Sugar as an Old Friend
Sugar has always been a friend to me. As a little girl, I can remember watching my mom unload the grocery bags and trying to be subtle while scanning through the plastic, hoping that she had shopped while hungry. Then the joy upon seeing a box of Hostess Ding Dongs peeking through the sack and thinking “Today is a good day!”
Dessert always meant to expect something special: a birthday, a holiday, or friends coming over for Sunday lunch or weekend barbecue. It was always a highlight, a way to make a shared experience even more enjoyable. I grew to love the whir-r-r-r of the magical electric ice cream maker, and have many wonderful memories wrapped up in that one dessert. Memories of family and friends in our home, out on the back deck on a warm summer night, just watching my parents love these people by serving them what they loved…homemade Butterfinger ice cream. It’s still the best.
As my sister and I got older, a snack basket was added to our little kitchen in the basement that my parents would keep stocked to try to encourage our high school friends to hang out at our house. Sugary treats was their way to say “we care about you…you’re always welcome here”. It worked a lot of the time and I’ve always appreciated that small gesture that my parents thought was worth the investment.
I eventually met and married a man whose love for dessert has no rival, at least in my experience. So, of course, dessert was the obvious avenue to love and serve him and through which to create our own wonderful memories. We have enjoyed it together for almost 18 years and have successfully passed our love for dessert down to our children.
From Friend to Master
But something shifted in my relationship with sugar that God started bringing to my attention a few years ago. He tenderly revealed that I was using sugar to feel good. That in my desire to reproduce my childhood feelings of excitement and joy that came with the expectation of a special event, that I was turning to sugar in any given moment to get that feeling. It could just be a regular Tuesday, nothing special about it, but I would NEED to make a run to McDonald’s to get a Coke to FEEL better. (Listen, it truly is the best Coke in the world…I don’t know why it’s different than the rest, it just is.) Or, I would NEED to go get Slurpees after dinner. You know, to break up the monotony and just have fun as a family. The Lord started giving me clarity about how often I was satisfying this need, usually without question. Clarity that started looking and sounding like the actual truth that I was consistently satisfying my flesh when it came to the area of sugar and very rarely exercising self-control. Bottom line: I was letting sugar have dominion over me.
Of course, clarity and knowledge about something doesn’t automatically bring about the desired change. Steps have to be taken, habits have to be analyzed, and strongholds have to be broken to make actual change. And, sometimes, when the change is a hard one, one not easily conquered, the clarity and knowledge just start to bring shame. So, I started cycling through the shame game, which by-the-way, is never the process the Lord uses to bring about change in our lives. Shame and condemnation is always a preferred strategy of the enemy.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1
I would cycle through a series of trying to will myself to do better and exercise more self-control, then something would happen (good or bad) and I would want to celebrate with dessert, or use sugar to exchange my bad feelings for good ones. Then, usually, that one regression would cause me to fall off the good intentions wagon entirely and go back to trying to find life and joy through the experience of sweets. This would last until the shame of my lack of control would lead me back to willing myself to do better and on, and on, and on. I would experience some successful periods of time where I seemed to be getting victory, but eventually, I would give in to the comfort of my old friend.
The Laying Down of Sugar
So, on that fateful walk, early in January, when I knew God was calling me to battle against some things that had been weighing me down…I had no doubt that sugar would be one of my biggest foes. Because of past experience, I knew that it wasn’t going to be an issue of balance or something I was going to try to manage. Failure had taught me that. My only recourse, my only success, was going to come from cutting it out altogether. I had to fast from sugar.
I knew that I had to remove sugar as any kind of option in my mind so that when my feelings or flesh started telling me I needed something to feel better, I had already purposed and decided in my heart (and declared it to you all online) that sugar was not the answer to my NEED. That sugar would not satisfy me. That shame was no longer a game I was willing to play, and only the Lord was going to have dominion over me. I was going to walk in the truth, moment by moment, craving by craving, that only Jesus has the power to satisfy my needs and change my feelings.
So, a few days before March began, I declared to my family that I would be fasting from sugar for the whole month. My daughter’s eyes grew to the size of silver dollars in fear that I was going to be requiring this of the whole family. I saw my fear reflected in her eyes. But can I tell you what else I felt in that moment? Excitement and peace. Excitement in moving forward and hopefully past something that had been a source of failure and shame for too long. And peace in knowing that God was pleased in my sacrifice. That because I’d found Him so satisfying with February’s fast of no TV, I knew He would not disappoint.
Listen friend, I’m not going to sugar coat it (HA!)… it was a hard month. The cravings were still there, the taste for sweets still on my tongue. I really didn’t want my family to make great changes to their habits and routine because of my decision because I wanted the struggle to be normal, in real life situations. We did go get ice cream with friends and I would sit and watch everyone enjoy their treats. I missed out on Saturday morning donut runs and getting my favorite Starbucks drink when meeting a friend. I did feel it in those moments, a bit of sadness for myself. But honestly, the satisfaction I felt each time I exercised the muscle of self-control, it brought me out of the pity. This fruit of the Spirit that I knew I had, but which felt hidden, was now blossoming and growing and it felt good. No shame in sight.
I still had my moments. Moments where I felt in need of something to make me happy, to mask the mundane, or help me celebrate. My desire was to try to make the Word my first go-to when feeling it. Many times I was successful, but other times I would lose myself in my phone to try to forget the desire for sugar. Other times it was a walk with praise music or a hard run to try to appreciate and care for this body that I’ve been given. The process wasn’t and still isn’t perfect, but I don’t feel like I’m carrying this unnecessary weight around anymore.
Moving Forward with Sugar
Easter Sunday, April 1st, the fast ended and I had a really difficult three days afterward. I made the mistake of not planning and purposing how I was going to move forward after the fast ended, so the indecision and pull of the old friend of sugar was warring inside of me. I made desserts for the family to enjoy for Easter, there was so much Easter candy, and I felt a McDonald’s Coke calling my name. It was too much for me and by April 3rd I was miserable and knew I had to give control back to the Lord in order to keep the ground that we had won together over the last month. Some things we battle for a time, and some things we battle for life. I think exercising self-control is one of those lifelong battles. I’m not declaring an indefinite sugar fast, but for now, I’ve taken it off the table except for truly special moments. And it feels good, it feels like growth on my journey to living free.
It feels like one less weight around my neck as I try to run this race that has been set before me. And with each thing I surrender and lay down, I feel my speed picking up as God keeps revealing Himself and revealing more plans for my future. I don’t think that’s just coincidence. I know it’s not. I know this is His process of sanctifying me, of sanctifying all of His children. To encourage us to hand Him the empty, worthless things we cling to so tightly that are robbing us of being filled with Him, the Life-giver, every day. As we hand these weights off to Him, He sets us free to run, filling us with His passion, fueling us with His purpose. And guess what? When we’re filled up with the passion of the Spirit and fueled by the energy of His purpose, no one can stop us!
So friend, this is why WE MUST BATTLE. It’s in the battle against our flesh and the enemy that we find the truest life, the everlasting life, that only Jesus can provide. Maybe it’s not sugar for you, but whatever your “weight”, please hear me tenderly say…YOU MUST BATTLE! And sister, don’t delay! Because, frankly, our future, the one God planned for you and for me for His kingdom purpose…it’s at stake!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly! John 10:10
April Battle: A Focus of Prayer:
For the month of April I’ll be adding to each day a 30-minute focus of prayer.