The Hyphenated"S" Word

By design, in Women’s Ministries, we take a seasonal rest in the summer from the weekly Bible studies and regularly scheduled programs and events. Healthy rest is a gift from a gracious and compassionate God. The Psalmist reminds us, “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7). And although rest is an important component of a balanced life, we are never told to be without the hyphenated “s” word… “self-discipline”.

Two summers ago I came face to face with my lack of self-discipline. Up until that time I had considered myself a fairly disciplined individual. There was a sweetness in my daily devotional times. I enjoyed good times of prayer and worship at church. I had a sincere thirst for God’s Word. But it hadn’t occurred to me that my lack of control in the area of eating was a spiritual problem for me. I glossed over verses like Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

The truth is that I have struggled with my weight for my entire life. I can remember my second grade Sunday school teacher asking me what my “New Year’s resolution” was and I replied sheepishly that I would like to lose some weight.

Being overweight caused a lack of self-confidence for me. Clothes shopping was always a reminder of how defeated I felt, as very little fit ‘quite right.’ My clothes became darker in color in attempt to hide the pounds. Then one day my husband pointed to the closet and expressed how somber my wardrobe had become. He was right. There was no joy there. I shunned photographs and stayed away from the scales and full length mirrors. But I still didn’t see the spiritual connection.

Then the Holy Spirit started gently pointing out to me that I sometimes missed ministry opportunities because of my lack of self control in eating. How could I dream to address a group on the subject of self-control when I was visibly out of control? The gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit didn’t go away even though I was very good at excuses. Like, genetics, a low metabolism, a sedentary life style and besides all that, I was a good baker, and my family really appreciated all the good desserts I made. The truth is that I really appreciated the desserts I made…and ate. The good intentions of “starting a diet” kept being pushed off to the next day…next week…next month.

And then came that appointed week in late May 2005 when I was preparing a power point presentation for Pastor Mike’s sermon on I Corinthians 9:24-27. I felt a definite UGH! as I read the words, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…”

Ahhhhh! Self control in all things? The Scriptures pierced my bubble of selective discipline. The truth was that I was disciplined at what I wanted to be disciplined in…

For someone else God’s Spirit may point out another area of life that needs attention – but for me, it was eating. I had to face the truth that eating for me wasn’t just because of hunger. Crunching snack foods at night was comforting when I was nervous or entertainment when I was bored! Ouch! That was hard to admit.

Each day that week when I went back to illustrating that power point presentation I read God’s Word and it kept piercing my heart. Finally, by Friday I said, “that’s it!” I’m going to be disciplined in my eating starting right now because I can’t bear to sit in that pew and hear this message this Sunday without having taken action. By then, I must be committed to this.

That was it. For me, it wasn’t about “dieting” – it was about becoming self-disciplined. And having committed myself before the service allowed me to really accept the words into my heart. When Pastor Mike said, “if your stomach growls, you can tell it “no.” I was floored. That concept had never occurred to me – to tell my stomach , “NO!” A growling stomach to me had always meant permission to eat something! So I did indeed tell my stomach, “no” and one growl at a time and day by day I became more disciplined in what I ate. Several months later I was 40 pounds lighter – but that was only a side benefit. The real lesson was in obedience and taking one step up in self-discipline.

Even though I’ve lost my taste for hamburgers the journey of self-discipline continues and I have to decide every single day how I am going to respond. Have I arrived? Oh, gracious, no. I’m just hoping the next sermon doesn’t have any illustrations about exercise….

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