When our second daughter grew out of baby food and began to eat things we might eat, my wife made her pancakes for breakfast. As she ate and enjoyed her first experience with maple syrup, we noticed some red splotchy marks near her mouth. It didn’t seem right – I lifted up her bib and shirt and found angry-looking hives covering her torso, both front and back. Having worked in healthcare for some years, I knew this was an allergic reaction, but I certainly didn’t know to what. We made a quick assessment of the situation and she didn’t seem to be having any trouble breathing, so we made all the necessary phone calls, scheduled all the necessary appointments, and put her through all the necessary tests.
Eggs and peanuts. I remember thinking how hard of a road this tiny child must have ahead of her – how much different her life would be than so many others, including her older sister who will, and can, eat almost anything. It was a sinking feeling for a parent, though we learned how to manage and have had relatively few close calls and no emergencies – we pray that the Lord would take the allergies away, but if not, that he would protect her from danger, and thankfully he has answered that prayer so far.
Several years later, I was in the kitchen making scrambled eggs for my wife and I and my daughter wandered past the stove. She asked, “What are you making?” I told her what I was making and her face fell to the ground. She looked up at me and said sullenly, “Dad, I want to eat eggs for breakfast.”
Having delved into the medical literature on the subject, it astonishes me how unsatisfactory are the answers to why so many children have food allergies these days. It seems to me, like so many other things that don’t seem right, to be a part of a fallen world that groans under its curse. Even a three year old who asks for eggs and is denied by a saddened but cautious and adamant parent knows that something is amiss, that it’s not supposed to be that way. She knows, and she feels it.
I read Paul David Tripp’s book, Parenting, earlier this year and the theme I keep returning to in my head is how the times when children push you to your last bit of control (and through it) are grace themselves: God-given opportunities to teach, coach, instruct, and demonstrate and point to the grace Jesus offers sinners.
It’s easy to reduce God’s Word to a “this is how you avoid hell and get to heaven” routine, but I don’t think it’s meant to be reduced in that way. John Piper argued in his book A Peculiar Glory that it doesn’t glorify God to choose “correctly” in Pascal’s famous wager – betting that God is the right choice isn’t saving faith, and pursuing a path of hell avoidance isn’t either. I feel compelled to teach my kids about God’s glory and his plan for the restoration of all things. Yes, fear God’s righteous wrath, absolutely, but rest in the hope of glory Jesus purchased and the wonderful promises of Revelation 22! He will wipe away every tear. Until then, the world is a tragic place.
When my daughter asked me for the eggs, I realized there was an opportunity here to give her hope. Food allergies are a relatively minor, but real, symptom of a world that is not as it ought to be. She will experience far worse than this, but I don’t want to shield her from feeling the desire for a city with foundations, whose designer and builder is God. We must not remove that desire from our children (or ourselves) when we see it in them. Quite the opposite, we must protect that desire, nurture and cultivate it, and fan it into flames.
I knelt down and squeezed her. I told her I was sorry and that I couldn’t let her eat eggs. But one day, little one, God promises us a Wedding Supper. And if it’s anything like the way the rest of the New Heavens and New Earth are described, the spread on that table will dwarf whatever we missed out on here. Our present breakfast limitations are not worth comparing to the delights that we’ll enjoy at that table. In her song “Suffering Servant,” Jackie Hill-Perry said “Your earthly tears will be a means for praise the day that you see your King’s face and he wipes them away, so smile, because peace is coming.”
Yes, child – peace, eggs, and everything else – it’s coming, and I can’t wait either.
Covetousness-inducing featured photo from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/what-phils-having/recipes/pancakes/