Cravings Met: Happiness or Misery?

“To a four-year-old child, it was a thing of wonder–half toy, half cake and all glorious possibility.” So recalls blogger Allie Brosh of the marshmallow-sculpture-topped cake intended for her grandfather’s 73rd birthday.

It never made it to the birthday boy’s mouth. Young Allie sneaked one bite of the newly baked cake, saw her mother snatch it away before Taste #2, and was seized with an obsessive craving for more–moreMORE!!! The rest of the afternoon, and the pre-party time at Grandpa’s, was a battle of wits between mother’s determination to keep the cake out of reach and daughter’s determination to get at it.

The determination and ingenuity of youth finally won out. After hours of physical attempts at the out-of-reach prize, unsuccessful efforts to play on adult pity, and bitter thoughts about how they’d be sorry when she died of deprivation, Allie finally caught the cake alone and–partly out of I’ll-show-them spite–ate the whole thing. She was sick–horribly sick–a whole evening of constant vomiting combined with a major sugar high. And yet, her prevailing emotion through all that misery was not I-should-have-known-better guilt, but a triumphant pride in having proved to all those big grownups that no one kept her from what she wanted. Read the whole story at Allie’s Hyperbole and a Half post, “The God of Cake.” (Do be warned that the post is not in completely G-rated language–but it’s funny anyway.)

Whether there were any long-term repercussions, the post doesn’t say–probably not, given the resilence of small children and their tendency to eventually grow out of such outrageous behavior. Then again, many of us outgrow only the most outrageous aspects. Be honest: how often have you stubbornly gone after something you wanted until you got it, in the face of everyone’s advice, and halfway through wound up in the situation Allie describes?: “I remember becoming aware of the oppressive fullness building inside of me, but I kept eating out of a combination of spite and stubbornness. No one could tell me not to eat an entire cake… not [even] God.” And, after it was all over, how often have you thought “guess I showed them” even in the middle of your misery?

For a while, anyway. Those who make a habit of such behavior, or who use it for choices that they get stuck with long-term (marriage and other legal contracts–or a first cigarette), soon find the misery beginning to override the triumph. Guilt creeps in despite our best efforts. Unpleasant physical consequences become more and more obvious. Eventually, the pleasure of having “won” betrays us completely, slipping away and leaving us under an overwhelming cloud of discouragement, if not despair.

That was the situation the Prodigal Son found himself in. Eventually, he realized that the only way out was to go back in total humility to the father he had hurt with his defiance, asking for forgiveness and completely willing to take the consequences. And his father welcomed him back with open arms and full pardon.

If you, likewise, have stubbornly “eaten the whole cake” once too often and now are so sick you doubt you can ever feel happy again–it’s never too late to go home and ask forgiveness. Your Father is waiting for you.

With a banquet that, however much you eat, will never make you sick to your stomach.

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