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 COVID-19, 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.