I was 14 or 15 years old when Mom started noticing some familiar symptoms in me. Symptoms of iron deficiency. Not full-blown anemia, but definitely some of the iron issues she dealt with herself. Vitamins took care of the issue for the most part, as long as I had a pretty good diet. But I hated iron vitamins – especially when I was pregnant. The way they tasted and made me feel…I shudder at the very thought.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. Sometime between Angie’s birth and my pregnancy with Steven, my iron levels went up to much more acceptable levels. It wasn’t long after Steven was born before iron vitamins became things of the past for me. I couldn’t have been happier! Low iron problems and symptoms faded into my memory…
A few months ago we were running errands in Little Rock and a headache started to set it. It felt a bit like a sinus headache, but it didn’t respond to sinus medications like my typical sinus headaches do. By the time we got home I was feeling incredibly sluggish. I couldn’t even help Doug unload the van! Instead I just crashed on the couch. The heavy sluggishness I felt was vaguely familiar, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
What’s wrong with me, Lord? I remember praying. Suddenly the light bulb went on. I plodded to the bathroom and pulled down my lower eyelid. Sure enough, where healthy iron levels typically produce a nice, red color in the blood vessels I saw white with the barest hint of pink. A sure sign that my red blood cells weren’t getting the oxygen they needed. A sure sign that my iron was really, really low. Having diagnosed the problem, we did what was necessary to pump my iron levels back up. Gradually I started to feel better.
But, I was frustrated. The low iron was back, and I had no idea why! My diet hadn’t really changed recently as far as eating fewer iron-containing foods was concerned. What was it that made my body’s iron levels suddenly drop again?
Several months and another plummet later, something clicked in my mind. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron into the bloodstream. Before my iron issues began, I had been drinking a glass of orange juice every morning, pretty much without fail. Wanting to be mindful of the types of calories I was consuming in the mornings, I had stopped drinking orange juice every day. But, I hadn’t been diligent to make other changes to replace the vitamin C consumption. So, even though my consumption of iron hadn’t changed, my body’s ability to absorb it had. And my iron issues returned.
I couldn’t help but compare this with spiritual anemia. Do you ever feel as if your spiritual diet hasn’t changed, but somehow things still just aren’t quite right? I do! Sometimes my spirit absorbs the Word and interaction with Christ like a sponge. Other times, although my “diet” hasn’t changed, I feel like my spirit might as well be covered in wax paper – everything just seems to slide away without any absorption. My “devotional time diet” hasn’t changed. I’m still getting into the Word and being consistent with my prayer time. I’m still trying my hardest to dig and journal. But, it just doesn’t seem to sink in the same way.
Just like my iron absorption isn’t strictly reliant on how much iron is in my diet, so my spiritual health is not simply related to my daily diet of the Word and prayer. I am a whole spiritual being, and everything I do during the day affects how I interact with the Lord. It’s not just about how much truth I take in – it’s about how much the rest of my daily diet of interactions, thoughts, behaviors, and priorities allows that truth to truly absorb into my very being.
For the time being I’m back to drinking orange juice in the morning since it’s my absolute favorite way to consume vitamin C! I’ll probably vary my consumption as time goes on, but I will always be mindful of making sure I get my full vitamin C requirements every day. (After all, vitamin C consumption in any form is much more pleasant than iron vitamins!) And, it’s definitely making a difference.
Meanwhile, I’m looking at my spiritual diet. I’m asking the Lord to show me what things cause a deficiency in spiritual absorption. And, I’m looking forward to feeling the effects of increased energy both in my physical health and my spiritual health as I increasingly grow more balanced!