This is an appropriate, self-denying meditation for Lent. The irony is that I wrote it the year my ovarian cancer presented. I did join Weight Watchers, and I did lose weight—for awhile. Then I began to gain, which is one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. All of my worries about the high blood pressure numbers that were the "medical diagnosis" I allude to were soon engulfed in other worries. But the principle is the same.
Psalm 106 recites Israel’s cyclical history of disobedience and repentance while they were slaves in Egypt and shortly after they arrived in the Promised Land. As I read it this morning, verse 7 snagged my attention. “In Egypt they did not consider your marvelous works, nor remember the abundance of your love…” I began to wonder if that lack of consideration and remembrance is a factor in all of our various forms of bondage.
I’ve been thinking about bondage because I need to change my eating ways. Yesterday I read a favorite verse, Psalm 118:5, “I called to the LORD in my distress, the LORD answered by setting me free.” Usually when I read that verse, I give thanks for the various ways in which God has indeed set me at liberty. Yesterday I began wondering if perhaps this unwelcome medical diagnosis was a way to point out my bondage to my eating habits.
We who are euphemistically called pleasingly plump joke about being food addicts or chocoholics, meaning no disrespect to those who struggle with addictions far more deadly than what rolls out of a Hershey factory. But it’s not really funny, just as the jokes about overweight people aren’t funny. Being plump is neither pleasing nor healthy.
Perhaps some form of bondage is the inevitable result of not considering God’s works or remembering God’s love. Like many people, I’m a stress eater who turns to food for comfort. (I also turn to food to celebrate or to cure boredom or for nearly any other reason.) If I can fill up by praising or being grateful to God, the source of all good gifts, might that help me not to overeat, or to choose the wrong things to eat? What if instead of reaching for chocolate I read a psalm or prayer of thanksgiving?
This year I’m going back to Weight Watchers for Lent. The first time I joined, I was pumped; I went with a friend and we kept each other honest. Fifteen years later, it will be different. The weight is harder to get off, and the friend has moved on. But perhaps I have some tools available that I didn’t have then, perhaps my maturity will help, at least in my mind, which is where the battle to lose weight really occurs.
I’m going to spend Lent looking more intently and intentionally for God’s marvelous works and abundant love.