not be partaking of in the near future. I briefly contemplate smearing the cream on my son’s arms and being done with it—haven’t other kids survived cortisone? I feel guilty and sorry for myself, at the same time.
Thirty minutes, three immunizations, and a lot of money later, I lament my plight to my dear husband as we fold the stroller and heave it into the back of the car. His response leaves me internally rolling my eyes at him as he reminds me that he had already suggested this a few weeks ago. I remember how much I hate it when he is right. He is right often, about a lot of things. I sigh.
I Get It, Lord
As we go about our business for the rest of the afternoon, all I can think about are the things I will not be eating. Now mind you, there really are not that many things to exclude: butter—OK—lots of butter, plain yogurt, cheese, cream, and milk. I have not forgotten chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cake, and such likes. The truth is I stopped eating all those things a long time ago.
Twenty-four hours later, while Lukas is happily enjoying his new dairy-free breast milk for lunch, I stumble, clearly not by accident, across 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.” It pre-sents one of those moments of clarity in which you are afforded glimpses of yourself and you plainly discern the hand of God is in control. In a flash the Lord presents me with the past decade of my life, and it feels like I hear Him ask, Do you see now, my child? I have come this far by His grace, and suddenly the dairy-devoid future seems a little less daunting. Lord, I have come so far. Through Your help and guidance, I have grown so much. Thank You.
I think back to a little more than 12 years ago when I was an opinionated, chain-smoking vegan. The irony of the latter com bination never struck me until someone pointed it out. Now the thought brings to mind the saying that there are none so blind as those who will not see. But thankfully the Lord gives us light and is always ready to lead us and guide us.
A few years and an amazing series of transforming circumstances later, I was now an Adventist, opinionated, self-righteous, rather overweight vegan thanks to inordinate amounts of vegan chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and cakes. But at least I was vegan, I told myself. I had turned into quite a fanatic. Thankfully, the Lord is gracious and the people He brought into my life were kind, merciful, and obviously very longsuffering as I explained the benefits of the dairy-free life, expounded on the evils of the state of affairs in modern-day animal husbandry, and pontificated on the theological implications of cream-slathered dessert choices, among other things.
Living a Congruent— and Grateful—Life
Despite being the prime example of what not to do (as a vegan and Christian), the incongruity of my lifestyle did not strike me until a rather chubby vegetarian with well-rounded jowls explicated on the health benefits of meat-free living. On his recent trip to Singapore, he had explained, in no uncertain terms, to a meat-eating poster child for well-being, how he was the healthier of the two because of his abstinence from anything with a mother. I was stunned and mortified, not at his ignorance but at mine. After I cringed in horror, I praised the Lord for this eye-opener and tried hard at reformation.
Then two and a half years ago, the morning after a night of sugar-filled indiscretion, I finally began to see what my husband had been trying to explain to me for quite some time. As anger boiled over inside me for no apparent reason one moment and hot, inexplicable tears ran down my cheeks the next, I realized that what Brian had been telling me was true. Sugar seemed to have an adverse effect on me. After every sugar-laced, sickly sweet indulgence I turned into either a roaring monster or a blubbering, whining nuisance—my words, not his—I am married to a wise man. I turned to my trusted friend, the Internet, and googled “sugar-sensitive,” and there in all its inglorious splendor was spelled out the story of my life—an entire community of individuals, like me, with naturally low beta-endorphins low serotonin levels, and volatile blood sugar. I’ll spare you the drama of the next five days of withdrawal symptoms, nausea, and rage. A mere week later I was a different person, and my husband had a new wife. Again, I thanked God for His help, and those who had the privilege, or terror, of living through the experience alongside me can testify to the change that one food item can bring to a whole group of people. Trips to the ice-cream parlor with friends turned into walks around the park and other interesting activities, with the added benefit of shed pounds and memories to feast on for years to come.
Indeed, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.” I am so thankful that Jesus was not only willing to die for me, but also died to self for my benefit. That thought alone fills me with joy and encouragement. God truly has our best interests at heart, and all things do work out for the good of those called according to His purpose. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord has changed my heart. My boy’s skin should hopefully clear up none too soon, and he will hear of my journey somewhere along the line. I long to tell him about his God, the one who has loved him since his conception and wants what is best for him and changes hearts and minds to get that done. And for me, instead of thinking with trepidation about the future, I am quite excited. I wonder what the Lord has up His sleeve next. Honestly—I think it may have something to do with exercise.
Maike Stepanek, her husband Brian, and little Lukas lived in Ilsan, Korea, at the time of writing this article. They just moved to Thailand, where Brian is continuing his studies and Maike enjoys being a full-time mom on the campus of Asia-Pacific International University.