Monday, February 26

What My Sugar Addiction Taught Me

I thought I was doing the 40-day sugar fast for health reasons. After all the holiday cookies I had eaten, resetting my body by avoiding sugar sounded like a good idea.

It was the morning that I found myself crying in my bathroom, searching out “Bible verses when you feel like a bad mom” on my phone, that I realized what I had actually gotten myself into. Because it wasn’t about the fact that one of my children had a raging tantrum not two minutes before she needed to get out to the bus stop. Nor was it about my less-than-patient response, or the mom guilt that immediately ensued. No, what struck me was how in the aftermath, while grabbing something else from the pantry, I caught a glimpse of marshmallows in my peripheral vision. And a voice inside whispered, “You’d feel better if you ate those.”

Here’s the thing. I like a good s’more, but I don’t sneak marshmallows. Ever. So where was this impulse coming from?

I would never have said that I’m addicted to sugar, but over the 40 days I came to realize just how often I would turn to it for comfort. And not just sugar. Coffee, wine, the baths and books I use to escape my life. None of these are inherently good or bad, but when I use them to comfort myself rather than turning to the Comforter, that’s a problem. Those 40 days gave me ample time to reconsider just how often I fill my mouth with things I don’t need when my spirit is crying out for the Bread of Life.

As I pivoted from my 40-day sugar fast to 40 days of Lent, I found myself hungry for more. In the mornings, I listen to the Bible in One Year on audio. I’m not someone who likes to get up early and read the Bible, but to listen to it while I straighten my hair and put my contacts in feels like I’m returning to an old friend day after day, picking up where we left off.

It’s something I began last summer, during one of the best and hardest years of my life. Plunged into circumstances beyond my control, I found myself clinging to things I could control: Decluttering my house, purging my schedule, creating rhythms to help manage my household better. And all of those were good things, healthy things even, but they were all about me. My need for control.

And so, when I made the decision in January to fast, I thought it was one more area of self-improvement for me. Another kind of decluttering.

But after the morning-meltdown and marshmallow day, I had to reconsider. What was I truly fasting? Sugar, or my need for control? Suddenly, these verses from Isaiah, which I had read before, resonated in a whole new way.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[b] go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:6-8)

A true fast requires us to face the uncomfortable truths in our lives. Rather than turning a blind eye, we must look—or, as Isaiah says, “not to hide yourself from your own flesh.” That recognition is our true fast. I wasn’t fasting sugar. I was fasting from the privilege of my own comfort. How often do I see a news story about a tragedy and change the channel? Or start to read a story about abuse or trafficking and stop partway through because it feels hard, and I know the images my imagination creates will linger for too many days? How often do I dive into coffee, or a novel, or a clothing store, in an effort to escape or to silence any discomfort I feel?

Who or what do you turn to when life feels hard? To my dismay, I’ve come to realize that it’s all too easy to choose temporary satiety over the eternal wellspring that Jesus offers. Because he offers grace, yes--but he also offers truth. And truths can be all too uncomfortable for us.

What comforts are you clinging to, what control are you grasping at with both hands? In our bid for control, we've lost the ability to truly lean on God. Yet it's in our weakness--not our self-reliance--that Jesus can use us. As we walk through Lent and approach the Easter season, may you recognize and surrender to the truth that I must decrease, so that he can increase.

We're linking up today with Jamie Wiebel and Holley Gerth.

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