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Friday, March 16, 2018


I bought Kiri today. It's a soft cheese that I grew up eating so it's a comfort food reminiscent of my childhood and one I very much enjoy eating today with honey on a soft roll-up Lebanese bread. Arriving at campus 30 minutes before sunset, since the orientation had finished early and we didn't hit much traffic coming back, I decided to take a quick jaunt partway down the hill and go to Green Market, the mom-and-pop shop frequented by the university dorm students, to pick up something for potluck the next day. I was craving potato chips so that was on my list. Along with Kiri.

I love Kiri. Except I feel guilty when I eat Kiri. See, I spent nearly half my life living on a campus where any kind of dairy product, eggs, processed foods, and cinnamon (yes, cinnamon) was touted as the food from hell. Or at the very least, if you ate it, you wouldn't live long and you would get cancer and die a painful death so you would experience hell on earth. If you managed to somehow, miraculously, escape that fate and die in your sleep, you would end up in hell anyhow because the consumption of cheese would keep you out of heaven.

I'm not joking, by the way. It may sound somewhat sarcastic, but during my freshman year in college at this campus I went on a choir tour and one of my classmates preached a sermon on the evils of cheese. It shook my fragile faith and worried my sensitive conscience. Now, in my late 30s, I still battle those voices that insist anything other than single ingredients will ruin my health for good.

I'm not against health. I practice it to the best of my ability. I just wonder, sometimes, though whether I would have had a healthier relationship with food and exercise if I'd grown up appreciating them rather than struggling to relate to them without a moral value assigned that was connected, albeit vaguely, to my eternal salvation.

I met a teenager at a recruiting fair today at a nearby high school. Picking up on his accent, I asked where he was from and found out he was from Alabama, but had just moved to Lebanon from Jordan. His parents were missionaries with the Parkview Baptist Church so I tried to find a way to connect our similar MK upbringing. He was quicker than me, though, to bring out a point I'd just been thinking about.

You know, when you move around so much, you soon find out that what is considered right and wrong in one place is not necessarily so in another. And so there are very few rights and wrongs, when you really think about it. Like dancing, for example. Baptists don't dance but it's not wrong. The blond-haired blue-eyed lanky teenager was in earnest. I jokingly asked if coffee wasn't allowed either, but he laughed and said his parents were addicted to coffee. I recommended an MK Facebook group and then off he went. Leaving me thinking.

The longer I live as an adult in a culture not my own (though what culture I would consider my own is a whole 'nother dichotomy), the more I realize that what I perceive as morally right and wrong, through the lens of my worldview, is not always the same as what others perceive as morally right and wrong. It can be somewhat unsettling, because it's easier to claim our principles as the bedrock standard for all others, than it is to allow ourselves to step onto the tightrope between our differences and consider walking to the other side. Or at the very least, not insisting you practice my way but allowing you to practice your way even if it feels wrong to me.

How this translates into the conflict I find within myself, though, is a greater conundrum. Certain standards were heavily drilled into my head for a significant number of years and, because I want to please and I hate conflict, I would ask for the Taco Bell burrito, No cheese, no sour cream, please and then go home and eat 12 mini chocolate brownies dipped into a tub of chocolate frosting. I grew up vegetarian, so dairy products were not portrayed to me as the greatest sin, but now that I knew better, and had more light, there was the added responsibility to live up to the light or so it were.

In all honesty, this is really quite ridiculous. When I think about things logically, I think my body is able to handle a cube of Kiri and a handful of potato chips easier than a deep dread of being judged and an imagination that pictures every cell in my body turning into a cancer cell upon being exposed to that cube of Kiri. It's not just the Kiri, though. It's the music I listen to, the clothes I wear, the movies I watch, the choices I make with my free time, the way I spend my money. My closest friends would look at me and shake their heads, wondering why I am so worried because I seem so responsible.

I recently discovered CCM and the many good songs that really connect emotions with God's truth that I have relied on to encourage me on my difficult days. I wear clothes that are stylish and flatter my figure, but that means they are not loose or 2 sizes too big or drab. I wear candy red dress pants to work and skinny burgundy pants when I go out. I feel really good in the clothes because I finally feel stylish. I go to the movie theatre to watch movies with my friends and I relish buying overpriced caramel & salt mixed popcorn or the fresh corn they season to taste right there. I travel all over Lebanon during my free time, playing hooky from work to go to the city's public beach, seeing exhibits and attending concerts and hiking in the mountains. I buy a box of Lindt chocolate for $10 and order lunch by delivery once a week and pay $20 for a book on trendy current Lebanese culture.

Someone from my former conservative life would look at me and shake their head, wondering how I could have become so liberal. They would ask me, in solemn tones, whether I had thought about how I was causing my brothers in Christ to sin by wearing clothes that caught their attention. They would remind me that movie theatres were hotbeds of sin. They would point to the need to reach the world and ask why I wasn't spending more of my free time in sharing GLOW tracts or praying at 2 am or witnessing. They would talk about all the self-supporting missionaries who were struggling to keep food on the table and insist I should send money to them instead of indulging in pleasures of this world.

Morally right? Morally wrong? Are the choices I make every day ones that have me headed straight on the pathway to perdition? Or does Jesus' admonition that He came so we could live life to the full mean we are free to enjoy this life also without guilt hanging over us? It's not something I have figured out yet but I know what I would like to do. Eat a cube of Kiri without worry.

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