It's Just a Story

The following story which I wrote, was published today in The Semi, Fuller's student newspaper.

Ben, an elder at his church, was running late for the Sunday mourning leadership prayer meeting. “As always” he thought. And today he would be later still because it was his turn to pick up doughnuts. Why, he didn’t know, it wasn’t like he could eat one. Ever since his father’s death last year, due to complications from diabetes, he had been trying to diet, though it didn’t seem to be working. Just yesterday the scale had read 219, and for someone only 5’ 8”, that was too much. Ben groaned as he pulled up to the doughnuts shop, “they smelled so good!”

Sitting in the prayer meeting, with his friends happily sipping coffee and eating doughnuts, neither of which he could have since no one had bothered to make decaffe, was not a good start to the day. Later, as the worship team sang “Just as I Am”, Ben couldn’t help but smirk, “too bad that’s not what the doctor said." The sermon was titled “The Temple”, during which Pastor Dave waxed eloquent about the evils of drugs, alcohol, pre-marital sex and tobacco, concluding with a strong exhortation to help others steer clear of evil. “So even it it’s ok for you to drink, don’t, because you may be causing your brother to stumble”, Pastor Dave said forcefully. But Ben hardly listened, the craving’s for a chocolate covered, cream filled, nut sprinkled, “long john” dominating his thoughts. After church, Ben joined his wife and friends at the local eatery.

“Great sermon Dave had this mourning, no?” asked Micah, taking a bite out of his double cheese burger.

“Definitely” responded Sherry. “I’m proud to say I’ve never done any of the ‘big ones’. No one has stumbled because of me…not that I’m perfect or anything,” she added, sipping on her third refill of Coke.

Ben sat quietly, eating his small salad. He hated salad, this one in particular since apparently it had been sitting in a fridge for about a week. He longed for the day when he could have eaten like his friends, but the images of his stricken father haunted him. The juxtaposition of the burger across the table and his father’s feeding tube made him sick…and angry. “Why is our family wired this way? Why did he have to go?” his subconscious mind ranted. But in the present he just continued to stare glumly at his salad, the one with the brown edges and no salad dressing.

After lunch, the family went shopping, but feeling depressed, from what he wasn’t sure, Ben headed home to “take a nap”. The sound of the car coming up the drive awoke him to his present position, in front of the television, watching basketball, eating out of the ice-cream container. “How the heck did this happen” he thought. “O’ well, its Sunday, a day of rest…from my diet, I’ll just run an extra 20 minutes at the gym tomorrow.”

But arising early for an extra 20 minutes at the gym was not to be. Sleep didn’t come, as images of his father mixed with cravings for ‘real food’. With these in the background he pondered the sermon, and their conversation over lunch. “Was something missing” he thought, “but what?” “Why doesn’t Pastor Dave ever teach on something relevant to me?” It wasn’t until after a ‘quick snack’, that Ben finally drifted off to sleep, the clock reading 1AM. On the other side of town, Sherry slept peacefully, knowing that she was not to blame for anyone “stumbling”. Though she wondered about Ben. “Didn’t he say he was going on a diet? Sure doesn’t look like it.”

At work the next day, there were two e-mails in Ben’s inbox. “Health Insurance Will Drop Obesity Coverage” read the first subject line. The second was from his supervisor. “Free Pizza Friday” it said.


David Baxley said...

Really Good story and great job at makeing such a good point. But what is the answer. Is Karen wrong or was P Dave wrong?

David Best said...

I don’t have any good answers, I just oscillate between extremes. One day I want to be a monk, trying to live as holly as possible, giving up not only alcohol and junk food, but violence and my car (i.e. middle class lifestyle) as well; other days I don’t care one lick about outside perceptions.

David Best said...

ps I changed Karen's name to sherry earlier in the story, but forgot to change it down below, I just fixed it at the bottum now, so there is no longer a Karen. Karen is now Sherry.

wennejunk said...

I think..it's a good story. Thanks for writing it. I think is illustrates very well the challenges between freedom, prosperity, needs, wants and spiritual attentiveness. Chock full of metaphors, too - intentional?

Note that Ben's choice wasn't between eating and not (a need), but between eating well and eating too much (a want). Ben also had to choose between listening to his doctor's worldly guidance and the message of "Just as I am"

Likewise, Sherry chose between something to genuinely relieve her thirst (water - not written, but the default) and something full of sugar that only increased her thirst (sugary foods increase thirst), made her go back for more and helped her brother to stumble. Metaphor between choosing salvation or sin?

Plus many more twists and turns; hypocrisy, personal responsibility, spiritual blindness.... Dave, reading your story is a little like reading scripture - the more I look, the more layers and messages I find.

Thanks for writing and for choosing to serve the Lord.


Bill said...

I've written before about our culture's shared contribution to obesity, but you do a good job of capturing the church's failure in this. People who are pathologically obese - and that is a far greater percentage of people than we realize - have brain patterns that mimic chemical addiction. We in the church do not take seriously enough the struggle that people face who are overweight. Nor do we take seriously enough the need to model healthy lifestyles of eating. We are more likely to both deny the problems we have and be a stumbling block to those who recognize they have a problem.

It was interesting to me to find out how overweight I was. When I began losing weight, my body fat percentage was 40%. 35% is morbidly obese. I have been looking around a lot since then and saying, a great number of the people I see weigh a whole lot more than me. We tend to think of those folks as being morbidly obese. We don't realize how thin morbidly obese is.

This is a spiritual issue, as much as drinking is. It is one we in the church need to take more seriously. Thanks for writing this David.