Learning the unforced rhythms of grace

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Bet you CAN have just one . . .

Chips are amazing.

I've been on a liquid/blended food regime for three years due to some intestinal issues and have recently begun to eat solid food again, slowly and carefully.

Mmmm . . . chips, are remarkable. The crunch, the salt, the melt in your mouth taste that hits all varieties of the taste buds at once . . . amazing.

However, there is a moment, so brief, and so instantaneous, that happens in between the first crunch and a the next handful of chips that is crucial to understanding our spiritual health. Let me explain.

This past week, I received a phone call from a dear friend who is 90 years old. She thanked me for my blog and said that God really used it to encourage her. I was thrilled and surprised that my offering of writing (which often feels weak, vulnerable and awkward) would mean so much to her. I thanked her for the encouragement and enjoyed the rest of our chat on the phone. 

But then, let me explain what happened. I hung up the phone and got back to my work on the computer.  That one moment, that one 'taste' of encouragement felt good, hit all my tastebuds in the right spot and gave me a boost of energy. . . I liked it. I felt grateful to God and savored it. One chip. Delicious and enjoyable. A gift. One chip can be enough. I could've walked away. 

However, in the next few seconds, I wanted more. Here is where my thinking went . . 

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"Even though I live with pain, I'm able to get around easier than her. Maybe I could help her with errands, driving or housework. After all, I'm glad my writing encouraged her, but I did that from the comfort of my home. I should be pushing myself more. I could at least drive over to her house and visit her in person. Maybe once a week, I could bring supper, help her with housework, spend time with her and do a project together. Ya, that's probably what she needs. Let's see . . . what could we do?. . . "  

Within milli-seconds, I had justified that my writing was was not enough or sufficient of an offering to God or to people and that she probably needed more from me and it would be the 'right thing to do'. What I wasn't aware of yet, is that it was me, that wanted more . . . 

One chip was not enough for her or for me,  I thought. I must offer more. I must take more. I must solve all her needs and not leave any hunger for her or for me and we will both be rewarded with good, endorphine satisfying tastes. That is the goal, isn't it?

But here's the thing. She called me to thank me for my writing. It was enough. God had revealed something to her and my writing encouraged her to let go, to trust God and not fear the future. She was choosing faith and courage and gutsy trust in God. My gift to her was enough. She didn't ask for more. I made that up in my own mind. 

So, from the one chip chewed down and enjoyed. . . can come the justifying explanations that say, "have another, maybe just 5 more, or pour yourself a bowl. After all, you deserve chips. You've been drinking smoothies and soups for so long, what will one bowl of chips do? Take the whole bag actually and don't share it. You deserve this. And don't savor one chip at a time, stuff a handful in your mouth and barely swallow before the next handful . . . think about the next handful . . . think about it . . . you need more!"

Sounds strangely serpent-like, doesn't it?

One of the benefits from the restricted menu I've had these past years is that I began to value food for it's nutrition (not necessarily its enjoyment). A can of Boost or Ensure had enough vitamins to give me nutrition for that day. A bowl of broth, or vegetable juice would enable my muscles and brain and organs to function well. I ate to function well and then get my mind on something else as eating was often quite boring in the 'enjoyment' category. Self-control was necessary and if I was not careful, if I justified 'in my mind' that eating a handful of chips was okay,  I would've ended up in the emergency room for a shot of demoral and possible bowel obstruction. 

Our spiritual health is just as crucial. We must be aware of what our limitations are and what happens if we justify things in our own minds, and ignore the reality of how things are. 

God doesn't want us to eat chips all the time. A few? sure. Enjoyment and tastebuds are there for a reason. But, if we are not careful, one crunch will switch on our 'justifyer' and all self-control will be gone. 

I took some time this week to create a focus board for myself. I needed something big and physically right in front of my face to focus on!

I wrote down my priorities, my self-pity temptations and what to watch out for, and a few verses and quotes that I want to concentrate on. I wrote a list of medicines, appointments to remember, some fresh challenges for my ever-transitioning-role as a wife and mom, and a place to sketch down new, spontaneous ideas for assessment. 

I'm calling my hidden temptations into the light . . . and choosing instead to focus on the things God is asking me to walk steady in right now. . . some may not be 'enjoyable' but may offer nutrition so that I can function well. Steady, self-control, enjoyment in good and appropriate amounts.  

As Paul wrote: "Everything is permissible for me" - but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me" - but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 Cor 6:12.

May we walk steady, with self-control, in our bodies and souls, for more than just good tastes but for nutrition so we can live well and be attentive to all that God has in mind for our lives!