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Spirituality, Soda and Salzstangen

Last night I was afflicted with the worst case of stomach sickness I can remember. I was losing the contents (or lack thereof) of my stomach nearly every hour from two to eight AM. I'm not sure if it was food poisoning (I probably won't be eating Subway any time soon) or a stomach flu, but it was pretty miserable. Thankfully my lovely bride-to-be stayed with me (online) through the duration of it. I guess there are a few advantages to the seven-hour time difference.

Around 7:30 Marc, one of my German roomates, woke up to take his shower. I asked him what time the grocery store opened, and told him I was in need of Pepsi and Salzstangen (pretzel sticks). When Bethany was sick in October, this formula was the only thing we found to cure her upset stomach. My asking him was a subtle hint that maybe he could make the two minute walk and go get some for me. Instead, he gave me a lecture about how what I really needed was prayer instead of Pepsi and pretzels, and that I was putting my faith in this formula instead of God. I politely disagreed, telling him that I think God often works through material things like pretzels and Pepsi.

8:30 found me standing outside the grocery store waiting for it to open. As soon as drank my Pepsi and ate the pretzels, I started feeling better. [Another of my roomates, who recently completed med school, told me that the salt and the sugar actually form a compound that soothes the stomach, so it's not just a wives' tale.] As I reflected on my exchange with Marc, I realized that he was buying into a dualism between the spiritual and the material, which set these things in opposition to one another. Instead of seeing God as the creator and sustainer of the natural order who uses his material creation to accomplish his will, Marc views God as working primarily through supernatural means. Thus, to him, seeking pretzels and soda is evidence of a lack of faith on my part. I acknowledge that God has worked and does work through other means that his created natural order, but it seems to me that Marc's view of divine/natural relations misses the point of goodness of creation and the total redemption of the natural order.

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I'm sorry that you have been dealing with jetlag, long-distance stuff AND a stomach bug. :( I had one of those a couple months ago and it was no fun at all. Glad God is providing you with the Salzstangen!

That reminds me of how Grant was telling me that one of his roommates refused to clean up his stuff in the common areas because as a Christian he wasn't concerned about appearances, what others thought of him, etc. (Sorry Grant, if you read this and wanted to tell that story--I'm sure you've got more!)

There was a lot of similar thinking at LCS and I encounter it still sometimes, and my usual response is that while it is right and good to pray for the small and seemingly insignificant things, God also gave us a brain, and refusing to use it in lieu of a skewed view of what is really "trusting in God" is neglecting the very faculties He has given us.

I watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night, and I was struck by something that relates to what you wrote. In Narnia, the prophecy foretold that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve would reign as kings and queens. So, after the big battle, where the White Witch and her armies are destroyed, all the animals and creatures all line up and joyfully watch Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy crowned by Aslan. The creatures of Narnia delight in submitting to the humans.

What struck me was that Lewis was depicting what had always been God's intention: to have human beings reign over his creation. As God's image-bearers, Adam and Eve were given two tasks: (1) to be fruitful and multiply (to create more image-bearers); and (2) to "subdue" the earth and "have dominion over" every creature upon the earth (Gen. 1:28).

This relates to what you wrote, Andrew, because your friend was failing to take into account what Lewis was getting at--that the way humans take part in the spiritual realm is through the physical world. We were meant to be like God by being gods (Jesus' word, not mine--John 10:33-36) on the earth. Of course, just as everyone in Narnia knew that Aslan was the highest king, so we can only reign properly over the earth when we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the ultimate king over all creation.

So, I think that you have a good case to make that using pretzels and Pepsi is precisely an act of faith, being an action that realigns you with what you were created to be and do on this earth. We are always to seek God in what we do, acknowledging that nothing can be accomplished apart from him, but we also act in our physical dominion, knowing that there really is no huge divide between that realm and the spiritual realm. Furthermore, this is all the more true now that God has become flesh. The Incarnation is lifting this world back to where it was meant to be--it does not set the physical over against the spiritual.

Tell Marc he should probably just pray and have faith that some tan Levi cords will appear on his body. His asking you to get them for him really shows a lack of faith.

I am glad you're feeling better today, love. I'm a big believer in the pretzel/Pepsi combo. :) Thanks for calling me...I hated being so far away while you were sick, but it was a privilege to be able to sit with you (albeit via iSight) while you were feeling sick.

I should modify my original comment a little bit to say that it is possible to do the Pepsi/pretzel combination without faith, trying to sooth your stomach just as an atheist would. At the same time, as believers, we are to do all things to the glory of God, and I see no reason that you wouldn't be able to use such a remedy with faith.

I think this is a good reminder when we get sick--go to a doctor, but don't forget to pray.

Good thoughts everyone. As an update, Marc brought it up again last night, and this time I was a little more adament in insisting that there's no conflict between trusting God and using medicine. I made sure to clarify that I believed the medicine only works when God wills it, so someone can both use medicine and pray and trust God to do the healing.

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