Recently, I blogged about why we should celebrate Lent. Today I want to share what I have given up for Lent, in an effort to encourage you and to be held publicly accountable.
The Spirit has been convicting me lately that I have serious issues regarding my love to indulge myself in pleasant activities.
Especially if it involves eating.
This never used to be an issue for me. In fact, I used to struggle with the exact opposite of overeating. But with this last pregnancy, it was like my “I’m full” button shorted out, and I discovered the ability to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. And I really liked it! And then I realized I couldn’t stop eating. It was just too delicious. My palate simply had to be satisfied further, most of the time, until I had made myself sick on chocolate chip cookies or a half bottle of sparkling grape juice. Or I would find that I was craving something that we didn’t have on hand, I would load the kids into the car and drive out just to get it. If I did not have something I was craving, I found myself descending into a pit of depression.
I told you I had issues.
But as I am working through this and talking to multiple other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am realizing I am not alone in this struggle. In fact, it seems to be rampant in our land of plenty.
One of the things we often conveniently overlook is the fact that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Food in itself is neither good nor bad. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial.” It is not that food and eating are inherently sinful, it is our heart attitude towards food. Why am I eating? Is it because I am legitimately hungry? Is this food even nourishing, or is it simply fulfilling a lustful craving I have? The truth is, we can actually be eating out of greed and lust, not a real hunger or need for nourishment.
The problem is, eating is one of those necessary evils. We have to eat, or we will die of starvation! So a person cannot simply give it up. This makes it imperative to be disciplined in our eating. We simply must learn to control ourselves.
If you are wondering if you have an issue with food, perhaps you might relate to some of my temptations:
If faced with a particularly doldrum task (like filing and paperwork), I cheer my spirits by allowing myself to enjoy a Pepsi and a chocolate bar. If the kids are not behaving well, and I am tired and stressed, I console myself with looking forward to eating dinner out instead of cooking. When I am lonely or bored, I raid the kitchen to fill my stomach with something–anything to occupy my hands and mouth. If I am gloomy, I decide the perfect treat would be playing games with Stephen after the kids are in bed and eating popcorn and drinking sparkling grape juice, my all-time favorite combination.
The problem, however, is not food. It is my heart. It is my flesh that craves satisfaction outside of Christ. It is my sin that causes me to hunger for something edible to fill a spot of loneliness in my heart. It is believing the lie that that brownie, cookie, or sugary beverage will not only fill my stomach, but whatever emotion seems to be lacking.
As I have been increasingly convicted about this area of sin in my heart, I recognize the temptation to attempt self-denial out of my own strength. And that has never worked before. The Lord has convicted me to give up high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, a sugar that is in nearly everything processed and packaged, over the period of Lent. And while I am choosing to not eat anything with that sugar in it, to be assessing my heart every time I am tempted to indulge.
To help identify the idolatry in my heart, I am listening to Revive Our Heart’s radio broadcast of “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” with Elyse Fitzpatrick, as well as reading the book as a devotional. Another helpful resource has been the Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabry’s on food and eating right.
Over this period of Lent, I do not simply want to deny myself for the purpose of self-discipline. I want to rid my heart of the idol of filling up emptiness with food and pleasure. I want to seek God instead and find him to be more than enough for all my desires. I want to say “no” to my flesh in something as simple as eating whatever I want whenever I want it, so that I can say “no” to my flesh when faced with a temptation to sin.
Aside: Because my hubby was not giving up HFCS and one of our special date night traditions is sparkling grape juice, I made the exception of allowing sparkling grape juice throughout Lent. But though I am drinking it occasionally, I am checking my heart for motives and praying over it. Lent does not need to be legalistic–it is for the purpose of examining the heart and coming on our knees before God continually as we recognize our need for Him.