“No you can’t eat that before your meal. It will ruin your appetite.”
You moms know. You’ve said it a thousand times. Certain foods will change the appetite and even in the presence of real hunger, those sweet, empty-nutrient foods can trick you into feeling full when really you’re still empty.
This is what Lent is about for me – identifying the appetite suppressants in my life and weeding them out for a season. She says we break away to become and it’s true about appetites, too. Sometimes you have to take away the food that makes you fake-full in order to realize how hungry you are for what your body really needs.
And so it is with our spirits. At least mine tends to act this way. There are several things in my life that are mostly empty calories when it comes to Jesus. They make me feel full and happy and content, but they’re fakers. The biggest one is TV. Nothing takes away my appetite to spend time with Him like the temptation to press “Watch Next Episode”. There, I admitted it. And it makes me so sad.
TV is what I’ll be giving up for lent, fo sho. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
But let me tell you something about appetite suppressants that has changed the way I do Lent (and, ironically, makes me want to do Lent all year ’round) because understanding this little truth put the joy back into discipline for me. Physical appetite suppressants like sugar and carbs and dark chocolate are not inherently bad, but when we consume them at unhealthy times or in unhealthy amounts, the effect they have can be very bad.
In the same way, spiritual appetite suppressants are things that, in most cases, were created by God for our enjoyment. Entertainment is not bad. Often it brings us joy and our good Father loves to watch us experience joy. But, entertainment (or any other created thing) consumed at unhealthy times or in unhealthy amounts is what tricks us into thinking we’re full of joy when really we’ve only experienced a tiny taste of the joy we were created for. If God’s good gifts are consumed in excess, they leave us wanting more of them. If they’re consumed rightly, they leave us wanting more of Him.
So for me, Lent has become the discipline of recalibrating my appetite to appreciate God’s gifts in a way that still sets me up to be hungry for Him. It’s not about making extreme cuts. It’s not about beating myself up. It’s not about seeing God as a Father who wishes less on his children, but rather a God who wants to give us so much more of Himself that sometimes he has to clear away a little bit of our extra to give us some essential. So it’s about letting go of the extra – the excess – and dialing back to mostly the essentials for a while.
This is how I remember what I was created for. We know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings – and one of the ways we can do that habitually in this season is by choosing to dial back on some of the things we enjoy for the sake of knowing Him – of growing our heart’s appetite for Him. So this year, my thing is TV.
But when it comes to Lent (or any other globally accepted expectation for Christian behavior), I have to be careful. I tend to fall into a legalistic and cynical view of religion, so Lent can be a dangerous time for me. It’s a struggle for me to remember to make Lent about Who and not about the ever-oppresive “what”.
So, I’ll be “giving up” TV this season – in that I’ll be watching a lot less. But in the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that I’m watching Downton Abbey as I type. Because one of the other things I’m giving up for Lent is legalism.
Does this ring true for you, too?
What is your big appetite suppressant?
What does Lent look like for you this year?