“Noshing” to Worry About: Food, Comfort and the God-shaped Hole

Don't these look delicious? They were sinful, I tell you! Chocolates from Blue Ridge Chocolates.
Don’t these look delicious? They were sinful, I tell you! Chocolates from Blue Ridge Chocolates.

By: Jana Greene

MMMmmmm, Christmastime. The music is lovely,  the parties are grand. The food? Well, it’s almost divine.

Almost.

As a recovering alcoholic, I save a lot of calories by not drinking (sick thought #1) but I make up for it by taking part in food festivities.  Savory dips piled high on crackers, sugary cookies and cakes. If it arrives in a crock pot, it’s simmering on borrowed time. Anything with a cream-cheese base? Yes, please!

The problem is – if I’m honest – is that I need to admit a little secret:  making food a centerpiece in my life is not just a holiday phenomenon. And I have the pounds to prove it.

I worry about my issues with food because I see a pattern emerging. A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my closet, and within moments I found the first Hershey bar. I had hidden it in an otherwise empty shoebox, a single candy under tissue paper. Working my way under some random papers stacked on a closet shelf, I found another Hershey bar and at the bottom of the stack? Another one., and another. The last one was under an old Pittsburgh Steelers blanket behind some more boxes.

I have had issues with food all my life. From hating to eat as a child, becoming a full-on “foodie” as an adult. When I went through a painful divorce several years ago, I lived on Diet Coke and cigarettes, losing 80 pounds. To be truthful, it felt pretty good to have some measure of control over something going on. The cycle has repeated over and over: starving myself for a little while because I don’t like what I see, bingeing to fill up and comfort.  It was the kind of hidden behavior that I just didn’t want to “discuss” with myself (also known as “denial)  But now – here in a tangible intervention, was evidence bold on brown wrappers: H.E.R.S.H.E.Y.

All told, there were 11  chocolate bars hidden in strange places in my closet.There is a big difference between using food as a treat and an anesthetic.  I am very emotional about food (and dern near everything else) but usually not to the point of crying. This time, there were tears.

The candy had been stashed individually over the course of months, because chocolate is my comfort food and having three young adult daughters, someone is ALWAYS PMS’ing at my house, looking for this anesthetic for the symptoms. So I hide it. Because when I am jonesing for chocolate, I am really jonesing for chocolate, you know? I am the mother in this house and don’t I deserve chocolate for putting up with everyone? I can quit any time I want! I’ll quit for the New Year and get in shape…you’ll see! What’s the big deal?

See? Emotional.  Hershey bars should not be that powerful of an emotional trigger. Also, while I’m being real here, hoarding food is a related compulsion I struggle with. But that is a blog post for another day.

Do I remember hiding the chocolate? Not really. It is something I did  kind of automatically. Go to the store for milk and eggs, pick up an extra chocolate to hide.  When I get especially stressed out, I go buy more chocolate at the store and sooth myself the Hershey Way and it seems harmless enough. Except like some people can’t “just eat one” potato chip, I almost never “just eat one” chocolate bar. Here’s the secret: The second bar I like to enjoy in private – and that’s really embarrassing to admit. Sometimes it is more than two.  I’m ashamed, even for my husband to know. Why does all this seem SO familiar?

Ah, yes.

Right before I got sober, I was terribly sick. The first glass of wine, I would drink in front of other people, but the second….seventh…..tenth? I “enjoyed” those alone, ashamed. I had boxes of wine stashed in secret places all over the house, because there was never enough. What if I ran out? Dang it, I am an adult and it’s just WINE for Pete’s sake, and don’t I deserve a little something for putting up with everyone? I can quit any time I want! I’ll quit for the New Year and stay sober, you’ll see! What’s the big deal?

The big deal was that I’d forgotten that the void requiring filling was not shaped like a bottle or box of Chardonnay. The hole is not shaped like a Hershey bar. It is a God-shaped place that, in times of stress and need and worry and peace, can only be filled by Christ. It’s not “just a treat” if you are tormented by it.

Run first to Him, and away from things done in secret. There is no shame in Him; no room for condemnation. Love conquers sick thoughts #’s one through one-billiion.  Love fills up the void, and I know that already. That’s the thing about life on this planet: I will struggle with SOMETHING until the undertaker is throwing dirt in my face. You will too. But oh, the grace that God offers us strugglers!

That – the sweetest of things – I don’t need to hoard or hide.  It flows constantly and with such force that it spills over into other spaces and can’t be contained. Kind of like my belly over the waistband of my jeans right now. (Hey, it’s important to keep a sense of humor!)

Jesus as the centerpiece of my life, First. Jesus consulted before food or drink or even friends – renewable comfort, available. I just have to ask for it.

Now, that is truly divine.