I had a revelation today.
January started a healthier diet for me. For the past month I’ve limited processed food as much as possible. As much as I can, I’m eating natural, organic and fresh foods. In addition, I’ve been fasting breakfast and lunch one day a week (for spiritual reasons). So my diet has consisted of good-for-you, healthy foods.
Yesterday was my fast day, so come dinner time last night, I was more than ready to eat. We went for Mexican. And try as I might, you know you can only get so healthy with Mexican. While I cut out most things that were unhealthy, I admittedly had a couple things I shouldn’t have. Foods that my now close-to-pure system hadn’t experienced in a month. And almost immediately I paid the price.
The food I ate left me feeling miserable. I was uncomfortable, had indigestion, and was bloated. I woke up this morning and it was as bad as last night — on top of that I was sluggish and kind of nauseous. (And I added insult to injury — I decided to jump on the scale.) I immediately berated myself for being so stupid, for not being disciplined, and for undoing a month’s work of “good.” After I sufficiently beat myself up, I forgave myself and did the only things I knew to do to make myself feel better — consume large quantities of water, feed myself healthy foods, and most importantly, walk it out.
So I went for a walk and just sweated out as much as I could.
As I was walking, I had this revelation — I have to treat my dieting life the same as my spiritual life. And I have to treat my spiritual life the same as my dieting life.
When I’m dieting (or altering the overall way I eat), I usually have an all-or-nothing mentality. It has to be all healthy or I feel unsuccessful and undisciplined. If I eat something I shouldn’t (like Mexican), I beat myself up internally, and sort of go through a self-loathing phase. It’s an extremely unhealthy process I put myself through mentally (no pun intended).
My spiritual life is the same way. I have an all-or-nothing mentality — get up early daily for devotion time, cut out TV that’s bad, what have you. If I do something I shouldn’t (sin), I beat myself up internally, and sort of go through a self-loathing phase. It’s an extremely unhealthy process I put myself through (pun intended).
What I realized today though, is that immediately after my self-loathing, I did physically what I need to do spiritually. Ask for forgiveness, consume large quantities of living water (Jesus), feed myself healthy food (God’s daily bread), and most importantly, walk it out. Just walk out the acceptance of forgiveness.
The temptation to just quit is so strong. When it comes to food, it’s so easy to think I might as well have cake and ice cream since I already had french fries and a burger. And when it comes to sin, it’s so easy to think I might as well seek my own revenge on that person since I’ve already been harboring bitterness or maliciousness in my heart. But to do that is to quit. Instead, I have to just acknowledge it, repent of it, and most importantly — walk it out.
Walking out the consequences of eating badly is uncomfortable. While I may have forgiven myself, I still have to walk up that big hill while feeling sluggish and bloated, hoping I’ll feel better later. I still have to flush my system with water, and make a decision to eat healthy foods again, immediately.
Walking out the consequences of sin is uncomfortable, too. While I receive forgiveness by Christ, I still have to walk out of that valley feeling spiritually sluggish and bloated. I still have to flush my heart with living water, and make a decision to feast on daily bread again, immediately. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the consequences that remain. But the grace I give myself or receive from Jesus enables me to do it.
There also has be a realization that it’s just going to happen. I’m just going to sin, and sin again and again, because I was born with sin in my heart. And with food, well let’s face it — I love food and love to eat. An occasional night of eating something I shouldn’t is just going to happen because I was born with sin in my heart (yes, I’m blaming it on sin!). They goal is not to strive for perfection (which is unattainable), but an overall, healthier way of living.
I think Paul said it best in Romans 7:15-20 (Message):
“I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself–after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”
Not only do I absolutely get this, I breathe a sigh of relief over and over as I read it. I am just going to sin. I am just going to go off my diet. It is just going to happen. The solution in the midst of it? “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:1-2, NIV).
There is now no condemnation.
Receive the forgiveness.
And walk it out.
(Rom 8:12-14, Message)