Four weeks ago, I drew a line in the sand. 30 pounds will come off by mid-September. I even signed up with a personal trainer at the yoga studio where I work. To date, I am 10 pounds down. My hope is to run a half marathon with Team World Vision this October. I have run this race twice before, but not carrying this much weight. The dream also might be to one day hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro with World Vision although I do not see myself taking this challenge on alone at my age.
My Weight “Release” History
I have gained and lost the equivalent of two small elementary school kids in my lifetime. Seriously. It might even be three. Whether it be from too much grazing in between large meals or my love for bread, cheese and sweets, I now have a rather sizable project on my hands. But unlike the first few times I let go of this kind of weight, I want to be prayerful about it, to do this healthfully and to make the necessary changes to keep the weight off for the rest of my life.
Why am I doing this?
I am tired of being tired. I am tired of having limited energy. I am tired of not fitting into the cute clothes in my closet. I want to make more healthful choices, and I want to improve my chances of serving in ministry well into old(er) age. God willing, I want to continue to live, serve and give generously.
But first and foremost, it is time for me to deal with my sin.
I have rationalized it. Excused it. Joked about it. Even trained it. When it came to food, old boyfriends used to think it was cute how much I liked to eat. Or they would laughingly make sure that I did not get “hangry” (and I do) because they only liked to see my sweet side. Forget about either of us facing those darker emotions that arise from sin like anger, fear, jealousy, loneliness, despair or most often, boredom. As a result, I chose to cope with these emotions through eating.
And I am afraid. I am afraid of becoming more fit because I have become ill before with significant weight loss. As irrational as this may sound, I have convinced myself that I am better off emotionally at the weight I am currently at because I am a gentler person. Losing the protective layer which keeps me warm and cozy at all times has been more important to me than the lower joints that have recently been complaining about extra pounds. This strange logic has kept me stationary in achieving this goal in the past.
But I trust God, and I trust His word. I know it provides truth and guidance. So, how does His word speak into this particular situation?
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7, NIV).
This verse in 2 Timothy was written by Paul to encourage Timothy, a young disciple of his who was pastoring a church in Ephesus (Greece). Let’s take a closer look at some of the encouragement Paul offers him.
Paul talks about the power Timothy has received from God. Through God’s power, Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:22-33), the disciples were given the ability to heal (Matthew 10:1), Paul survived a deadly snake bite (Acts 28:3-5), and a young boy was able to defeat a giant after many larger, stronger men had failed (1 Samuel 17:41-52). Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was spoken because of Paul’s belief in Timothy’s sincere faith and his ability to lead the church in Ephesus through trying times despite his timidity.
If God accomplishes so much in and through His people, why does a plateful of cookies have so much power over me? The cookie is not the problem. Delicious food is a gift from the Creator. He provided ample fruit in the Garden for Adam and Eve to eat, but they chose something that looked “better” than God. This is where the problem begins for many of us. We continue to choose the things of this world over the things of God.
But seriously: It’s just a cookie, right?
Not when I turn to the cookie before I turn to God; Before I bring my feelings and desires to God. And when I do that, it is not just a cookie. The cookie represents whatever I desire more than I desire God.
But what else does God offer believers in battling their own sin or helping others battle theirs?
God gives believers a Spirit of love. The word used here is related to the first of the four loves in the Bible, agape or God’s unconditional love. It is the love that God showed to the people of Israel time and again in the Old Testament when they rebelled and worshipped other gods. It is the love that enables us to love the unlovable, even when the unlovable is the person staring back at us in the mirror or a significant other or even a family member. It is the love that can sustain a Christian marriage covenant long after the other three loves have faded: eros (romantic), philia (friendship), or storge (empathy); The beauty of agape love in relationship is that it is so powerful, it can rekindle the other three. I have seen this happen in my own life and in the lives of others. God’s unconditional love heals and restores relationships and brings about forgiveness. Out of love, Jesus paid the price so that we do not have to. All He asks is that we recognize we are not the people our dogs think we are, and we repent, placing our faith in Him, and not in whatever “the cookie” represents in our lives. When we do this, an inward heart change led by the Spirit, who indwells the believer, brings about those changes in us that we cannot make for ourselves. God’s Spirit lifts us out of our brokenness, helping us to repent and to fix our hope on Jesus and Jesus alone.
Which brings us to the next gift Paul mentions.
God’s Spirit gives the believer self-discipline. So much of the thinking in the culture about weight loss or about beating any other addiction or sin has to do with the need for more self-control and discipline. We are told to fix the behavior, to “just say no.” For those who struggle with addictions, we can beat ourselves up for our lack of self-control. We envy others who are able to walk away from a pint of ice cream, a piece of chocolate, a glass of wine or even social media when they are feeling out of sorts. First and foremost, it is not necessarily self-discipline or self-control that is lacking. The lack we feel is merely the symptom of a much deeper problem. We need to remember that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); The lack we feel is a lack of God’s power in our lives, of His Spirit working in and through us.
We need more of Him.
Self-control will manifest in our lives, in God’s timing and in His provision, when we put our faith in Jesus and are walking in step with Him. This certainly requires effort, even obedience and perseverance on our part, but the results are not of our own effort. When we protect and preserve our relationship with our Creator, the fruit of the Spirit will emerge: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I recently heard that believers can neglect the physical body and put too much emphasis on the spiritual body. As the body of Christ, we (in the plural) are called to be good stewards of the bodies God has given each of us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV).
Since God’s Spirit indwells me, I know that I am not my own. I was bought at a price. I am also commanded to protect, nurture and strengthen my physical body as I am my spiritual body. It is only in keeping a right relationship with God that I can be a servant-leader with a mission focus. And after four decades of believing the non-Biblical adage, “God helps those who help themselves,” I am finally okay with knowing this is not something I can do on my own; That it is no longer necessary to pick myself up by my bootstraps or do things in my own strength. For God’s power rests in me and gives me victory. His love sustains me, and His discipline strengthens me.