I love an occasional snow day. The operative word here is ‘occasional’, which is why this week has been so exciting and…well…fun! Being stuck at home becomes an opportunity to try new recipes, read and generally catch up on household tasks, although my first impulse on such a day is to go to my stack of cookbooks. This is no small event as my collection fills several shelves. I have attempted to purge the lesser-used volumes, only to find a favorite memory or recipe tucked deep within the pages making it nearly impossible to let them go. My favorites have become something like a journal with ballpoint scribbles filling the margins noting the changes I made in the original recipe to spice them up…or down…or make them creamier…or healthier…or simply to cast a bit of my own creativity on a simple item. I also noticed a significant number of my entries included nutritional counts depending on my diet of the year. Some notations focused on carbohydrate and protein counts; some a magical point system; and some simply calories. Each notation reminded me that I have spent much of my adult life trying to find the balance between my love of amazing foods and maintaining a reasonable weight for my height and build. For anyone nodding or smiling at this moment, you know exactly what I mean! I have had some long and interesting conflicts in this tug of war, yet foods, particularly if chocolate is involved, tend to dominate the contest. My name is Linda, and I am a foodie.
Admittedly, I also dabble in exercise. I have tried yoga, pilates, working with a personal trainer, running and strength training. I have joined clubs, bought DVD’s to use at home, worn pedometers and logged every activity from cleaning the bathroom to hiking several miles. If I am blatantly honest about my physical activity, I have to admit my motivation to work out is the anticipation of going face first into home baked bread slathered with fresh butter or a sinful dessert. There was even a summer when my mantra was “walking for wine” in an attempt to justify my vino-calories. The simple truth is my appetite for culinary delights tends to exceed my energy output. I know what I need to do. Seriously, I could write the next great diet and exercise book detailing what should be done. However, I struggle with doing the very thing that is considered to be good for me when faced with the temptation offered by a fabulous meal.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul seems to get it when he said:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
Now, in all fairness, Paul was speaking of much more exciting and important things than diet and exercise. He was speaking about the Law, sin and our human nature. Yet, it seems to cover the little things as well as the big things. How often do we know on a conscious level what we need to do for our health – whether it is the health of our bodies, our minds or the health of our relationships – but find ourselves doing the very thing we know is contrary to our wisdom? It’s more than whether or not I should enjoy that mammoth snicker doodle with my afternoon coffee. It’s the snarky attitude I adopted when I didn’t want to buy yet another box of Girl Scout cookies from a ‘neighbor’ who popped out of nowhere. Or the gesture I offered to the person who stole the parking place I saw and intrinsically knew was meant for me. Or the…or the…or the…and the list goes on until I devour that cookie to soothe whatever guilt I feel for my bad attitude and behaviors knowing full well that it’s going to take more than a hike around the block to undo what I just did.
Yup, Paul, you got it right. “I do not understand my own actions.” So, so true much of the time! “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Well, not everything, but plenty to talk about. How, then, do I turn it around?
Paul also assures us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). Yet, God loves us so much that nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39) To put this in perspective, Paul is essentially telling us that we are going to mess up and we are going to do things that we know are wrong. Each time we make a decision, and life certainly offers us a plethora of them, we are challenged to turn toward that which loves us unconditionally and away from something else. The more we turn toward goodness, the better we become at doing what Paul would identify as the things ‘I long to do’ and ‘not the very thing I hate’, ultimately radiating the love of the one who created us and loves us more than we can possibly imagine.
Paul gives us another clue about choosing our behaviors in Philippians 4:7-9:
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Isn’t peace what we continue to search for? Paul offers a beautiful litmus test for peace and doing the right thing: is it true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellence and worthy of praise?
As a young adult I would hear the advice to “count to 10” before reacting to another’s particularly noxious behaviors. The current trend is to ask, “will this matter in 10 minutes…10 days…or ten years?” I won’t remember said parking spot in 10 days, although my neighbor will undoubtedly remember that I snubbed her daughter’s cookie business for at least that amount of time. And the snicker doodle? Maybe I’ll break it into quarters and enjoy part of it today. Otherwise it will still make its presence known on my hips for the next ten years!
The reality of my prayer is that I am able to breathe deeply enough to keep the ‘rule of 10’ in mind as I respond to the land mines of life. And, in that breath, however long it takes, may I find enough peace to behave as if I am indeed a reflection of God’s love.