A year ago this month, a pediatric neurologist told me our 5-year-old son had epilepsy—and would live with it the rest of his life.
I walked out of the doctor’s office dazed and depressed. But it was, I see now, the best thing that could have happened.
Today my son’s brain, helped by medicine but even more by diet changes, is no longer interrupted by bursts of electrical energy. He sleeps better. He colors and plays Legos for hours instead of a few minutes. He now listens to books eagerly, not reluctantly.
Two months ago, as I was reading him a kids’ book about the names of God, my son asked some questions that ultimately led him to pray with me to accept Jesus as his savior.
What Jesus has done in my son’s mind, He can do for all His people. We all suffer from the disease of sin—and a coping mechanism called self-delusion, which keeps the reality of our disease hidden from us. Yet Jesus can free us from it.
Epilepsy is a disease of distraction. Mercifully, my son has never had on-the-floor convulsions, which come with other forms of epilepsy. But scans of his brain waves showed that the electrical bursts in his brain were coming so regularly, that he struggled to focus on an activity and regularly did not hear people talking to him.
So it is with us. The Christian philosopher, scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal argued that many people never consider their eternal state because they are constantly distracted by earthly diversions. “When we wish to think of God, is there not something which distracts us to think of something else?” Pascal wrote in Pensée 478 in his famous book Pensées. “All this is evil and innate in us.”
Even Christians, after our hearts and minds have been regenerated by Christ, can be distracted constantly by the entertainments of the world, most of which are rife with lies, mirages and selfish indulgence.
So what’s the right prescription?
One answer is to cut out from our lives the things that so easily entangle us. My son now follows a ketogenic diet, which shifts his body’s fuel from carbs to fat. He can eat only 25 carbs a day—equal to the carbs in a single apple.
Likewise we should limit ourselves to less than 25 grams a day of Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and SportsCenter. Do I always follow this? Sadly, no. I need to learn more discipline from my son.
Another answer is to fill ourselves with things that are true, substantial and good. My son must eat four times more fat than carbs each day. So bacon, hot dogs, sausages and heavy whipping cream are his daily bread. A sign on the door of his room says, “Keep Calm and Eat More Bacon.”
The Christian’s fat is meditation on God’s word, prayer, worship and rest on the Lord’s Day, and fellowship with other believers. Do I do spend quadruple the time on those things than on entertainment? Again, no. I need to learn from my son.
Doctors aren’t completely sure why the ketogenic diet works—although randomized controlled clinical trials have shown that it does. One theory is fat—for all we’ve been warned about it—is a cleaner burning fuel than carbs, which release many byproducts into the body that can cause problems.
Seeing my son’s diet defeat his epilepsy has given me a new understanding of Hebrews 5:13-14: “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the world of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by a constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Too often, I try to live spiritually on a diet of milk—which, I’ve now learned, is loaded with carbs. This distracts my mind from seeking the things of God and prevents my hands from serving the needs of others.
Instead, I need the discipline to embrace a diet of devotion—meditation, prayer, worship, rest and fellowship. This isn’t the diagnosis or prescription I want. But, in God’s grace, I know it will be the best thing that could happen.