When my daughter was much younger, we used to be consumed by the four man children’s group The Wiggles. We owned every one of their albums and videos. Three years in a row we went to their concerts when they passed through the area. (I am convinced the last year had nothing to do with my daughter and everything to do with my wife’s love for the group.) The Wiggles all wore different color outfits and one year we all made our own shirts, one of each color, with home made iron-on decals on the front. I’d show you the picture, but then it’d go viral, I’m pretty sure.
One of the members of the group loved to eat. That was his special ability. (He was also the thinnest member, how was that possible?) His theme song started with the words “Food, food, wonderful food, to eat forever is my favorite wish!” How lovable. Unless desire for food becomes more than just enjoying the flavors and smells.
I am overweight. Always have been. Husky. I carry it fairly well, can perform in athletics, but it is becoming more and more evident to my belt. As for food, I do love the taste. Yet, I have also always noticed that in times of relational stress or dissatisfaction that I tend to load up on the sweets, crackers and chips. Like a high-carb nervous habit.
Recently, as part of my journey inward, I took a spiritual inventory. It summed me up pretty good. Almost too good; I do hate to be typecast. While I was reading the brief outline of characteristics of my type (and feeling like I was reading some of my blog posts) I happened to notice a link to “common addictions for your type”. Not really feeling like I’m given to an addition (I’m not in a 12 step program after all), I clicked the link just so I could prove to myself that I wasn’t completely predictable. Here’s what it said…
Abusing food and over-the-counter medications. Bingeing, especially on sweets and carbohydrates. Over-eating from feeling “love-starved.”
I almost spit the Parmesan cheese crackers out of my mouth that I was eating (Pepperidge farms makes these amazing crackers with Italian herbs and four cheeses on them….oh wait, hang on, trying NOT to be predictable here). Now, while over-the-counter meds are not my thing (and I shall definitely be avoiding them), the rest is dead on bull’s eye. I abuse food, primarily when I feel love starved. Which has been often. So I’ve been on this weight roller coaster. I manage to lose some, but my relational system has not changed, so they come back (and bring friends, just like demons).
This has been an amazing internal realization for me. There is a tangible parallel between my emotional well being and my weight. God’s timing in this realization is so completely perfect.
With my spiritual advisor last week, we were talking about relationships as I approach the time of coming out of the desert. She observed that God has used this time to carve out a large empty space within me and queried as to how I was going to fill it. In the last year and a half I’ve carefully laid a foundation of God within this space. Reserving it for Him, a place for He and I to meet.
It is with caution that I need to get back into the swing of ministry. After the extended time of fasting, it would be almost expected to gorge. To try to be the friend of everyone, to try to prove myself to anyone who would notice – to take a step back into my former people-pleasing ways.
When I was describing this to my advisor, before any of this addiction to carbs chatter started, I used the image of having the choice of two plates – one filled with french fries, and the other a heaping salad – the former filled with the things that will satisfy only briefly and the latter filled with the things of God. Literally, the image I used was a foreshadow of our conversation later.
Carbs are easily digestible. They feel good; they give an instant kick; they feel comfortable. But carbs don’t nourish and they don’t satisfy. In fact, when I eat a bunch of fries or crackers or m&m cookies, I only want more. That is such a picture of the people-pleaser. People’s affirmation doesn’t nourish the soul. Pleasing people doesn’t last. It is a cycle of having to work harder to receive less and less, of eating more and more to quiet the loveless feeling.
The bridge here is my spiritual life. As I alluded to earlier, the timing of this realization is perfect (well, it is Christmas and there are lots of cookies, so it is big picture perfect). My craving for sweets can function as a thermometer for my feelings of love. A ‘love-meter’ of sorts. I can use those moments to remind myself that God loves me, Jesus died for me, the Spirit lives in me. In my weakness, God can be strong. I can continue to fill myself with the things of God rather than the images of love and approval that are the world’s and won’t last.
Am I filling up with the things of God or the Salad can be a spiritual reminder! The truth is that my relational system IS different. If for no other reason than I am different. But, it is still good to have a reminder of the discipline it takes to make good choices – with food, relationally, and spiritually. But, God’s grace gets to shine through, because when I slip and eat a chocolate covered caramel Santa, I know that God still loves no matter how I perform. Grace and effort in tension. Grace will win every time.