"But I HATE oatmeal!" Evie pleaded. At age five, she looked to her ten-year-old brother, Ethan, for support. He was ritually spooning the steaming glop, then plopping it back into his bowl uneaten.
"Gran, Why do you always fix oatmeal? Can't we have something GOOD for a change?" Ethan peered through his glasses at his grandma, scowling back through her own.
"Is that true? I didn't realize. . ." Grandma's eyes misted over, then she smiled. "Let me tell you a story, children."
Evie and Ethan exchanged suspicious glances, code for "What now?" Grandma spun stories as skillfully as spiders spin webs, with few able to separate her truth from fiction.
"Without oatmeal, I don't think you'd be alive," Grandma began.
Fiction, Ethan thought shrewdly.
"Really?" Evie was sunk, hoodwinked already.
"I was sick in my mid-thirties, and when Doctor T. came in and quietly shut the door, the hope of having children, the hope of life itself turned on that hinge." Grandma paused dramatically, looking as if she were all alone, rowing across some dark lake.
Fiction for sure: Grandma had three children in her forties, including their dad. "What was wrong?" Ethan smugly prodded.
"My liver," she snapped, embarrassed at being caught again in her reverie. "No reason, it just wasn't working. Doctor T. prescribed drugs that might save me. But I told him, 'God promised me babies. I can't take those drugs and have babies, so Jesus will heal me another way.' You know what that doctor said then?"
"What?" Evie asked.
"He said, 'You're nuts.' After I left, he called your granddad; then he called his lawyer."
"What's that got to do with oatmeal?" Ethan asked.
"Plenty!" Grandma explained. "I prayed the whole way home, asking Jesus for mercy, healing, grace, direction. Then I made a beeline for my books, and that night I only fixed dinner for one."
"What's that mean?" Ethan was puzzled.
"I quit eating."
"You must have starved to death!" Evie challenged.
"No, baby, I didn't starve. Jesus fasted for forty days, and he didn't even have fruit juices. I included lemon juice and herbs, and kept praying. And the whole time I prayed about having children, and the children they would marry. I thought about you grandchildren, and your children after you. I could see you, standing behind a dark glass -- just your shadows. But I couldn't touch you."
"Weren't you hungry, Grandma?" Evie asked.
"You bet. Popcorn was the hardest to lose. Grandpa helped me; but the truth is, I was hungrier for my babies than food. I trusted the Lord's direction and kept on fasting. Then, after two weeks, I began eating again."
"Did you eat popcorn?" Evie suggested. Ethan leaned forward, propping his head between his hands.
"No, honey. Nothing good like that. Nothing I liked. In fact, I started eating the one food I hated more than any other." She paused again.
"What was it, Grandma? What did you eat?" Ethan prompted.
"Oatmeal. Raisins and cinnamon, no sugar, no cream. Oatmeal."
Ethan groaned with disgust: snookered again.
"And I savored every bite. I was so hungry -- it tasted heavenly, and has ever since! Step by step my health improved, though my diet remained very strict. Then after four years God rewarded my faithfulness. I still remember Doc's face when he walked through that same door to confirm what I'd already told him. 'Yes, you're pregnant, but I'm afraid it will kill you. You'll have to find another doctor; my insurance won't cover you.'"
"So what then?" Ethan asked.
"Why, I found me a good Christian doctor, and we prayed my three babies here, one right after another. Changing my eating habits wasn't easy, but it was the best choice: it was God's plan for me. Walking in Jesus' footsteps in obedience is hard. You have to be hungry -- desperate, in fact, because lots of trouble comes along that road to discourage you. But Peter said it best in the Gospel of John, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' There's no option: only if you're sure of that will you remain faithful when asked to swallow things that are bland or distasteful.
Evie squirmed. "But I still hate oatmeal, Grandma."
"You're just not hungry enough to appreciate -- oatmeal's good for you!"
Ethan stared at his bowl, no longer steaming. "Is any of this true, Grandma?"
"Eat your oatmeal, and you'll find out," Grandma said with a wink.