“No other gods, only me.” Exodus 20:3 (The Message)
We’ve been talking lately about how God has shown me three valuable lessons, setting the stage to break free from my addiction to food. I have tried quick fixes in the past, but this time I’m seeking permanent change. The first two lessons showed how changing from the false mindset of God condemning me to the truth of God loving me and wanting the best for me brought me peace, as well as the chance to finally be honest with Him and with myself about this stronghold.
The final lesson can be summed up with one word: Language. How I speak to myself helps to determine how quickly I will succeed in breaking the addiction to food. You might ask, “What?” so let me explain.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems with putting myself down. I joke that I’m a recovering perfectionist, but when I wasn’t perfect, I felt like I’d failed. So, the many times I’d failed with a new diet, a new lifestyle, a new fad just added to that feeling of worthlessness and shame for not being able to get it right. The idea that I could eat like a normal person instead of struggling with these issues 24/7 was a distant dream I tried to grasp but always failed, again leaving me with a sense of false guilt. However, God showed me I was focusing on the lies and ignoring the truth. If I want freedom in any area of my life, I need to focus on the truth. And, in order to do that, it requires a lot of practice until it becomes my new mindset.
You might ask, “What exactly does that look like?” Here’s an example of believing the lie and then I will give the same example while practicing the truth. Monday morning arrives and I decide I’m ready to choose a healthy lifestyle. A few days go by and I’m doing great. I exercised, I made healthy choices, and I’m starting to feel good about myself. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, I’m stressed out. I have deadlines that are impossible to meet, bills that need to be paid with no money in the checkbook, and I have to make a quick trip to the grocery store for a few essentials. I’d skipped eating all day and while feeling defeated, I buy two donuts and a candy bar, with peanuts for protein, so I can claim a few health benefits. I fall into bed that night feeling like a failure and my internal dialogue goes something like this: “Why bother? You have too much to lose anyway. It’s a lost cause. You might as well give up because you’ve failed already…again.” By allowing myself to dwell on those thoughts, I’ve given the evil one access to my mind and he’s celebrating a victory while I grieve my Heavenly Father. I believe He grieves much like an earthly parent. Not so much because I messed up, again, but more so because I didn’t make the choice to turn to Him when I saw myself heading in a direction I shouldn’t have and because I am saying such hurtful things about myself, His daughter.
That same scenario would look a little different when I begin to practice speaking truth instead of believing the lies. Same Monday morning, same exercise, same healthy choices. Same stress on Thursday, same grocery store trip, and…here’s where the differences begin. Instead of waiting until I fall into the trap of failure, I begin on Monday reminding myself of God’s truth. Before the evil one even has time to plant feelings of failure into my mind, I’ve already started speaking God’s Word, reminding myself I’m His child (Galatians 3:26), I’m fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), my body is a temple (I Corinthians 6:19) to name but a few.
Now I have to admit when I first started doing this, it felt a little strange to me. But, the more I reminded myself of all the wonderful things that I am because of choosing to be a Christ follower, I started to replace the lies I used to believe with the truth from the Bible. God doesn’t expect perfection from me (Ephesians 2:8-9), God knows I’ll be tempted and has prepared a way to help me overcome those temptations (I Corinthians 10:13), and as His child He has already given me full access to all of the fruits of the Spirit, one of which is self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
So, when Thursday came and I was tempted to eat the donuts and candy bar (with peanuts for protein), I did one of two things. I had practiced speaking truth enough that I was able to realize it was stress talking, not true hunger, and walk away, making the best choice. Or, I reacted to the stress by eating two donuts and the candy bar (with peanuts) but was able to stop the cycle of condemnation by confessing my downfall, speaking more truth, and continuing to practice good habits.
I’m not saying eating donuts and candy bars are sin. I am saying that God doesn’t want anything in our lives to be a substitute for Him. “You will have no other gods before me,” found in Exodus 20:3 spells it out pretty clearly. For me, turning to food to relieve stressful situations instead of asking God to handle it is unhealthy and sinful.
The more I practice, the more I tame the two-year-old temper tantrum that screams at me in stressful situations or when tired, the closer I will get to finally experiencing long lasting freedom. As I sit here writing this, my stomach is growling. I made the decision this morning to fast food for the day. My body needed to be put in its place, and I refuse to continue to allow donuts to dictate. This is the area in my life where God is calling me to replace the idol of food with complete devotion to Him.
Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be a quick breakthrough or occur through steady practice, one day at a time? I don’t know. I do know that I’m a fully devoted Christ follower who is ready to stop lying to herself, stop condemning myself for my failures, and ready to practice for as long as it takes until food is put in its proper place in my life.
I pray that my being vulnerable about a life-long battle with food has somehow encouraged you on your own journey to complete freedom in an area of your life where you have struggled. I also know that this is just the beginning of lifelong freedom…but what a blessed beginning it is.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014