O Me of Little Restraint. Or: How to Avoid Humdrum

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“… a feast is only fully enjoyable if you are hungry. The emptying is essential to the filling.”

You should never shop on an empty stomach and you shouldn’t write about feasting on one either. I’m starving.

I’ve been battling the excess bulge of post-baby land and it’s a killer. Perhaps it’s because my schedule was crazy full and my pregnancy was hard–or maybe it’s just because in old age you give yourself more license. Whatever it was, I fed myself in fistfuls. I went a little nuts. And a few things happened:

I got a lot bigger. Forty-two pounds to be exact. Yikes.

The other thing that happened? A dulling of my senses.

The things I used to salivate over began to feel “normal” in their appeal. My appetite, although increasing, was simply becoming bigger, not wider.

This reminded me of a trip I took with a wealthy friend to a resort that was deeply incredible and yet, because of the common reality of it in her life, was also vanilla instead of chocolate. Let me explain:

I used to have a favourite spot at the beach. I’d somehow manage to find free parking and then lug all my things down a steep hill and across a sand dune to lay out in the most pristinely beautiful private beachfront ever–or at least it felt like that. I would spend all that energy getting there–all that effort with no money–and yet when I got there, I would indulge. It was a feast for my senses–beautiful, rich and full.

But years later, I’m at this resort and we book special padded chairs on a remote beach and order drinks to be served an hour into the time. The towels are there in advance and it was a bit like a postcard or some crazy movie scene and the whole thing was incredible and also not so much. I kept hearing my friend complain that this chair wasn’t as good as it could have been–that the décor of the place left something to be desired … that the towels should have been softer or larger, etc. And the trip began to lose its colour–it left me, well, rather empty.

During this trip I started to realize something: a feast is only fully enjoyable if you are hungry. The “emptying” is essential to the filling.

If you simply stuff yourself day after day with everything you’ve ever wanted, you are just eating more and more food and even the things you used to love indulging in, become humdrum. It becomes everyday.

If you have every pleasurable thing you want without longing or thirsting or striving or trying or struggle–you have no real place to put it–you can’t really enjoy it.”

My friend, at the resort was left to try and compare this pleasurable encounter with every other one she had already had and it left the whole thing–bland. It’s like colour gets muted when it’s all you see every day.

Feasting without the hunger, filling without the empty–is kind of like what the Bible talks about in Philippians when it describes a kind of depravity that makes our stomachs god. We are left empty, instead of full.

So, I’m embracing a little self-denial in the hope of feasting again. A little emptying so I can really be filled. A hunger, so the feast will really satisfy. I know it sounds crazy, but I’d like to put the colour back in eating. Restraint for the joy of indulgence. If we are called to feast–let’s feast in living colour.

_____________________

Image credit: Doughnut, by D. Sharon Pruitt

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Danielle Strickland
Danielle serves Jesus as the Corps Officer of Crossroads Community in Edmonton, Canada. Her passion is social justice, including establishing human trafficking response teams in local situations and giving leadership to the global team for the Stop The Traffik campaign. Danielle speaks and teaches around the world and has written several books: Just Imagine: the social justice agenda, Challenging Evil and The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women. Danielle is married and has three sons.
Danielle Strickland

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Danielle Strickland
  • I’m in a period of emptying and I find it to be a bit of a grieving process, all of this stripping down and letting go that prepares us, hungers us for the next. It’s good to hear your stomach growl, good, maybe, to hear your spirit growl too, until . . .? But, God is good in the meantime with these little scraps and crumbs, the meals that multiply. Thank you for the reminder that there’s meaning in this time of fallow ground too.

  • Filling without the empty – YES! That’s the joy and pain concept I’ve been trying to articulate. I love this image. Thank-you!