Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
Every year I agonize a bit over what I will do or give up for Lent. I earnestly want to take the opportunity during this set-aside time to draw a little closer to God, to “fix my eyes on Him.”
So this year, I decided to go back to my childhood roots of abstinence and fasting. This simplified the “big decision” for me. I would abstain from meat on Fridays and take it one step further by fasting from Thursday evening till Friday evening.
I figured this wouldn’t be so hard. I fasted on Ash Wednesday and then again that first Friday of Lent. When I felt those gnawing hunger pangs, I did talk to God. And I got through those days fairly easily, with a little more focus on God than usual.
But by the second Friday, I woke up feeling a little blue. I felt bored, restless, even a little despairing! Hmmm…what was this? I spent a little quiet time with God, not paying too much attention to my mood, or funk, or whatever it was. But the feelings didn’t go away.
Suddenly, like an epiphany of sorts, I realized, “Oh…I’m mourning.” Now in light of my beloved father’s recent death, you might think I was mourning the loss of my dad. And I am, all the time on a certain level. But this was different. And it hit me like a ton of ugly reality bricks.
I was mourning the loss of my friend, my companion (I really hate to admit this), my borderline obsession, FOOD. Ugh! It’s true.
It dawned on me by about 10:00 in the morning that I was missing the constant flow of thoughts that run through my mind. “Hmmm…what do I feel like for breakfast? A multigrain bagel? No, too many carbs. How about a Greek yogurt with some granola and fruit? No. Not in the mood. Oh, I know, I feel like a flatbread breakfast sandwich—one piece of Taylor Ham, an egg, and just a sprinkling of sharp cheddar.”
Then the thoughts lead to a sense of anticipation. “Okay…I’ll go down to the kitchen. Maybe I should get my coffee first. Or maybe I should have a grapefruit or an orange to start things off on a healthy note…”
I take satisfaction even just thinking about the preparation and the enjoyment of consumption. And on this goes. From meal to meal. From day to day. From week to week.
I must admit, I was shocked at my realization. Food had truly taken over a much too large portion of my brain. It was “eating” away at my thoughts, occupying my energy. I was getting a sense of promise, excitement and, perhaps, hope from this single-minded focus.
During the period of about 18 hours that I couldn’t fixate on food, I was glum, disenchanted, sad, lost.
Oh yes, now I see it was a very good thing to give up food for a few hours a week. It made me realize my thoughts were captive to food instead of Christ. And I am thankful that God, in His mercy, used this opportunity to point this out.
Now it’s just a little over a week after Easter. I wish I could say I am forever healed of my food obsession. I’m not…but I am aware and I see there is a problem here. And isn’t that the first step? With hope in God’s power to heal and to help, I press on.
How about you? What is your mind captivated by? Worry…food…fun…shopping…the next cigarette…or anger over being mistreated? Bottom line, is your mind focused on what you want it to be focused on?