“The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, ‘I am my own god.’ This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper immorality, but it always has a common basis— my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced either people with all the forces of evil in them, or people who were clean-living, moral, and upright, He paid no attention to the moral degradation of one, nor any attention to the moral attainment of the other. He looked at something we do not see, namely, the nature of man (see John 2:25).” from the October 5th reading in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
I started an official diet last week (www.body4believer.com if you’re interested). It’s fairly strict on what and when to eat, which is exactly the type of diet I usually avoid. However, it is very simple to follow, and it’s very simple in its classification of how well you stick to the plan: you are either hot or cold. There can be no middle ground, no mostly following it with a few changes, no close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades. You either do it or you don’t. So far, I have lost almost five pounds, which is more than I lost in two months of dieting my way.
My weight loss efforts always fail because I cheat. I let myself off the hook if it’s a bad day: “I feel really stressed right now, so it’s okay to have an extra cookie (or five).” I get busy and don’t make time for exercise. I am an emotional eater, so I justify my bad eating by telling myself it’s just for this one day – just this time. I realized last week that my body completely represents my spiritual condition.
I let myself cheat all the time. I tell myself that acting in anger is justified in the situation. I rationalize thoughts that I know are totally unacceptable to God because I cling to the right to own myself. I have often put up walls with God. I struggle with being a woman and being a Southern Baptist Christian because of the very literal interpretation of what women should be and do in the church. This, however, is a rather theoretical argument for me, as I have never been prevented from serving in any church I’ve attended. I use this as leverage to hold on to my identity as a woman in the church. I want to hold on to my right to my own identity, when in reality, I have no right but to follow God if I profess to know him. Here’s where the last week of dieting comes in.
When I have been tempted to eat chocolate cake or barbecue or cheat in any way, I’m finding that my reason for denying myself is the realization that I have no right to cheat. I skipped the hard work for years, so now I have a lot more work to do. There are no shortcuts. To borrow from our pastor, I can’t pray my way out of something I behaved myself into. I can no longer hold onto my right to eat chocolate cake because I will have to earn that freedom after I do the work to get back into shape (preferably, one that’s not round). I am starting to see blind spots that I developed in my faith where I skipped the hard work, and I realize that Oswald is right again: proclaiming my right to myself is my sin. My claim to myself leads to over-indulgence and obesity, physically and spiritually. Denying my right to myself is hard work, but necessary if I want the freedom to be what God created me to be.