Wow. Yesterday was my second biggest day on the blog of all time. Thank you so much, everybody! I guess 7 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage really resonated.
If you’re here because you loved that post, and you’ve only just met me, a great place to go for a roundup of all my marriage posts is here. And if you join my Facebook Page, you’ll see more of my quirkiness.
Today I want to share a personal struggle with you.
Our family started practising (is that the right word?) Lent about a decade ago. I’ve spent many years in an Anglican church, and I always liked the tradition: you decide to forego something for the forty days leading up to Easter, and it helps you focus on the message of the season and recognize your need for Jesus.
In the past I’ve given up Facebook or TV because they take my time away from God, or I’ve added something–like a 15 minute prayer block every morning.
This year I read a tweet right before Lent by a good friend who said,
“Lent should not be a Christian version of New Year’s Resolutions”
and I think she’s so right. Last month I originally thought I’d give up Diet Pepsi for Lent, but when I thought about it, I realized I only wanted to because I’ve been trying to quit the stuff for years, and maybe I just needed some added motivation! That didn’t seem like the right attitude.
So my girls and I together (it was really my youngest daughter’s decision, but we all went along with it) decided to forego desserts. That sounded reasonable, because there’s no way I’m quitting desserts permanently. Absolutely. No. Way. So this isn’t like a New Year’s Resolution, since I have no intention of keeping it beyond Easter. But desserts are something that I enjoy. And so the craving for a dessert would prompt us to pray. That would keep me running to God to meet my needs, rather than food.
I haven’t had any desserts in over a week now. And I’m not even that grumpy! I’ve realized that I often turn to desserts when other things–including God–would satisfy.
I know not all of you observe Lent, but I just want to share what I’ve learned, because I think it’s applicable to all of us.
I do have a sweet tooth. I always have. But I find that I never crave dessert after dinner. I crave dessert in the morning (leftover chocolate cake for breakfast? Bring it on!) I crave dessert in the mid-afternoon, around 3. And I crave dessert around 11:30.
And I realized: I crave dessert when I’m hungry.
Maybe that doesn’t sound so revolutionary to you, but this was actually quite an insight for me. I don’t actually crave the sweet stuff when I’m full, after I’ve just had a good meal. I only crave it when I haven’t been treating my body well. Maybe I’m thirsty, or I haven’t eaten well that day, or I haven’t been bothered to make a nice lunch.
During Lent, then, one thing that God’s been helping me to see is that taking better care of myself is an important thing. Being disciplined about eating well, and throughout the day, helps me be more productive and more at peace. And when I can’t reach for the chocolate, I want to try to minimize those temptations as much as I can!
But there’s something else that’s deeper, that’s really what I’ve been thinking about, and it’s this:
Perhaps the reasons we crave the shallow substitutes of the real thing is that we don’t put enough effort into making sure we have the real thing.
Why do we crave watching inane shows on TV all the time? Maybe it’s because we haven’t put enough effort into creating fun family nights that actually do satisfy. Why do we crave playing on Facebook for two hours? Maybe it’s because we haven’t put enough of an effort into building a friendship with our husbands so that we would actually want to do something fun with him. Why do we crave praise from other people, and go to pieces when we don’t get it? Maybe it’s because we haven’t put enough time into just listening to what God has to say to us.
Or, one of the ones I talk about at length, why do we crave a shallow version of sex, rather than a truly intimate one? Maybe it’s because we’ve never taken the time to experience how wonderful sex can be when it’s about more than just the physical.
When I’m full of stuff that’s good for me, I don’t even notice missing sweets. When we are nurturing our friendship with our spouse, spending time with God and listening to His voice, and playing games and laughing with our children, we won’t be so tempted towards time wasters. We’ll feel the difference. We’ll start to crave the things that actually satisfy.
If you don’t feel satisfied in your life right now, and you are craving the more “shallow” things, maybe that’s God’s way of gently telling you that your balance is out of whack. You aren’t spending enough time on the truly important things.
That’s what I’m learning from this Lent: fill myself up with the things that truly satisfy, and the annoying cravings honestly do go away. But the responsibility lies with me first to seek out those things that truly do satisfy.
So seek out God. Seek out true intimacy with your husband. Laugh with your children. Don’t spend your life on logistics, on rushing, on errands. Actually live. It’s so much better!
Do you observe Lent? Tell me about it in the comments!