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How Fasting Teaches Us to Refine Our Tastes

Originally published Wednesday, 07 March 2012.


You can learn a lot about a person by what happens when he or she chooses to “go without.” This is what I’m learning these first few weeks of my Lenten fast from all things snacky and salty.

Where most people confess to having a sweet tooth, I crave salt. If I am hungry, it is the first thing I want. Sometimes, it is the only thing I’m convinced will satisfy me in the illusion painted by hunger pangs.

And it has always been a sensitive spot for me in the eyes of others. It seems so much more refined to crave chocolate, decadent whipped cream, confectioner’s sugar, all those things one might eat in the final course of a good and proper meal. People with a sweet tooth seem sweet themselves, like Audrey Hepburn, it’s in their nature.

But what does it say about a girl who can’t resist fries and ketchup? Uncontrollable cravings for sodium-powered chips and crunchy fried food seems incredibly base in comparison. To me, it feels embarrassing, especially when I love good, fresh, and whole food so much. I don’t wish to rely on or tie myself to such things.

Fasting Frustration 

But last night I wanted it all.

Zach was lounging in the other room, crunching. And I could smell the sweet chili spices of the chips he was eating, left over from a pizza and friends night over the weekend, and I could hear every soulful crunch.

So I ate a granola bar.  Lit a scented candle, put on some music, and washed the dishes, soothing my hands in the hot running water. I tried to engage my other senses. And the granola bar really did nothing but irritate me, and I had to turn up the volume to keep from hearing my husband’s snacking a yard away, but in time it was okay. Not a profound experience, or a moment of illumination, but I slept through the night and started over the next day, happy with my bowl of oatmeal.

Refining Our Taste 

I’ve been learning about this crazy thing called supernormal stimuli. First observed in the animal kingdom, this phenomenon is what causes male butterflies to choose wingless cardboard dummies as mating partners instead of the real, live females right in front of them. The scientists discovered that if the desirable characteristics are amplified on the fake mate, the male would choose the cardboard lover over a real one every time.

It’s absurd, but only as absurd as we are ourselves when we stuff ourselves with snacks or sweets, look at porn, live vicariously through movies and TV shows, the list goes on. Cardboard cut-out stand-ins for cravings which go far, far deeper.

We need to refine our taste for that which is truly good and full. There’s a feastto be had, every day, in His presence. And that’s what I’m trying to teach my stubborn body and soul during this Lenten season.

Have you ever come to a realization that you’re cravings or addictions are second-rate to what God provides? Join me at the original post at www.stephindialogue.com!