This morning I was on the phone with a friend while she was shopping at WalMart. I don’t go grocery shopping when we AREN’T in a national crisis that requires emergency storehouses for toilet paper. I’m certainly avoiding it now! I’ve looked through my fridge and cabinets and assessed – It won’t be comfortable but I CAN eat chili without shredded cheese. I can split the eggs, toast, and hash into three meals. I can sleep through one meal a day. I came up with all of these doomsday scenarios without even leaving the kitchen. But my friend, she was brave… she went to WalMart. I asked her if there were any pudding snack packs. She said there were. I asked her to grab a few four-packs of chocolate pudding for me and she replied, “I’m putting five of them in my basket. They’re only eighty-eight cents each.” When she got to the register, they told her she was hoarding and she could only purchase two of the packages. (Let’s stop and think about how many pudding cups are in a TWENTY-FOUR pack?) It was a bit comical but I’m not faulting anyone. We have to draw lines right now and if eight pudding cups is the limit, it’s a line I’m willing to accept.
Why, when I’m making a plan to ration toast, do I care about chocolate pudding cups? Because chocolate pudding is our vessel of choice. My son is using oral immunotherapy to become desensitized to his peanut allergy. The food used to mix with the peanut powder has to have a certain consistency, temperature, and measurement. It’s called “the vessel”. The peanut powder can’t touch his mouth directly or he would be in danger of an immediate or a localized reaction. His body has to absorb it in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm his system. For some immunotherapies, a skin patch is the vessel. For the immunotherapy we are using, food is the vessel. For Coleman, chocolate pudding is the vessel.
When the whole world started panicking over toilet paper and sanitizer, I was chill. I’m a thrifty online shopper – had my bulk delivery a week before the first COVID fever hit the ground. (Warning looters, hoarders, and apocalyptic zombies: my dog is trained to guard the toilet paper.) But when I glanced at the stock of pudding cups in the pantry, my heart skipped a beat. I did a quick count, there are ten. Ten days of dosing. No problem! My husband can swing by a store when he gets back into town tomorrow. That’ll be fine, right? What if it’s not? What if there is no pudding? What if we go into lockdown and I can’t go buy pudding because it’s not considered essential? What if my husband gets quarantined while he’s away at work? WHO’S GOING TO GET THE PUDDING????
And there you have it. I did it. I fell victim to the virus without the slightest symptom of illness. I found myself facing the same challenge that everyone else is facing, whether it be at a smaller or much greater degree. Assess, think it through, make a plan, plan on the plan changing, repeat. Here’s what the wall of panic blocked from my view: we don’t NEED chocolate pudding! We just need a vessel. Coleman’s vessel of choice is chocolate pudding. He doesn’t particularly like chocolate pudding, but the medicine makes it taste nasty anyway so what does he have to lose? If Coleman stops taking his daily dose of peanut, his immunity to peanuts will reverse until he is once again in danger of a life threatening reaction to them. If we run out of chocolate pudding, we will use other vessels.
I have a spiritual illness that causes me to have terrible reactions. It’s called sin. My faith needs to be continually and consistently dosed with something that will build my resistance to the evil in this world. I need the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the Fellowship of the Saints. I need the creed! And that’s why I go to church! Church is my vessel of choice. I love going to church. I love devouring a passage of Scripture with my Sunday School class. I love being fed and challenged by God’s Word through His messengers. I love raising my terribly out of tune song in praise and worship. I love sharing struggles and victories in prayer with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I love just visiting about anything and everything in the safety of a caring community. Here’s where I get it all wrong: I tend to limit the deliverance of the edification that I need. I only want it in my vessel of choice. I want it all delivered to me at church.
Coleman’s immunity to peanuts will grow consistently with any one vessel. In our walk with Christ, we are strongest when we use all available vessels. Fellowship, Bible study, prayer, service to others – these are vessels that I have shamelessly shelved and tonight I am so aware and convicted of that. My vessel of choice isn’t available right now. For the greater good, gathering together is not a wise choice. I know that shepherds and flocks have struggled a great deal with this but my friends, this challenge will very likely be our finest hour.
I realize that I have stunted my own growth for a very long time and seeking spiritual nourishment is now more vital than ever. I have the vessels. I have Bibles on my bookshelf. I have prayers to pray. I have friends and family to share with and support. I have opportunities to serve, and time to do it, and no excuse not to. May God forgive me for being so lazy and selfish and complacent. His love for me cannot be contained in any vessel. It is too great. I am so grateful for the freedom to worship my Creator and so ashamed of taking it for granted.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got it all figured out. But I do know that there is a simple answer to a shortage of pudding. I’m going to put on my best Sunday PJ’s and go to church online. And I must, I MUST, grab the other vessels and use them as I should have all along. I’ve come too far in this fight to grow resistance to evil. I’m not going to lose ground just because I’ve run out of pudding.
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Phillipians 4:19