Odd title, I know. That’s the point. I am fully aware that there is consensus that diabetes is never “cured” as such. If I began eating in way that spikes my blood sugar, all the complications will come back. So I am in a state usually called “managed.” I happen to like the term “remission.”
For Catholic and Mainline Protestant Christians, Lent begins today with Ash Wednesday. Even those who do not practice our faith will have a vague familiarity with the idea of people giving up something for Lent. The popular conception of this discipline is usually about food. One year I gave up cheese for Lent. Many give up chocolate. In fact, the tradition of Easter candy was really born out of the common self-discipline of giving up rich foods during Lent. The Mardi Gras tradition was begun as a last-hurrah before the fasting time.
But let’s be honest about the modern Western decadent mentality: There is never a fast time. There is never a time that isn’t about overindulgence and partying. Mardi Gras has grown into a full-blown season in many locations. Its practitioners go overboard not in anticipation of a humble, reflective, self-sacrificing 40 days…. but in anticipation of doing it again next weekend.
As a spiritual practice, my understand of Lenten discipline has really evolved in my time as a pastor. While I think there is definitely a place for personal piety practices like giving up a thing, it is not, by itself, the goal of Lenten discipline. Being self-sacrificing will only mean something if it reaches out to the “other” in service or charity. What good does it do the world if I refrain from my morning $5 coffee drink? It does good if I then redirect that money I didn’t spend to help others. This is the focus I like to support: give up from yourself for the sake of giving to others.
Another pattern that I like to harp on is this: if it’s something you should give up in your life anyway, don’t just make it a Lenten thing. It’s like going on a diet to reach a goal weight, then “quitting” the diet. What was the point of that? If you have a bad habit that affects your life, health or finances, just stop it! Don’t pick it back up on Easter! The focus of Easter is new life. If a thing was bringing you pain and suffering under the guise of temporary pleasure, reintroducing it into your life is not helpful or life giving.
So what shall I do for a Lenten discipline in 2016? Well now that my diet is focused and helpful to my health, I’m not messing with it. I don’t indulge in junk food now, so there’s nothing to give up. If I tried to remove something from my diet that is helping me keep this low blood sugar plan sustainable, I would only be harming myself, which makes me less useful to others in the world.
No, my Lenten discipline needs to be something that adds to the world, that provides help to others. I try to do that with my blog and podcast. Again, if it’s something helpful, I should do it always.
So for this Lent, I will be finding my way throughout the season by seeking places to be of help. Instead of setting a pre-determined easily defined thing at the outset, like “do not eat bacon” (because, come on now…) I’ll seek opportunities to tangibly and directly help others who are suffering due to dietary prison. I will reach out directly. I will lift up those who are already providing help and information that is available to all. I’ll buy people books. I’ll open up my own food/blood/exercise logs publicly to anyone who wants to see what this looks like for me.
My Lenten discipline will be to take the new life I have been given by escaping the cycle of blood sugar instability, and share it with others who want to escape the same cycle. If you have any ideas on how I can do this, or know someone who could use support, I will make time. Email me at email@example.com – I will make time for anyone. Not that I’m an expert, but I can share my own experience and realistic frustrations/pitfalls, and I can point people to actual experts. I’m easy to talk to. It’s why I’m a pastor. If you know someone struggling and confused with this whole dietary mess and they are at a loss with the ADA info that is often conflicting in the same guidelines: I will make time to talk to them personally. Or if someone just needs a listening ear.
So there it is: my Lenten discipline is to help you give up Diabetes. Put me to use. Take me up on this offer. I don’t have all the answers, but I can help steer you toward finding your own. I won’t advise anyone to stop taking their meds, or dispense advice I’m not qualified to give. I’ll start by listening. Then we’ll see where it goes.