Wednesday, May 29

Sweet tooth

For the month of January, my husband and I challenged ourselves to give up sugar. In the past year or so, we’ve been trying to get healthy and eat well, so this seemed like a good way to reset our bodies after so much holiday excess and get back on track. 

Life is like a box of chocolates...that sometimes make you sick.
Here’s the thing: Sugar is in everything. Seriously. Most of the packaged items in the pantry and fridge contain some form of sugar. Even - gasp! - bread?! I had no idea. But, resolved to continue our experiment, we decided to make more things from scratch. Oh, we had a few days where it didn’t work, like our visit to Tim’s grandparents in Michigan – that was a free hall-pass – and a birthday party for our youngest daughter. But overall, we did pretty well.

Until one Sunday night. 

 My kids were monsters the whole day – I blame in on M&M overload; my oldest daughter somehow got into some M&Ms in the pantry and was a devil-child for the 24 hours that followed her candy episode -- so by the time I left for a local coffee shop for some much-needed time with my girlfriends, I was past my breaking point. And it was at that moment that I caught sight of a small box of chocolates sitting innocently on the passenger’s seat. My friend had given them to me the day before, a beautiful box of Valentine's Day treats, and they were calling my name.

I hesitated for a moment, then grabbed them and started gobbling them. One, two, three…and a half. I ate them all, except for the raspberry creme! Although, I’m sorry to say, they were not even that good

So it served me right when, not ten minutes later, my stomach revolted. I was horribly, awfully, terribly sick. Unused to any sugar at all, the overload was simply too much. Miserable, I sat in the coffee shop chatting with my friends, praying for God's healing and mercy for the pit of despair that used to be my stomach.

But I learned my lesson. The rest of the month, I quite happily turned down sugar, knowing the consequences for overindulgence.
 
But I feel like that’s how a lot of us approach our relationship with God. Sometimes he’s the Santa Claus God, the one we send our wishlist to. Or occasionally he’s the Vending Machine God, who we only approach when we need something. And sometimes he's just the God we only consult when the toxic things in our life are making us horribly, awfully, terribly sick.

Did you ever see the Jim Carrey movie where he’s God for a few days? Sacrilegious scenes aside, did you see the one where he answers “yes” to all the prayer requests? Chaos ensues. 

And why? Because we don’t always know best. Because God’s ways just aren’t our ways. And because sometimes, if we did get our way, we would only succeed in making ourselves sick, placing ourselves in situations God never intended us to be in. 

Paul talks about the struggle to do what's right in Romans 7:14-15:

"So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate."

If Paul, a hero of the faith, struggled to do what was right, we need to be willing to extend the same grace to ourselves. Because Paul doesn't end it on a note of despair, but a note of triumph:

"Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25) 

Dear Lord,
Please help anyone struggling to overcome the battles in their life, whether it be a toxic relationship or friendship that should have ended a long time ago, an unhealthy habit or addiction, or just an inability to trust God with the details of life. Help us to know that the struggles in our lives need not define us. May we stop looking to the world to offer its meager comfort, instead focusing on the extravagant grace you so freely give. May we forgive ourselves for the times we fail, looking ahead to the abundant life you have for us. Amen.

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