I love Diet Coke. To be more specific, I love Coke Zero and Diet Dr. Pepper. Not just a little something I enjoy; I mean, I thrive on it. And it can’t be from just anywhere, either. I like certain locations, with a certain ice, only in the right cup, and with the perfect carbonation-to-syrup ratio. It’s not just the drink; it’s the experience. That cup of goodness in my hand, sipping on it ever so slightly while enjoying the burning sensation going down my throat. It’s a little piece of heaven on earth. And according to a new study that came out, if I keep drinking it I’m going to be seeing heaven a little earlier than I had anticipated.
A lot of studies throughout the years have tried to steal my Diet Coke joy. And to be clear, nobody has ever claimed it’s a health food. But a study came out in the last few weeks in the American Heart Association’s Stroke Journal that got my attention. Apparently, some lame scientist with nothing better to do conducted a little research (for, like, ten years) on people that drink diet soda and found some link (I might add, not causation) between my beloved drink and an increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s. Purportedly a thirty percent higher risk to those that drink one or more sodas a day. Blasphemy! (okay, maybe not)
So, on April 21st at approximately 4:10 p.m. I took my final sip, paid homage, and said a tearful goodbye and thank you to the drink that gave me many, many years of happiness. About nine days later I was lingering somewhere between grief stages 2 and 4 (anger, bargaining, and depression) when I opted to go back to stage 1 (denial) and do some research. I googled “diet soda studies” (because if it’s on the internet it’s always true) and found a whole bunch of new articles debunking the original study that came out. They criticized the Alzheimer’s/stroke study on many levels, but mostly for making large conclusions based on a small study with little control factors used. Let’s be honest, I really didn’t read much further than the headlines indicating that the original study was possibly flawed. Vindication! And so I had one diet coke the next day. Don’t judge—it was either that, or I was looking into vaping.
Sharing all this doesn’t just double as my counseling session. I also had an epiphany during this diet drink crisis: No matter the issue you are facing in life, you can always find a voice on either side of it to tell you what you want to hear.
I think that’s a particularly true precept for all of us as parents. We spend our days filtering through the many voices telling us that we need to do it a different way, be a firmer disciplinarian, give more grace, our kids should be in public school, our kids should be in private school, this church, that church, we should only eat organic, count calories, blah, blah, blah. Absolutes abound. The fact is, with all the pressure we find in parenting and living in this social media “everything looks perfect” society, we are bound to go looking for the voices that tell us we are doing okay. I’m an expert in this arena. I know which friends, family members, websites, pastors, and books will make me feel like I’m on the correct side of any issue and that I’m getting it right.
Sadly, often we look at every angle and listen to all voices except the one true voice. We compartmentalize God and his word to things that are only church-related, while turning to every other source for answers to our daily problems. Even Jesus had to deal with the many voices coming at him. Satan tempted him three times in the desert, his disciples often urged him to change his methods, the legal authorities tried to silence him with threats of persecution and ultimately death. If Jesus faced the many voices of his society, we will too. But Jesus knew his lifeline and that the only reliable message came from the Father. And that’s likely why we repeatedly see his reliance on prayer and the teachings of His Father. He didn’t let the other voices, opinions, and ideas crowd out the will of the Father and the mission he was to accomplish.
As Christians, we have direct access to the one and only authority—the one with all the answers. Most often he does not speak to us audibly like those around us. It’s a discipline to tune out all the others competing for our thoughts and attention and go to the one who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator and determiner of all things we say, do, think and/or consume. So as we go about our days, feeling guilty about not working out, or spending too much time working, or not going to a certain activity, or for reading this, watching that, letting our kids do this or not do it—or drinking/not drinking diet coke—let’s stop seeking and listening to the voices that say what we want to hear. Instead, let’s commit to finding His voice through reading his word and living a lifestyle of prayer and commitment to our Savior.
As Christians we have an audience of one—the Lord who controls our every breath and guides our every decision. It’s probably time we stop looking for voices to support our position and find the position where the Lord can support us.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3