A Full Grown Man & His Sad Jelly Belly

Confession – I Have A Complicated Relationship With Sugar

Mockingbird / 10.15.19

A confession from Matt Magill:

I have a complicated relationship with sugar. It’s really the candy that does me in. The guilty verdict on my perpetual adolescence needs no further evidence than my wicked sweet tooth and embarrassing proclivity to indulge it. No matter how often I throw out “Not today Satan!”, I trend towards a weaker will than I ever imagined. It’s like Jesus just told me to stay awake while he prays. And what’s worse, the Halloween train is coming and I’m tied to the tracks, awaiting great failure and probable cavities. Who will deliver me?

My wife and kids hide candy from me; it’s a thing in our home. Once I find where they’ve hidden it, I carefully drain it until they discover it’s disappeared faster than the three of them could possibly have eaten it. As soon they’re on to me, they start bringing around only sweets I won’t eat; drawers fill up with black beans and mounds bars and I spit coconut and licorice out of my mouth like the Laodicean Church.

Get that corn out of my face!

– St. Nacho Libre

Yet the real problem is not temptation within my home but outside of it. Mostly, total depravity rears its speed-freak head when my eyes catch a bag of Jelly Belly. Ahhhh sweet mystery of life, at last I have found you! Ingesting these is almost as quick as injecting high fructose corn syrup straight into your veins. With only three chews and a swallow, you’re on your way to discovering the next tasty flavor.

TJ Max and Marshalls quite possibly worked a deal with the dark one himself and conveniently place Jelly Belly bags, boxes, and every imaginable seasonal offering near each register, making them the perfect addition to any of the other impulse purchases you make while exploring the sweet, albeit temporary, existential relief of retail therapy.

My wife, whose steely resolve hasn’t allowed a jelly bean to pass her lips since 1995, blames Jelly Belly for my jelly belly. At her insistence, I swore them off…for a while…but not a long while.

The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.

– Anonymous

Last week, I grabbed a bag along with some new-fangled sideburn trimming device that I didn’t really need, and it instantly occurred to me, “This is a game I’m playing with these scissors. I’m really just here for the beans!” Nevertheless, as I was a living out a foregone conclusion bound by a heart fixated on the sugar rush of the unimaginably good Popcorn flavor (who would have thunk?), I paid the extra three bucks for my fix.

As I crossed the parking lot, I tore into the bag like a crazed ape already feeling the effect by the time I’d reached the car. Very soon, an old familiar sadness began to set in as it dawned on me, “I’m already halfway through the bag, and short of the second coming of Christ, I am definitely going to finish the bag in the next 20 minutes!”

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Rom. 7:19

(Please tell me the thorn in St. Paul’s side was a sweet tooth only first century rock candy could assuage.)

As I popped Jelly Belly’s down my gullet two by two (those flavor combinations—right?), it hit me that though the last jelly bean would surely be as sweet as the first, it would inevitably be mixed (once again!) with a bitter taste of defeat. What I said I was going to stop doing, I had done again! “Ruh roh Raggy! Hello, vomit! I’m back! Roof roof!”

This latest journey had been as enjoyable as expected, but the empty bag was ALWAYS my final destination…and it left me worse than it found me. The sugar crash decimated me; I was useless for the rest of the afternoon.

I don’t know what your bag is. I’ve been through more than a few bags in my 43 years. None ultimately satisfy, because they can’t. I’ve come to learn (in theory, if not in practice) that it’s not the bags; it’s my heart. I can’t get high enough and I can’t get low enough. For me it’s just never enough (cue the eerie perfection of The Greatest Showman track my 9-year-old can’t stop singing).

I am now and have always been jonesing for an everlasting sweetness that my Jelly Belly misadventures promise but never fulfill. Oh, that I might know the love of one who emptied himself, taking on a cross of death, the death I was due, that He might deliver me the sweet life he alone deserves.

The Eucharist reminds me that I am hungry and thirsty for something God alone can break and distribute and crush and pour out. Occasionally, as I’m filled-full with the bread of heaven and full-filled with the cup of salvation, the hunger and thirst that characterize my disappointing wanderings subside as He leads me by quiet waters and my soul is refreshed. Trust and believe, Jelly Belly does NOT make a flavor for that!


2 responses to “A Full Grown Man & His Sad Jelly Belly”

  1. Love the candour, the insight into us, and the conclusion. I love sweet things too, especially good milk chocolate (which I found surprisingly rare in the states when I visited). I’ve recently begun to not end but amend my cravings for such in favour of items containing honey, which certainly seems to be better for me. Hope you find some fresh alternatives and keep hungering for the living bread.

  2. David Zahl says:

    Love this so much!!

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