I've been on an eating binge. This is my sin of choice and the gutter I find myself in over and over is that of gluttony. How is it that I hate this addiction/vice so much yet still return to it over and over? I guess that is what addiction is. Yesterday I was doing the Examination of Conscience as St. Ignatius taught it and experienced some powerful imagery. (I was using a pamphlet I picked up at church, so the following thoughts are answering the questions in the pamphlet.)
The first step of the Examen - Ask for Grace
Ignatius asks: If I could ask God for one "spiritual gift" right now, what would it be? I will go with self-control. God, I desperately need self-control in my eating habits. Please give me that grace.
My overeating is a food addiction. Addiction is lack of health. I need healing. Lord, please illumine my mind to understand it and receive your healing. I want so badly to be united with you in everything, but this sickness and sin holds me back. I choose food over you often. I ask for help and then eat the cupcake (or 6) without waiting. Forgive me. Show me how to love you better. Forgive me. Heal me. Set me free from the bondage that has such power over me.
Ignatius instructs us to listen for our Lord's response.
Jesus responds: All is not lost. I see your heart, your struggle, your desire for intimacy with me. I see your desire to console me in my passion. Yes, you drive thorns into my brow more deeply when you choose the snack (or 10) over uniting yourself with me in your struggle. But, your sorrow and regret and turning to me in sadness is deep consolation to me. You know your help is in me and I LOVE that about you. Before you turn to me and unite your desires with my sufferings, you turn to a cow pile. Instead of the wholesome food (Me), you burrow into the cow pile (gluttony) like an worm. You choose a cow pile over me. You choose the low road, the way of least resistance. But after burrowing into the cow pile, you come to your senses, return to me and I wash you again, wash you of the slimy, stinky cow feces. I love to wash you clean and am deeply consoled by your return, by your sadness over falling for the cow pile yet again. Your sorrowing heart and turning to me is a deep consolation, but yes, being rejected for a cow pile hurts me deeply. Stay with me and I will heal you and set you free. Will you? Will you accept my healing, wholeness, and freedom right now?
Me: I want to answer a resounding Yes!, but I've failed so many times. I keep returning to the cow pile. Please give me the graces I need; self-control, temperance, patience, etc., for freedom, healing, victory.
Ignatius instructs to allow yourself to daydream about what it would look like to be "filled up" with this grace.
My daydream: Food is a means of survival, not an end. I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm sated. I don't overeat and I'm never a glutton. I don't think about food, daydream about it, or lust for it. It is simply fuel. I am not emotionally attached to food; I am free of gluttony. Virtues of self-control, temperance, and patience are mine; they replaced gluttony and intemperance.
I imagine a funnel over my head and Jesus pouring self-control, temperance, and patience into my soul. As I inhale, I draw in those graces allowing them to seep into all the crevices of my heart, soul, and body. As I exhale, I release the emotional attachments to food, the gluttony, the un-wellness of seeking anything from food other than fuel. I inhale Jesus' graces and virtues. I exhale Valerie and her vices. Jesus remains.
Later, still imagining Jesus giving me the graces of self-control, temperance and patience - the graces I asked for to help me overcome gluttony, I let my imagination lead to another place. Whereas the first time I imagined Jesus pouring the virtues into my head through a funnel, this time I'm feeling cold and am seeking warmth, comfort and consolation. Cupcakes entice me on the counter and Jesus sits on the sofa. I have a choice to eat the cupcakes or sit with Jesus. I choose Jesus. Still chilled, I sit beside him and he wraps me in a warm blanket and I immediately feel it's warmth and his comforting touch and consolation. He holds me. I am child-size and his comfort is like a loving parent holding a cold child. His comfort and the warmth of the blanket infuses me with soul-satisfying comfort. The cold is replaced by warmth and security. I never want it to end. Every fiber of my being relaxes in the comfort of his embrace.
I am so enraptured by him that I am not tempted by the cupcakes. I mentally contrast the feelings the cupcakes give to this feeling. Cupcakes taste amazing for a few seconds. After eating one, anxiety takes over in the form of wanting another. I eat another. Eat - anxiety for another - eat - feelings of guilt. Eat - anxiety - eat - guilt. On and on until the cupcakes are gone and I'm wracked by guilt and grossness at my lack of self control. There remains no satisfaction from the cupcakes.
I compare that to the true feeding of my soul that Jesus' embrace gives. I can bask in it, smiling as my face rests against his chest. He hand caresses my face and hair, again like a kind, tender parent. I want to stay right there in his embrace. But I have other duties. I get up. We look into each others' eyes. Both of us have been soul-sated. He rejoices just like I do in the sweet communion we just enjoyed. I am truly nourished. The smile, the warmth of soul and body continues. What a blessed experience. What a beautiful contrast. What a superior experience to the cupcakes. Only goodness remains. No feelings of guilt or grossness. I am full. Beautifully sated and I never took a bite.
Jesus, lover of my soul, feed me. Envelope me in your graces.