I ate half a yoghurt the other day.
That statement won’t shock you at all, unless you are either one of my parents. See, I’ve never actually eaten a yoghurt in my life. If you asked me, I’d tell you that I don’t like yoghurt and never have done, which sounds fair enough. But actually, I decided that as a kid, without ever having tried it. It was something about the smell, the texture, the whole idea of it. So ever since, I’ve had this mental block about yoghurt, I just wouldn’t touch the stuff.
Then I saw this in Tesco:
It was a yoghurt that suggested it was more like whipping cream than yoghurt. It was the least offensive flavour ever, except chocolate which doesn’t count, and it even had fudge pieces in it. It was late at night, I was feeling brave, the adrenaline surged and I bought the yoghurt. If I could eat this, I could do anything.
I managed half. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t nice by any stretch of the imagination. And the smell… I just can’t work out why people choose to eat this stuff. But that wasn’t the point. The aim wasn’t to like yoghurt. It was to eat yoghurt. And that much, I did.
Yoghurt isn’t the only thing I’ve ever had a weird mental block over.
I would only use the children’s toothpaste I grew up with for years after it recommends you stop using it, because adult toothpaste tasted more strongly of mint, and I was scared I’d hate it too much.
I didn’t swallow pills properly until my final year of university, despite knowing that it couldn’t be physically that hard. I used to chop them into small pieces, hide each one inside a spoonful of chocolate mousse so I couldn’t see it, and swallow the spoonful with water.
For years, I was fairly sure I’d never travel anywhere that I’d need vaccinations to go to, because I couldn’t bring myself to agree to having injections, or to taking anti-malarials, and my desire to see the world wasn’t stronger than my desire to avoid those things.
The first time I had a job which involved picking up a phone and calling other people, I spent a couple of weeks trying to think of endless excuses to email instead, to be out of the office when the phone rang, anything to avoid having to speak aloud into that handset.
They’re not totally irrational fears or feelings. It’s okay, I think, to not like the experience of bad tastes, or of pain, or to feel awkward doing something you’re not used to. But I hate that they held me back, for no reason that I’m willing to accept. There are already so many other things that might stop me doing everything I want to do with my life, or feel capable of doing, or even feel called to do, things that I can’t control. I hate the idea that my own mental barriers might be the one that prevents me even thinking about it.
There are all kinds of ways that people respond when they begin to realise that God is a God of justice, and that his kingdom means freedom from oppression, food for the hungry, reconciled relationships and genuine community. There are all kinds of projects and causes that people throw themselves into to bring about that kingdom a little bit more. There are lifestyle choices that people make to try to contribute justice, mercy and peace to the world more than they contribute corruption, greed and violence.
There’s so much I never imagined myself doing, that I always thought I just couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Not me. Those same kinds of mental barriers to having injections or eating yoghurt, are ones that convince me I could never stop eating meat. Or arrange a meeting with my MP. Or decide to give away all my money beyond that which I need to survive. Or live in intentional community with others who want to love their neighbours and eradicate poverty in their community. Or go and be a human rights defender where it’s dangerous but essential work.
Maybe I won’t do all those things. Maybe I’ll do totally different ones. There’ll be loads of reasons behind what I spend my time and energy on in trying to live out the kingdom of God in my life. But if any of those reasons is a kind of mental block that says “it’s just not for me. I just couldn’t do that”, then that’s not okay. I’m not willing to discount anything on the basis that it’s too radical or too uncomfortable or not what I expected for my life.
If I can eat half a yoghurt, I can do anything.