“You may eat freely from every tree in the garden…but one.”
Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize God’s voice when He speaks. It is usually profound, concise, and startling in its clarity. He most often takes a Scripture and applies it to a current situation in my life.
So when I kept hearing this verse repeating in my mind one mid-October morning, I recognized the Messenger. I just didn’t like the message.
I knew that God had given Adam and Eve these instructions when He placed the pair in the garden. They were free to eat from any tree but the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” We all know how well THAT went. (See Genesis 2.)
But now those words were directed at Me. My garden. My tree.
I even knew the name of the tree He was referring to.
No, I didn’t like this message at all.
In my work at our local pregnancy center I’ve encountered alcoholics and drug addicts. Some are in recovery; others are in denial. One pregnant client admitted that she was a heroin addict, but was reluctant to pursue treatment, even though she knew her baby would be born addicted. When I hear the word “addict,” stories like these come to mind.
But there are many kinds of addictions. Some are perfectly legal and socially acceptable. Like my own.
I’ve always said I have a “sweet tooth,” and have often joked about being a “chocoholic.” I’m a “Life’s uncertain. Eat dessert first.” kind of gal. Did you know that most alcoholics can remember exactly when they took their first sip? Well, I can recall the taste of my first chocolate Easter egg.
I’ve fasted from chocolate a few times in the past. But give up Sugar? You’ve got to be kidding!
I googled “sugar addiction.” At the top of the results page, in bold, was this:
Scientists have found that sugar is addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin.”*
In fact, studies showed rats preferred sugar over cocaine**.
Whoa. This was no joking matter! Sugar was my drug of choice. Could I be addicted?
The Holy Spirit was clearly convicting me. But He was also pointing the way to freedom. It was drastic, but it was beginning to make sense.
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you…” (Jesus, in Matthew 18:8, NAS)
Ouch. This is a difficult teaching. But when dealing with an addiction, there is no middle ground. When hearing from God, there is no place for compromise.
So I did something I never thought I’d do. I cut down the cane tree, and cut processed sugar out of my life.
Next week will mark five months “sober.”
Going sugar-free has had its bitter moments. Five weeks into my journey, my family went on a Thanksgiving cruise, and I had to navigate around the ever-present desserts. Then came the sweets-laden Christmas season. But I learned that I could enjoy baking–without partaking! With every “chocolate holiday” on the calendar, I’ve bid a fond farewell to each of my holiday favorites. (So long, Hershey’s Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs.)
But you know what? It’s actually been much easier than I thought it would be! After I heard so clearly from God, it became a simple issue of obedience. There is sacrifice, but also great joy in surrender. I’ve experienced a freedom I’ve never known before. Once I accepted that this particular tree was off limits for me (at least for this season), I felt at peace.
I doubt I’m the only one who struggles with this addiction. Perhaps the Lord is using my story to put His finger on this–or some other–area in your life. If so, here’s what I would say to you, my friend:
When God speaks, listen! Even if you don’t like what He’s saying. Even if He asks you to give up the one thing you think you can’t live without.
You can do it! He will help you.
On the other side of a hard obedience is an amazing freedom.
Oh, how sweet it is!
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NAS)
*From an article titled “Are You Addicted to Sugar? Here’s How to Break the Cycle” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards at www.dailyburn.com.
**From a NCBI–National Institutes of Health report: “Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward” by M. Lenoir, 2007.
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