Do you ever feel like, just when you’re getting the hang of something, God pulls your resources out from under you, and you’re left floundering again? Do you ever feel like walking with the Holy Spirit is more like a bunny hop, three steps forward and two steps back? Do you wonder when you’re ever going to get in your holiness groove?
I know I do. Every. Single. Day.
Let’s take the matter of food. I’ve been convicted that the way I eat is an idolatry issue for at least thirteen years. I have given it up to God again and again and again. I’ve experienced victories over food that are immense! I can’t tell you the last time I raided the fridge at midnight, or binge ate until I was sick, or made myself vomit in order to stave off weight gain. O, we’ve seen triumph in this area, the Lord and I!
But, in so many ways, my progress is painstakingly slow. A lot of the time, as soon as I hit my stride, eating well and exhibiting self-control, some major hurdle appears in the road that sets me right back to square one. I quit the restaurant business in order to go back to school and found myself at home more, without work as a constant distraction, in easy reach of the fridge and mindless eating. I got a handle on that, but then my stepfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I comforted myself with warm and gooey quesadillas.
A year after he passed away, my mom and I buckled down again, supporting each other in diet and exercise, and I started feeling strong and losing weight. But then, I quit smoking and Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups became my lifeline as I gained back everything I had lost and more. I developed depression and anxiety that only eating seemed to quiet.
It’s been five years of that, and I finally have a reign back on my emotions but I still feel susceptible to every one of life’s little tempests, from money problems to strained relationships. Before you know it, I’ll find myself sitting on the kitchen counter, polishing off a log of salami and a pound of pepper-jack in response to another stressful situation.
Perhaps the most difficult thing in all this starting and stopping has been imagining the Lord’s reaction. I’m fairly certain He is sick of my crap. I can just imagine him up in heaven tut-tutting, “Are you helping yourself to a third slice of bread again, Kate? When are you ever going to learn?”
But maybe I’ve got the Lord all wrong. Perhaps He, like my patient swim teacher, has me doing drills.
By taking away coping mechanisms, strengths, and letting me experience stressful situations, it has forced me to hone in on weaknesses- past hurts, unforgiveness, self-indulgence, lack of self-control- that contribute to my food-idolatry problem. In different periods of my walk, circumstances has revealed the unhealthy roles of food in my life: an addiction, then a distraction, then my great comforter, and then as a shield.
Eating has been the fire that fueled me and compensated for so many areas of my life that I was lacking. Abandoned by my father? Cheeseburgers were always there for me. Invisible to my stepfather? Bacon didn’t look through me. The other kids in school tormented me? Sourdough bread was soft and kind and delicious.
As the Lord leads me through these drills in life, my first reaction is always to fall back on my old stand-bye, dinner. But every time, as, through prayer and healing, we’ve reigned that back in, I’ve had to learn to rely on a new muscle, so to speak, and develop healthier mechanisms.
What a freeing idea.
Perhaps the Lord isn’t disappointed in me at all. On the contrary, He’s a good teacher, who, when he sees a vulnerability will perfectly design a drill that enables me to grow in that area. He’s not shaking his head at my spiritual muscle building; He’s celebrating each new accomplishment and training me for the day I go about unfettered.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV