Happy New Year.
Really? I am not an optimist.
Sorry. It is just not my “personality” to be so - not unlike a whole list of Christ-like character traits which I lack in my personality. Not to say that I enjoy that about myself; in fact, I’d very much like to change. There are a lot of things I’d like to change about myself, but I find this relentless little thing that is persistently in the way...
That little thing is me.
It is not really “me” in the truest sense. I know that I am multifaceted: body/flesh, soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit (that sorta indescribable part that is, per the Bible, eternal and that makes me more than particles and chemical reactions). The “me” that is in my way is the body and soul part.
Someone I respect told me lately that the body and the soul could care less about the success of the spirit. They are pretty much into themselves. For all of me, I experience this as “doing the thing I don’t really want to do, and NOT doing the thing I really DO want to do.” The harsh me, what my soulish self generally says initially, is “Man up, girl. Get some willpower and determine your destiny.” Hard to argue with the success of implementing such a challenge.
But, again, that soul is double-minded - and STRONG on both fronts. The NEXT thing this sad little soul of mine says, generally in the moment of my decision, is “I don’t feel like it.” OR, better yet, “I just feel like it and I want it now.”
Let me get a little personal and specific. You know I do that.
I realize in doing this I risk limiting the possible application of my point in the life of whomever is reading this. But, hopefully, by the end, you will be able to insert your own struggle.
Let me start with that seemingly harmless sustenance that is... chocolate.
I am only half joking that it is harmless. Don’t think I am super crazy for assigning such intensity to a trivial thing. Believe me, there are LOTS of little things that destroy lives. At least they start out little.
So, I strongly desire some chocolate, really, everyday. Seems harmless. In moderation, all is well, right? Well, I don’t moderate well.
And if it were limited to just chocolate (in moderation) I might not recognize the deeper issue within me. But, I have realized how pervasive the underlying drive to go with my feelings is in my life and quite frankly it is robbing me of zoe (which is greek for “abundant life”, not life in the physical sense, but in the God sense).
I hate, and I really mean HATE, to see that I am so controlled by my emotions. I noticed that I don’t do it if I don’t feel like it (say that in a whiny voice for full effect). AND if I DO feel like it, well, it is decided. It is getting done. So the crux of the decision rests upon my FEELINGS.
This is news to me from me. I don’t deny that I am emotional like most women, but I did not really see myself as making many decisions from that place. I always test out in the Myers-Briggs as being one of those judging/thinking types - not the touchy feely type. I don’t tend to inwardly respect emotionally controlled people, although outwardly I might say it has it’s value. I don’t really believe that deep down. Just keepin’ it real. But, oops, I may be one of “those people.” So, I find myself not really respecting this new found thing going on inside me. But, honestly, this inside activity is not new. I have been doing this all my life. Until now.
This is what some people in churchy language (aka "christianese") call a “stronghold.” That is all I am going to say about that.
Because MY FEELINGS about something are so key to my actually ACTING on something I tend to expend a lot of energy trying to get my feelings to line up with what I really want deep down. But that “deep down” is the realm of my SPIRIT. My emotions are out of their league there. And, my soul, remember, does not give a rip about my spirit or it’s agenda. Which, as a Christian, is the will of God in my life.
So, it’s a New Year. Again. “Yippee,” my Pessimism says. But this is because I have grown cold to thinking much can really change. But this time, this year, IT has to because my spirit is now at the point of dispair if it doesn’t. And I think the things I really want in life are at risk of not coming to fruition if my spirit does not take the driver’s seat. To reference a recent political gaffe, my soul and body need to “ride in the back of the bus.” You get the idea?
Here is what is at risk for me: being the kind of mom I want to be, juggling the many talents God has given me (not bragging - they are FROM HIM), keeping the kind of house that will be supportive of my family and provide a refuge, living for longer than 50 years, having relationships that grow over the years instead of fading away, having a marriage that is all that God says it can be. I could go on, but I think you see that this thing that has been operating within me IS as pervasive as I said in the beginning. It is not just about chocolate or dieting or being a better person for the sake of being a better person. And making an action plan to perfect my performance in each of these areas is overwhelming, right. And you know where feeling overwhelmed leads, right?... yes, that's right... to chocolate.
It is about putting my SPIRIT in the driver’s seat.
But, I was clueless as to how to get that to happen. I am concrete, detail oriented. God knows this. I know it is more complicated than everyone jumping out of the car and running around the outside changing places like I did in high school. I cannot recall what that is called when we did that? If you remember please leave a comment. It is going to drive me nuts. That was fun, by the way. I think I might like to do that again sometime. I digress...
In setting out to find out how to rearrange my Chief Operating Officer (ha) I discovered a very unlikely tool. Since I was fed up, turns out fasting of all things was going to be my approach (pun totally intended). I hated the sound of it. I hated the idea of it. I immediately thought it was not wise. I blew it off as a back door way to lose weight and call it spirituality.
I hope I name your excuse in here too.
I was pessimistic (surprise) that I could actually do it. I thought the idea seemed ridiculous and rationally unrelated to real change. At least any real change that I imagined. I thought that it would not fit my lifestyle well. I thought it might make me be mean to my kids if I felt hungry.
But, I tell my kids all the time, “nothing can make you mean. YOU chose to be mean.” Nice. I need to listen up.
I had a whole host of excuses and conversations going on within me leading up to my fast. And I DECIDED (which I think was my spirit’s first official act) that I would NOT LISTEN to any excuses this time, even if they were legitimate. I started it because I was done with all MY other approaches. I also found a ton of Biblical passages that said this was a good idea if you want to draw closer to God and be able to hear His direction for your life. In the older portions of the Bible, before Jesus, folks fasted when they were mourning or if they wanted God to do something or not do something for them... But, now, per Jesus, we are to fast to draw closer to Him, to get that order right in our lives (SPIRIT in charge, body/flesh and soul following).
So it is an old practice with a new end result. To experience a closeness with God that is far superior to any gratification of my flesh or soul IS MY GOAL. When someone can say NO to food, one of the most basic needs in life, in order to say YES to someONE (who, by the way, cares so much more about his well being than his body or soul does) his spirit desires, what can he not do in life?? I think fasting may prove to be very effective. I am sure that God is glad I agree with Him. Melissa, Melissa, Melissa. You silly girl.
So, I put my feelings and emotions and bodily cravings in the back seat this year. I chose the first of the year because God deserves the first things. He just does. And every time I heard myself say (not out loud of course) “I don’t feel like it” I INTENDED ALL THE MORE to do it right away. And when my stomach rumbles or I want to eat something other than what I have limited myself to, I say, OUTLOUD (in the privacy of my home) “Hey body, you will not run this show.”
Here’s the thing. On the outside, this does not seem to be that different from practicing will power. But, I know my will is blown around like the wind historically; either bending to my flesh or my emotions and hardly ever to my spirit. And in the long run, if one's will is really the stabilizing force in the "change" - how long will it last? What happens when my will decides it wants something else in the moment of decision? Yep, chocolate. Which is why I have ended up feeling pretty cynical, sometimes despondent, about life and my success in it. And I KNOW that is not how I am “supposed” to feel about life as a Christian.
Then guilt can creep in - because "how can I feel this way after all that God has done for me." Then frustration - when that previous little mantra does not change my feelings. Then disbelief - because my feelings have not lead me to any action. And finally...hopelessness. So it is clearly important to nip this.
This is how REAL God is becoming in my life. He has been more real ever since I “got it” back in 1997. One might say, “If there is a God what does He care about what you eat or how you feel or what motivates you?” But if God is not involved in life of this sort then what good is God? Where can He manifest His goodness and faithfulness if not in the living of my daily life?
I sometimes think, and you may too, that God is too big to give a care about my little life and struggles and feelings. But you know what? His attention to detail IS what makes Him great. We tend to think great people delegate the small stuff because they are just above it. But in God’s economy the foolish things shame the wise, the last shall be first, and the greatest will be the servant of all. And, most awesomely, God practices what He preaches.
He says that He is intimately acquainted with ALL of my ways. It does not get more personal than that. And we can only take God at His word when it comes to describing Him because anything less is making God into an image of our own imaginings. For a human being, a created thing, to have any TRUE idea of God, God must reveal Himself to us in a way WE can understand, even experience. I am so glad He did.
I am going to take Him at His word even though I don’t fully understand the mechanics of it. I know God is worthy. That has not been hard for me to wrap my mind around and even fashion my life after in many respects. But TRUSTworthy... that is the real test. Will I trust what He says even when I don’t fully understand it? Let’s see.