It is before 5 am as I sit here with my apple.
People who know me will realize that something is strangely amiss that I would be pulled from the warmth of the bed I love to descend to a computer and a rigid wooden chair before dawn.
The culprit? I am seriously hungry. [Hungry, people–not pregnant].
In light of the tragedies in Haiti and the devastating and legitimate hunger of others around the world, I will not say that I am starving.
I am not starving. Thank God–truly.
But I am seriously hungry.
Ten days ago I started a detox to help reposition my view of food and hopefully to change some habits that I was ready to conquer. This particular detox demands that for 28 days I eat sugar-free, dairy-free [eggs OK for part], gluten-free, and beef/pork-free. Additionally, at specific times of the plan [like this week], I am to cut out even lean meats like chicken and turkey, nuts, beans & legumes, and eggs. This is all supplemented with certifiably “yummy” shakes [read: grainy, gritty, and taste like a pile of wet autumn leaves]. That’s why I woke up hungry. Fruits, veggies, and rice, while delicious, aren’t really giving me the satisfaction that a warm and crusty piece of toast would, carefully smothered in jam and served still-warm on my plate.
My love of sugar, in fact my felt need for sugar, was something I did not run away from. I loved to sit with a glass of Coke–or three–or mix up a batch up chocolate chip cookies so I could devour a respectable portion of the dough. And don’t even get me started on the holy grail of chocolate and peanut butter. My goodness. That has the prospect of taking on a life of its own.
I began to acknowledge patterns I had long denied or downplayed. Like how my lack of self-discipline when confronted with certain things meant that food didn’t submit to me and my fork, but that I submitted to it. And the more I’ve been learning about enjoying pleasures and following Jesus, the more I realized that this kind of submission will only be realized when put in right relationship with my heart and faith. Giving free reign to self-indulgence doesn’t seem like the best way to move through life. At least not for me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I had the distinct joy of reading Gary Thomas’ latest book, Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good? [I’ll be reviewing this book and offering the chance to win a free copy on my blog next week!] Gary approaches the subject of pleasure in such new and interesting ways I was unable to put this book down. While he lauds accepting gifts of relationships, food, hobbies, and intimacy with open and grateful hearts, he cautions how blind abandon can, though won’t always, lead to sin. His chapter entitled “Dangerous Pleasures” gave me particular pause as I contemplated this detox:
“I grew up in a conservative Baptist church. Many of the older widows wouldn’t be caught dead saying “heck” or “gosh,” much less their demonic counterparts. They wouldn’t think of watching an R-rated movie or, sin of all sins, participating in a poker game. But they would all but clean out the desserts during potluck. Perhaps bereft of many common pleasures, they gorged without restraint when an “acceptable” pleasure sat before them, in much the same way that a climber atop Mount Everest desperately tries to suck down some air…
“…It would be a monstrosity of a generalization (as well as a lie) to suggest that being holy means being thin. God creates different body types, and it can be just as much a sin of vanity to spend hours crafting a certain physique as it can be a sin of gluttony to exert no control over our food appetites. So without referring to body size, let me gently ask you this: Does your discipline toward food honor God? Is your witness undercut by your failure to control, or even address, this particular issue? [emphasis mine] Ultimately, only God knows. I raise the issue primarily because it would be simplistic to talk about “dangerous” pleasures and ignore the most common, and therefore perhaps the most dangerous, pleasure of all–gluttony.” [pgs. 150-152]
Am I the only one who reads this and says, “Ouch“?
Maybe I wasn’t cleaning out the dessert table at potlucks, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to ignore patterns of indulgence in my life. I want to honor God with a right view of food–one that allows me to enjoy the distinct pleasure of sharing a meal with friends, one that sees the gift in slowly enjoying and savoring my [one] piece of dessert, and one that reminds me that I eat to live–not live to eat.
So in these pre-dawn hours I think on these things. I remember that the inconvenience of giving up chicken and bread is a daily circumstance beyond the control of billions of truly hungry people around the world. That most people on our planet won’t have fresh fruit and vegetables today. That most people will be grateful for a bowl of rice and nothing more. That most people don’t even have a glass of clean water to drink.
My heart splits open at the images flashing across my TV screen. Children wandering along, crying out for relief. Mothers now merely existing with souls ripped out at the loss of family. Brothers and sisters scrounging for scraps of food, praying for deliverance from their hell on earth. All while I sit comfortably on my sofa, wrapped in a blanket, sipping my tea, lamenting a 4 week loss of bread and jam.
I think of them. I remember that my brief sacrifice is small and ordinary. That it is optional. I remember that my hunger is temporary and laughable. My sleeplessness: a poignant reminder that at dawn and always, my heart sings with gratitude for the gifts and provisions of God.
For an apple.
And for so much more.