My friend Hannah recently wrote a really interesting blog post about sugar. About how it functions in the depths of our hearts as a Comforter. And after a couple of weeks on Pinterest, which I equally love and hate, I have realized that the whole thing is really an interesting view into the hearts of women. What we crave, what we long for, what we want to fill ourselves with. And like 90% of the food pictures are desserts, right? And mostly chocolate? (Of course, we didn’t need Pinterest to tell us that women love chocolate, but it’s just interesting how desserts are such a central figure in that arena.)
So anyway, my friend Hannah mentions a friend of hers who decided to give up sugar for a month, and more so for spiritual reasons than health reasons, (although there are plenty of health reason to eat less sugar). The idea of this little fast is that, by limiting yourself in a certain way, you open up a little more space in your heart for God.
As Augustine says in the first paragraph of the Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our souls find no rest, until they find their rest in thee.” Our restless souls are continually trying to find rest elsewhere. We are hungry for beauty and peace and comfort, and we cram ourselves with images on Pinterest or Facebook or blogs, if not with the actual chocolate chip Nutella cookie dough cupcakes we saw on Pinterest and had to try.
Anyway, I think I’m going to join my friend Hannah in a month-long sugar fast (including honey, agave nectar and other natural sweeteners, and splenda and other unnatural sweeteners). And some kind of computer fast as well, which is connected with it, but I’m not sure what that’s going to look like.
But in thinking about a fast of this nature, I have to mention a beautiful article written by my former ethics professor, Amy Laura Hall, called “Eating Chocolate for Lent.” It’s about how women typically are so, so disciplined, constantly punishing our bodies for this, that, and the other, constantly hungry (looking at pictures of desserts on Pinterest but never actually eating them)… and how eating chocolate can be a form of receiving grace and rest during Lent.
She wonders if maybe evangelical pastors might call their churches to unusual fasts during Lent:
“Will pastors recommend to the men in their congregation that they wash all the dishes every day during Lent, even if this means that they will have to wake up a bit earlier and go to bed a bit later…? Will they recommend that women in their congregation risk the appearance of sloth by taking a bubble bath rather than fast?”
Anyway, I meant to write a whole thing about how glorious it would be to fast from sugar, and I am still planning to do it. But I think the deeper issue is really: what is your heart captivated by, enamored with? What kinds of pictures on the internet send pangs of desire and longing through your soul? It could be wedding dresses or anthropologie clothes or beautifully photographed natural food or porn. I think in some ways they all fill the same function in our hearts, the images we drink in greedily with our eyes become lodged inside us, and change us.
And the beautiful thing is that those desires of ours are not bad in themselves; they point us to our destination. Those longings show us what we were made for. Simone Weil says, “We have all those impossible desires within us as a mark of our destination” (Waiting for God, 74). The desires for the perfect home, gorgeous clothes, delicious food, the wedding of all weddings… They’re impossible desires. But they point us to the horizon of our existence, beyond which lies the Wedding, the Feast, the Home, the Love. Our souls were made for an infinitely beautiful home, an eternal wedding, an unending feast, silk dresses and pearls. And mostly, most of all, for Someone who loves us most of all (with a love that is better than any kind of sugar).
p.s.– It may be worth looking into the issue of chocolate and child slavery. Read this BBC article on the subject…