Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: One Bite
- What pleasures are blessing your life these days, one bite at a time?
- When have you, like the author, abstained from certain pleasures for spiritual reasons? How did you assess the impact on yourself and on others?
- What have you learned from the church, from your family, and from the cultural norms around you about pleasure? Have any of these lessons needed to be challenged?
I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But again, this also was vanity. – Ecclesiastes 2:1 (NRSV)
One year, long before the pandemic, I decided to limit sweets to once a week. I was not only defying “dadbod” and aiming for the abs of a GQ model half my age, I thought it would be a good spiritual practice – a sort of long-term Lent that would make me more self-aware and less self-indulgent.
And, on dessert days, I would only have one bite of a dessert. I figured the fleeting memory of a sweet is the same whether I take one bite or twenty. And if I ate my “one-bite-once-a-week” with outstanding mindfulness, it was as good as eating the whole pie! What a revelation!
It wasn’t so wonderful for those eating with me. Turns out, people notice how much dessert you don’t eat. My abstinence was noted after dinner with a group of ministers and their spouses. When I shared my “one-bite-once-a-week” experiment, a colleague pinched his husband’s stomach and said, “We should totally do that!” Husband’s dagger eyes made me grateful for the table between us.
While I did not get perfect abs or become super spiritual, I can tell you this: With all due respect to Ecclesiastes which sees every sensory pleasure as a fleeting vanity, denying oneself can also be vanity.
In pandemic, my kids have been baking and I’ve had more than a few bites. When so much has changed in their lives, enjoying their gifts is a tasty act of love and gratitude.
God, vanity is a sneaky devil. Help me to vanquish it with humility, gratitude and maybe another brownie.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.