A couple months ago, the associate pastor at our church announced that he would be taking three months off to go to Mexico.
Now, before you sigh with envy and work to squelch your urge to covet, Fr. Pablo isn’t off to bask in the luxury of taskless relaxation in Cabo. On the contrary, Fr. Pablo is probably working harder than he ever has, seminary studies included. You see, Fr. Pablo is currently facing his personal struggle with food by participating in a health management boot camp of sorts.
The bulletin announcement, written by Fr. Pablo himself, explained that, during a recent doctor’s visit, the M.D. was coming up with all sorts of excuses for Fr. Pablo’s health concerns. The doctor, in his attempts to be kind and “sensitive” to Fr.’s feelings, failed to address the proverbial elephant in the room, which was Fr. Pablo’s dangerous weight as the cause for his various ailments.
After reading the announcement, I was so proud of Fr. Pablo. Proud of him for confronting his demons. Proud of him for being courageous enough to share his struggles with us. Proud of him for knowing that these struggles, once overcome, would help him to better-attend to his vocation.
I also felt a bit convicted by Fr. Pablo’s forthrightness, to be honest. You see, God has been talking to me about my health for some time now. While pregnant with and nursing my three children over the past 6 years, I had given myself permission to not monitor my food intake. “Oh, I’m eating for two,” I’d say, rationalizing the extra helping of dessert or bread or whatever. I wasn’t really thinking of the baby’s – or my own – real needs. I was thinking of my how good it felt to eat three or more scoops of ice cream or some other dessert on a regular basis.
Only, it wasn’t really feeling good anymore. Small allowances became habits, and then cravings. I’d overeat, then hate myself for doing it, then eat to make myself feel better, only to start the cycle all over again.
This spring, I was hospitalized several times due to complications from kidney stones. I had two procedures and missed about a month of my “regular” life. Mercifully, I was able to recognize these incidences as a gift from God – a clear sign to change my unhealthy ways. I needed a better diet, more water, and more exercise. Sure, I tried for a while to “do better” (perhaps a week or two), but inevitably, I slipped back to old habits and probably caused God to give Himself an open-palmed slap to the forehead while rolling His eyes.
I saw Fr. Pablo’s commitment as a new opportunity for conversion. I reasoned that if Fr. Pablo could make some changes in his life, so could I. To my husband’s overwhelming delight (he’s been on my case for years), I decided to give up sugar as a sign of solidarity with and support for Fr. Pablo. No sugar means: no dessert, no sugary snacks, no soda, no sugary coffee drinks (AK!), etc. Every time I think of sugar, desire sugar, am around or in close proximity of sugar, etc., I pray for Fr. Pablo’s success in his endeavor to win his health back. I also pray that with each small “no,” God will help me detach myself from, truly, a relationship that had become disordered.
“Great timing,” an acquaintance said, when I explained my plans. “Do you understand you’ll be going through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas? That means no Halloween candy, no pumpkin or apple pie, no candy canes or sugar cookies or fudge?” She looked at me like I was crazy. She laughed as she added, “Let me remember you the way you were,” implying that there was no way I’d be happy without chocolate.
Well, it’s been 36 days so far. Halloween, with its bowls of Reese’s peanut butter cups and Tootsie rolls has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I wish I could say that saying “no” to sugar has become easier. I wish I could also say that I have lost 20 pounds. I CAN say, though, that I think I have more energy now to chase my kids around. And I think my complexion might have improved. More importantly, I know that with God’s help and by His grace, I can use my small sacrifices to help another. And I CAN overcome anything through Christ who strengthens me – even sugar.