See, I didn’t grow up loving beans and lettuce. My natural tendency has always preferred dessert, and as my dad had a sweet tooth, a sugary indulgence was often present in my childhood home. There, however, it was balanced with hearty, home-grown fare. But since I didn’t like farming the food, I didn’t like eating it, and I ate only enough to qualify me for dessert. Since we are fleshly beings who already have a love for the carnal, it’s easy to opt for things that please our natural man’s palate. Spiritually, we can condition ourselves to lifestyles of “getting by.” No real sacrifice. No true hunger for the good. Just enough spiritual to soothe our conscience. All the while, the carnal demands that it is fed.
Since sugar had always been a part of my diet, it was easy to let my love for it dominate my need for better food. What had been consumed in balance in my childhood, when given the opportunity, quickly overtook my desire for healthier options. Good can quickly replace best. Work, exercise, food, relationships, or a plethora of other things that are fine if contained to their proper place can gain lordship in our live if they are surrendered to the preeminence of Christ. Furthermore, indulgences from our Christian youth must remain suitable restraint or even be altered as we grow in the spirit. Our spiritual diet of milk must eventually transform into a desire for meat, the healthier option for a growing saint of God.
Sometimes it takes setbacks to release us from the grip of empty calories--and to release our grip on them. Joint pain that seemed to flare with sugar intake had motivated my prior healthy lifestyle. As quickly as you please, fruits and veggies had looked appealing. I didn’t dislike lettuce one day and love it the next, but my will said, “I need lettuce more than I need Little Debbies.” Regardless of my taste buds’ preferences, my greater value of the healthy filled my plate with what I needed. Because healthier options became more important, I ate them, and as I made green and leafy my choice, my appetite followed. Sugary things became too sweet. Lettuce was good. I liked spinach. But, without the constant reminder from my joints that I needed to watch what I ate, the scale began to tip away from a healthy lifestyle and moved toward the extra pounds I was carrying. Because there were no immediate consequences for my choices, it was easy to keep packing on more and more unhealthy options, until food wasn't the only area I'd become slack. My regression reminds me of Ecclesiastes 8:11 “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” When consequences aren’t immediate, we dismiss them as possible. We feel freer to do what’s not in our best interests. If, however, every time I bit into a sugary snack my joints immediately screamed in pain, I’d throw that snack away and drink a smoothie. We’d do the same with sin and tolerance for things that cause us to be spiritually weighed down if we encountered a swift and sudden whack from God. But, God’s grace enables us to make choices, and reason, which arises from the carnal nature, loves the pre-packaged, the easy way, the present gratification. It beckons us to indulge now and worry about consequences later. And when we indulge, it’s a slow fade with one compromise making room for another. Hebrews 12, nevertheless, admonishes us to “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Like a cross-country runner who doesn’t see the finish line at the start of the race, we often have only the present moment in which to make a decision. Just as I can reach for another cup of coffee and a piece of cake that inflate my spare tire, I can reach for things that weigh me down spiritually…and then another and another… until the weights become spiritual pounds that render me inactive and are sin to me.
But I don’t have to become a spiritual junk food junky encumbered by the accumulation of bad decisions. I have a better option. I can look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus ran His race well by anticipating the joy to come. He kept the consequences of His actions in mind. When I look to His example, I make choices based on my eternal success. My excitement for what lies ahead increases; He waits for me at the finish line. When I look to Him, my cravings shift. My hunger for His good grows, and as I am nourished by His offerings, I am strengthened for the journey. Partaking of the best, I no longer want the things that cripple my spiritual joints. I “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), and my appetite is satisfied by the sustenance of His love, something far sweeter than the most decadent of desserts.
Tip/Tidbit: Increase your time with Jesus, and watch your appetite shift from junk to joy.