As some of you may know, Kyle and I gave up sweets for lent this year. We were both feeling the need to eat better, and felt ready to cut out a lot of the sugar we (and the kids) had been eating. Furthermore, we discussed how self-control is easily the fruit of the spirit least-practiced in our house, and that it would be a good physical and spiritual challenge for us. Doing it together made it easier, since neither of us would be parading dessert around in front of the other.
We got off to a bummer of a start, as on Ash Wednesday dinner at our church included fabulous-looking turtle cheesecake left over from the Valentine's banquet. Someone had calculated that there would be just enough slices for each adult at our Wednesday-night meal, and so we were asked, over and over by platter-wielding church ladies, whether we'd gotten our pieces yet. By the end of the night, practically the entire congregation had heard me announce that we were not eating sweets this lent, which is unfortunate considering I'd been thinking we should not be all forward and braggy about our commitment.
But it turns out that this was really the most difficult night, and that the whole six weeks or so were much, much easier than I'd thought they would be. We had some debates, like the "is a muffin considered a sweet" conversation (Kyle says no, and I say yes unless it's maybe a bran muffin), and some near-forgets at the beginning, but I can actually say that I didn't really even feel deprived. We even each lost a few pounds.
And lest I sound too proud of myself, let me admit that in October I "gave up" eating fast food, but have not had the success that I had with sweets during lent. I still want to allow the kids a Happy Meal once in a while, or I'm on a road trip with another person driving and there are no other non-fast-food (slow food?) options at that highway exit... And, though I've really minimized my fast-food eating, it has been much more difficult and much less absolute than this was. Maybe I've had the holy spirit interceding for me with the sweets, or maybe there is nothing like having God watching you to keep you accountable ALL THE TIME.
So that leaves me in my current state: regret over having to give up giving up sweets. Now a rational person might point out that I could continue giving up sweets any time I want to, and that if need be I could even make another formal commitment to God or myself or Kyle or whatever. But I know that it just won't be the same. There is something about knowing I am participating in a set period of sacrifice, with a finite end, along with many, many other people everywhere. And for a moment I can really understand Catholicism or other denominations that are more focused on corporate traditions than my own church. Something about the solidarity of being a part of a group makes me feel more accountable, like I can't renegotiate the rules when things get difficult.
For now, I am looking forward to enjoying a doughnut and a cup of black coffee (best combination ever) at our church's Easter breakfast. After that, who knows? Maybe I'll find a way to not give up giving up.