“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 and 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 I 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” (Paul the Apostle, Romans 7:15-20, The Message).
Something has gone wrong deep within all of us, the sin within that poisons our best intentions, causing us to do what we don’t want to do and preventing us from doing what we want to do. For many of us, this sin presents itself most in the form of impulsiveness and lack of self-control. We have a hard time telling ourselves “no” and find ourselves even subconsciously overindulging on things that make us sick.
Last night I watched a healthy foods show on Netflix, suddenly acutely aware of what I had consumed that day as I was finishing swallowing my last spoonful of ice cream. I had eaten a bowl of Mini-Wheats for breakfast, a handful of oreos, milk, and cheese for lunch, corndogs dipped in ketchup for supper, and then had a late night snack of vanilla ice cream dripping with chocolate syrup for dessert.
I felt sick, and it was no wonder why I always felt tired. Not only were my eating habits poor, but I rarely exercised, two bad habits I had often excused over the years as “okay for me” because I wasn’t even remotely chubby, and chubby town wasn’t even on the horizon because I had been blessed with good genes. But heart disease doesn’t show favoritism; thin people are still at risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases when they continue to coat their arteries with fatty deposits by eating unhealthy foods.
Some may argue that eating poorly is not a sin, but is living your life always tired, overweight, and constantly at risk for a heart attack pleasing to God? Paul clarifies that what we eat is not a sin (1 Corinthians 8:4-13), but the amount of what we eat can be sinful because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and those who make their god their stomach are destined to destruction (Philippians 3:19, paraphrased). Gorging ourselves on unhealthy food is wrong no matter how hard we try to justify it. Solomon, the wisest man to walk this earth, said that “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV). Paul lists self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and says that he disciplines his body and keeps it under self-control lest he be disqualified at the end of his life (2 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Instead of beating myself up over my indiscretions, I try to take to take Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice to “finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
So today I ate a few bananas and spinach leafs for breakfast, followed by two glasses of water. Will I be disciplined every day? Heavens no. I know myself too well. But today is a new day, and today I will begin anew, taking one day at a time.