‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ Jesus
‘Is there anything a donut cannot do?’ Homer Simpson
Although I believe there is more to life than food, Homer’s words speak to my soul. Not only do I love a crispy crème donut, I am also equally partial to biscuits, chocolate, a nice glass of wine and I am particularly fond of a slab of home-made cake.
Food makes me happy
I have never understood people who see food as simply functional: fuel for the body. For me, eating is an emotional experience. Food makes me happy. When stressed, tired or bored, there is nothing like a treat to pick me up emotionally. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, what worries me is that when I try to eat more healthily and resist certain foods, I find I sabotage my attempts because I can’t say no to treats.
The problem was made even clearer when I decided to give up cakes, biscuits, chocolate and wine for Lent. Only two days in, I found myself raiding the fridge and furtively eating my son’s curly-wurly bar!
Prayerfully, I have set about resisting treats and exploring why I have such a strong need for them. Why do I have so little self-control?
‘Blessed are you are hungry now’
In Luke 6, Jesus says ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.’ What does he mean? My experience this Lent is that being hungry has opened up space for a different kind of satisfaction. I am still eating healthily but I am not sated and sedated by treats and wine.
I love the image in the film ‘The Matrix’ of the cocooned bodies, wired up, receiving all they need in terms of sustenance but completely cut off from reality. Freud would say that we escape unpleasant emotions by intoxicating ourselves.
To a small extent, this is what treats do for me. By giving them up, I have opened myself up to a slice of reality. Halfway through Lent, these are some of my reflections:
1) More aware of my emotions of boredom, anxiety and stress, I have turned to prayer more and have found solace and help in God
2) Less often slightly merry on wine, I have had deeper conversations with friends at social occasions
3) Not nicely sedated in the evenings by a lovely cocktail of food, wine and telly, I have read more and had more time to devote to my college course.
4) Lastly, something else that is harder to put into words has occurred. Feeling hungry for something that I can’t have has made me feel more alert, more energetic and more aware of life. Life feels more raw and vital.
Can I have my cake and eat it?
I am one of a small percentage of the world’s population that never needs to be hungry. More than that, I can indulge myself with treats on a daily basis. But can I have my cake and eat it? Can I float through life slightly sedated and still experience the alertness to my own emotions, the desire to pray and an awareness of others’ needs. Perhaps not.
Hopefully I will emerge from Lent with enough self- control to not eat chocolate that belongs to small children. More than that, I hope I can continue to find space to feel hungry.
This is a guest post written by Nikki Kuhrt
1 thought on “Having my cake and eating it: a Lent reflection – by Nikki Kuhrt”
Having decided to do a Lent reading course instead of giving something up, I’ve found myself quite challenged by listening to people who have given things up. I read an interview with Martin Clunes, who has been on the Fasting diet for a couple of years, and who said that it was actually a good thing to feel hungry. I spoke to a Muslim girl at the school where I work who talked about her experience of fasting during Ramadan, and who said that fasting helped her to identify with those who didn’t have enough to eat. Finally, I began to feel that my commitment to chocolate needed to be challenged (even fairtrade chocolate!) I have read Nikki’s article with interest and enjoyment.
I am now planning to give up chocolate next Lent, and my headteacher has said that if I do , she will. Watch this space…