I eat sweets. A lot. Sometimes, I skip a meal and fill in the blank with cookies or a slice of cake. I believe pancakes and waffles and bananas are simply a vehicle for the main event: a generous helping of chocolate chips. I eat a little something sweet to the taste after every meal. There is no scenario in which I deny myself dessert, unless someone tries to fool me with a piece of fruit. If there isn’t sugar involved, I’m not interested.
What I mean to say is, I like the taste of something sweet on my tongue. Usually this comes in the form of chocolate.
My husband and I have been arguing. The days begin to melt into one another with the heat of our exchanges. He would tell you it’s me, and I would tell you it’s him. Together, we are volatile, flammable, the kind of couple all the temperament and personality books suggest should re-consider a relationship together. Unless you’re in too deep, and then they suggest making the best of it. Needless to say, I had to stop reading these books early in our relationship because it was too disheartening.
We are opposites in every way, so when joined together, we make one well-rounded person. We are almost twenty hard-won years into our marriage, and we are still waiting for the elusive “easy” years to arrive. The arguing is nothing to worry about, truly, but the words dripping off our tongues leave behind a bitter taste to the one who speaks them and to the one who receives them. My husband asks, “Why can’t you just be sweet?” I might ask the same question.
I gave up dessert for Lent. I miss the ritual of deciding what will accompany my book and cup of tea each evening. I miss the visceral pleasure of something honeyed and pleasant in my mouth. I have felt the lack of sweetness on my tongue for fourteen days and I will feel it for twenty six more. Everything I eat is salt and spice and bitter.
As I participate in my broken and small way, in the suffering of Christ during this season, I can’t help but think about how much of the sweetness of life has disappeared for me. After moving back to New Jersey, nearly three years ago now, the edges of life are pungent and burnt by reality. I no longer live the “dream life” of an American ex-pat in Europe, I live “real life”, where sweetness must be found by scraping the bottom of the pie dish. In the past, I have relied on tasting the sweetness of life in order to let it drip from my mouth in words to others.
I have called this time a wilderness experience, a long drink of bitterness from the waters of Mara, but I wonder if it’s actually my real life. Maybe what I call wilderness, is really the promised land and I can’t get past the giants to taste of the milk and honey. Perhaps the hard parts of my marriage are actually just marriage. Perhaps the bottom must be scraped to taste of the sweetness.
I long for the confection, the honeyed. But I am responsible for putting these on my tongue, for holding them there until they turn every bitter thing into something sweet. For Lent, I gave up dessert, but I can dig deep to the bottom of my own soul and still find something akin to sweetness. The giants I see here are really my own shadow. This life is one of milk and honey, and I must open my mouth to receive it.