The Lesson of the Conch
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32
My older sister lives in the Bahamas, where they have many ways of preparing conch, the sea snail that lives in those large, spiral seashells. I love conch, but years ago, after eating it, I got sick and proceeded to throw up violently. I was in medical school at the time and armed with a bit of little knowledge, I deduced that I’d gotten food poisoning. So, the next time I was in the Bahamas, I tried conch again with a similar result. Still, I wasn’t convinced. Then, when my wife and I were in the Bahamas for our honeymoon, I tried it one last time just to make sure. It wasn’t random chance food poisoning. As I was once again vomiting, I accepted the fact that I’d become allergic to conch. If I kept consuming it, it was going to keep making me sick. I was a slow learner but eventually, I got the lesson.
For me, it often takes repeated pain to interrupt a pleasurable behavior. If something – even if it’s evil – brings me immediate gratification, I’m prone to continue doing it until something forces me to stop. This was the way it was with my drug addiction. In my last relapse, as the drug took over my brain, I remember thinking, Why did I ever try to quit? This is fantastic. I’m not stopping.
Then, a few months later, when life fell apart, I was reminded why I needed sobriety. Though the drug did provide short-term pleasure, the painful consequences were too great. Thankfully, I got the chance to use that pain to change. Had I never faced any consequences, I’m afraid that I’d still be addicted.
Paul described this principle in today’s passage. In it, he said that God disciplines us, allowing us to experience pain now, so that we may be saved from a worse fate later. We may not like it, but God uses discomfort to rescue us from ourselves. If we never felt the misery of following our way, we’d never learn obedience and faith. If we got our every evil desire without suffering the consequences, we’d never know God.
Not every trial is discipline, but when experiencing some trial, we must always look to God, asking what he wants us to do. Sometimes, we must radically change our behavior. Sometimes, if we want to stop getting sick, we must stop eating the conch.