Welcome to the Stewardship Series. In 2019 my focus is on intentionally stewarding the gifts and talents God has entrusted to me. This series will highlight the nine areas of stewardship I identified in my 2019 goals: my physical and spiritual health, my marriage and motherhood, my relationships with friends and family, my home, my time online, and my voice. I pray this series encourages you, as we grow together as stewards.
steward: (n.) a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something (ie. another’s property.)
Welcome to Part 2 of Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why! In Part 1 I talked about the practical reasons I’m starting this year of stewardship by focusing on my physical health. But while feeling better, looking better, and avoiding future health issues are all on my list, those aren’t the biggest reasons.
God has been dealing with me for probably the last 7 years. He’s been trying to tell me that my spiritual health and my physical health are intrinsically tied together.
The inklings showed up on the periphery of my consciousness in the early weeks of my marriage. I remember one Friday evening when Dave and I were grocery shopping. I knew he was trying his best to eat healthy and maintain the amazing weight loss he’d achieved to join the Army, but I had no concept of what a healthy diet looked like for him, or for me.
I don’t remember what item I put in the cart, but I do remember the look on Dave’s face. It was clear he didn’t think it was a good idea. I put it back on the shelf.
After this happened a couple more times, I burst into tears in the middle of the Commissary.
I knew there were physical requirements for Dave’s new job, and I truly wanted to be a supportive wife, but I was at a loss.
He was confused as to why a simple discussion about what should or shouldn’t go in our grocery cart was upsetting me to such a degree.
The issue boiled down to this: my usual coping mechanism for change and stress was eating macaroni and donuts, and since now the change involved my food, which was causing me stress….I didn’t have a clue where to turn.
I started trying to deal with the issue I thought I was facing: changing my eating habits. But it was a halfhearted attempt at best. Due to our joint grocery shopping routine, and joining Dave at the gym, I did start to lose weight. But nothing changed in my mindset or my desires. Dave compromised and joined me little by little, partaking in treats from which he’d been abstaining, so as my weight began to drop, his began to increase ever so slightly.
The real problem started to make itself known when we moved to Hawaii two weeks before our first anniversary. The stress of moving around the world with only a few weeks’ notice, and then being without a permanent home and all our household goods for a month left me depressed in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Dave knew just what to do: whenever the mullygrubs would overtake me, he’d take me out for ice cream.
After this happened a few times, it started to occur to me that maybe my issues with food weren’t just about the size of my skirts.
A Heart Condition
I began to pay closer attention to my natural tendency. What I noticed was not surprising, but it was troubling: when things went wrong…or right…or when I was bored…or happy…and especially when I was sad, I did not turn to the Lover of my soul, to my Joy, or my Comforter. I turned to celebratory treats or comfort food.
I knew this was a problem. But I didn’t know how to break the cycle.
Over the next several years, I fell into a really embarrassing and dangerous pattern. While Dave and I were together, I’d try to be “good” and eat healthy. But on the side, when I was alone, I would sneak junk food and try to make sure I threw away the evidence before he could find out.
Just to be clear, this hiding of candy wrappers and drive-thru trash was NOT because I was scared of my husband, or that he had forbidden me to eat junk or anything like that. It was an internal urge, brought on because 1) I knew he would be disappointed and 2) I was ashamed of my reliance on sugar and fried food to meet my needs.
While I was pregnant, I lost what little appetite I had for anything healthy, and since the doctor told me to just make sure I was getting enough calories (as I started out fairly sick, and losing weight) Dave made it his mission to insure I had whatever food I could handle eating.
Basically, Abby was constructed out of macaroni and ice cream, with the occasional slice of pizza thrown in for good measure. (This is probably a gross exaggeration, but it feels true. That’s all I remember eating, other than apples.)
Right around the time when Abby was born, my father was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. It was a sobering reality, since his father also suffered from the same condition, and died at age 60. For the first time it hit me that genetics is a real thing, and if I didn’t want to make 30 my middle-age, I might need to look into how to prevent CHF.
A quick Google search produced predictable results: maintain a healthy diet. Exercise. Reduce sugar intake.
That last one stopped me in my tracks. Linked to the page I was reading was another article, something like Do You Have a Sugar Addiction? The bullet point that stood out to me said, “Do you experience an emotional reaction at the idea of quitting sugar?”
Um. Does a heart-pounding, sweaty, tear-filled panic attack count as an emotional reaction? Yes? Well then, apparently I have a sugar addiction.
Around this same time, I heard a podcast that brought so much conviction to my heart. The couple being interviewed had survived an affair. At the end of the interview, the host asked the husband how they kept their marriage healthy after betrayal. He responded, “We don’t have any secrets. About anything.”
Now, a podcast about marital infidelity might seem like a strange way for God to speak to me about my sugar addiction, but it shook me. I understood for the very first time that my “little habit” of eating sweets on the sly wasn’t as trivial as I’d tried to make myself believe.
It became crystal clear to me: deception might start small, but big sins grow from tiny seeds.
I realized I was dealing with a heart condition. One much more severe than CHF or Ventricular Tachycardia.
I remember telling Dave my “secret.” We were, of all places, in the parking lot of McDonald’s, eating our drive-thru orders while Abby slept in her carseat.
That was the first step in my realization that I needed to take control of my food choices.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account from that moment to now, three years later. I will confess that the first conversation was not the last one Dave and I have had on the subject. Nor have I kept a spotless record of never eating junk without confessing it right away. We’ve had to talk about this several times in the past three years. Because that’s how you keep sin from taking root and growing…you expose it to the light.
Saying NO to Sin
Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying. I’m NOT saying that eating sugar is a sin. I’m not saying that enjoying fast food, or soda, or cupcakes will keep you (or me) out of heaven. We have freedom in Christ to eat and drink and enjoy our lives here on this Earth.
But we have not been given liberty so that we can turn to idolatry. We are not free from the law so that we can follow sin (Romans 6:14-16).
Sugar is an IDOL for me. Something I have been unwilling, and even felt unable, to give to God. And idolatry, no matter the form it takes, IS sin.
I’ve seen the truth of Romans 6:16. If I give Satan a tiny foothold, he is not content to stop with just my donuts and soda. He wants to be my master.
Over the past three years, God has shown me that my issues with food are not just about putting my trust in comfort food instead of the Comforter. And it’s not just about the sin of deception I was entertaining.
He’s also shown me that it’s about self-control (a fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23), self-denial, and a willingness to give up all to follow.
It’s about whether or not I will choose to turn my back on my idol of comfort…of what’s easy…of what’s familiar.
As I mentioned last week, I believe God has called me (and every believer, for that matter) to ministry. Right now ministry takes several forms in my life, but in the future, I have no idea what God has for me to do.
But I do know that my body is His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), and that by treating it so irresponsibly, I have shown a willful disregard for His handiwork.
It’s also about selfishness. Is it right that I eat whatever makes me happy, knowing that by doing so I set myself up for possibly preventable diseases like CHF and diabetes, things I’m already genetically predisposed to acquire? What does that say about the way I view my responsibility to my husband, and my daughter?
And so for the past three years, with this new understanding, I’ve yo-yoed back and forth.
On at least two occasions I have started rigorous meal plans and workout regimens, praying earnestly in the beginning for strength and deliverance, only to slip back into old patterns when things got hard.
When God Speaks
Last March I attended a ladies’ conference. I went there hoping for a word from God, something specific to ME about this very issue.
I eagerly entered the opening session: nothing.
I sat through the second day: nothing.
By the closing service on Friday night, I was becoming frustrated. Once again, the speaker’s focus was on nothing even remotely connected to what I thought I needed.
As ladies flooded the altar to pray, and I knew the whole thing was winding down, I sat in my pew and bowed my head.
And the Lord spoke into my spirit.
He said, “Why do you need someone else to tell you what I’ve already told you to do? Why do you hold so tightly to this thing I’ve asked you to surrender? You say you want a deeper relationship with Me, but what is it worth to you? Is it worth giving this thing up?”
Again, conviction gripped me.
That night I started a fast. Not of all sugar, or anything so extreme. I was coming to the realization that extreme measures don’t last, at least not for me. I need slow and steady change, and moderation. But I made a commitment to fast sweet treats. I don’t remember how many days this lasted. It was at least a week, maybe more. I felt different, closer to God now that I was rooting out the idol in my heart. But I wasn’t sure how to sustain this newfound openness. And habits ingrained over the course of more than 30 years are hard to break.
One month later God spoke to me again. (Isn’t our Lord so patient?) Visiting my in-laws on Long Island, we attended Bethel UPC, the church where Dave and I met. The youth pastor, our friend Jonathan Walker, was preaching that Sunday. In the middle of his sermon he stopped, and said something to the affect of, “I’ve never done this before, but the Lord is telling me that there is someone here with a dam in your spirit. Something is blocking the flow of the Holy Ghost in your life.”
I knew. I KNEW without any doubt, that I was the person. That dam was my dependence on sugar.
I’m writing this in January. Nine months after those two clear messages. I have fasted from sweets for different periods since that April trip, and I can say I have felt a distinct spiritual difference when I have dedicated my fasting to the Lord.
But those temporary reprieves are not enough. Sugar might be the root, but all the other issues…the idolization of comfort, the selfishness…all of those things are still real and troubling.
Temporary abstinence hasn’t fixed my mindset or the focus of my heart long-term.
Just a few weeks ago God nudged me yet again, while an evangelist, Micah Warbington, spoke to our church. He related the account in Luke 23, when Jesus was brought before Herod Antipas during His mockery of a trial. Luke tells us that Herod was excited to see Jesus, because he’d heard great stories, and wished to see a miracle.
This was the same Herod who had once been intrigued by John the Baptist, but eventually jailed and beheaded him after John angered Herod’s wife by pointing out the couple’s sin.
When Jesus stood before Herod, He did not say one single word.
The evangelist posed this question, “Herod, why do you expect to see a miracle, when you refused to act on the word He sent you through His prophet?”
It’s Time to Act on the Word
Whatever God is wanting to do in me, in my life, in my spirit, in my ministry…whatever miracles He wants to perform, He is waiting for me to act on the word He sent me.
And that’s why I’m kicking off 2019 with this focus.
I want to feel good about myself.
I want to fit into clothes I’ve not worn in several years.
I want to be healthy and live to be an old woman who can get down in the floor with her grandkids, if the Lord wills.
But mostly, more than all the rest, I want to be available and ready for whatever God has for me to do.
Wherever He wants to take me, in my flesh or in my spirit, I don’t want this weight dragging me down.
Next week: The How. I want to tell you about The FASTer Way to Fat Loss, the program I’m using to jump start this year of Stewarding My Physical Health.