Before we realized the severity of Elijah’s dairy allergy as a young boy his body would purge the excess dairy his body refused to digest every six weeks. The cycle was so consistent that he eventually gave this frustrating situation a name. He would plainly look at me after throwing up, shrug, and say “I got the frowups”. After he purged his body of phlegm he would go about his day, fever-free. His reset stomach would happily relax and soon he would crave the foods that caused the “frowups” to start. Meanwhile, I was left with a pile of laundry and occasionally carpets to scrub.
The thing about Elijah’s “frowups” was that his body was rejecting something harmful. His body was telling us the only way it could that he needed to stop ingesting dairy. Even though the ice cream Elijah ate tasted great, the food was not good for him. In fact, what Elijah craved was actually damaging his body.
Sometimes You Need to Face the Frowups
Discernment is a vital part of engagement with others. As we grow in our relationship with God and with others, we may discover that we need to re-evaluate some boundaries. This isn’t an easy thing to do and often people avoid this process as long as possible. I chose the word Thrive for my 2021 word of the year. It was only because of this word that I found myself looking at every aspect of what was preventing me from thriving.
Sadly, I had to finally admit that there were some lovely people in my life who were more concerned with defining my value by how closely my thoughts aligned with their own rather than encouraging me to have a Christ-centered relationship with God.
I’ve learned that those who value relationships strive to listen to understand. This posture requires us to listen with a willingness to chew the meat and spit out the bones. When we are engaging with our fellow believers Paul reminds the Church that we are to place others’ interests above our own. Philippians 2:1-4 says,
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV) bold added for emphasis
I’ve also learned that when you listen closely with a desire to understand, rather than a preconceived idea, you will sharpen your discernment skills. For example, the idiom “chew the meat and spit out the bones” is a phrase that has recently been resurrected in debates between conservative and progressive believers.
Conservative debaters warn that when we swallow the meat and spit out and the bones we risk eating poisoned meat. The implication, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what the meat is, it’s untrustworthy and so is the person with a new idea. Predictably, the same “rule” never applies to people who agree with their opinions whether they are a secular news pundit or a fellow Christ-follower. As long as the idea doesn’t require a re-evaluation of Scripture then it’s acceptable.
The Origin of an Idiom
Not only do conservatives who twist Goepel’s phrase debate in bad faith with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but they also ignore the origins of this quote which has Biblical roots. In A Realm Without Rules A. Frank Goepel warns Christians not to have a posture of gullibility. Goepel writes,
“I call this the attitude of gullibility, the willingness to hear, even, and sometimes especially, a lie….do not let your imagination run wild, do not live in a dream world, do not partake of deception, and do not listen to myths and old wives’ tales. ‘Not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of man who turn away from the truth’ (Titus 1:14) ‘Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.’ (1 Timothy 4:7) Do not swallow every story that is told. There may be a grain of truth somewhere in all the myths, but chew the meat and spit out the bones.”
When we are unwilling to approach a conversation with fellow believers in good faith we do much more than harm our Church community. Disingenuousness is not hard to identify. This characteristic is one of the main factors Generation Z states as a rationale for disengaging in the church community. Sadly, it’s also the thing they long for most in adult relationships.
The State of Religion and Young People 2020 survey from Springtide Research reveals “two-thirds of young people rated their trust of religious institutions at 5 or below out of a maximum of 10, with an overall mean score of 4.5 out of 10. This compares with an average score of 5.4 for non-profits – suggesting that non-profit organizations were more trusted institutions among Gen Z than organized religions.”
We Thrive with the Right People Around Us
Every once in a while I remember the months where the “frowups” dominated our lives and I wonder why we didn’t catch on to what was happening sooner. The challenge is that when you’re in the middle of a situation you don’t always have an accurate perspective. This is especially challenging when you’re surrounded by chaos or in a situation where others work to minimize us.
We are craving mentors. Springtide’s study about Gen Z found three significant points:
- Young people show they crave relational authority in that 79% of the 10,000 respondents agreed with the statement, “I am more likely to listen to adults in my life if I know that they care about me.”
- 87% of young people said they trust adults who take time to foster relationships.
- 24% of young people with no adult mentors say they never feel their life has meaning and purpose. But for those with even just one adult mentor, this number drops to 6%.
As valuable as mentors are, not all mentors are equal. Sometimes the best way to see the whole picture is to take a giant step back. Often we need someone with fresh eyes to help us sort facts from fiction. We cannot sharpen our skills of discernment with people who consider our perspective poison as we’re walking to the table. Sometimes we need to embrace figure out why the “frowups” are showing up and do what we need to do to keep them from coming back.
As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her own personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.