When I was 19 I found out I was allergic to corn and soy. Being a child of the 80s and 90s my first thought was “I’ll never eat Oreos or Doritos again! Why is God doing this to me?!” and I proceeded to do what I always did as a mature well-adjusted young woman: I totally rebelled. I reasoned temporary gain was worth long term pain, and I ate what I wanted to eat. I know a thing or two about trading my blessings for bowls of soup.
God must have had a smile on His face that day, because what I perceived as the worst thing that could ever happen was just the beginning. Seven years later I was still breaking the rules, and a new list of limitations found my name. Suddenly corn and soy weren’t the only things I couldn’t eat. Add to that gluten, wheat, yeast, sugar, vinegar, mushrooms and you get the picture. I felt like the rug was totally pulled out from under me. I’ve shared this with you before.
It’s a funny thing that the word “disciple” actually comes from the word “discipline.” And I might have only been around 31 years, but it seems to me God really does discipline those He loves.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves… – Hebrews 12:6a (NLT)
As long as I was living off of Kit Kat bars and Wendy’s I was never going to see my body for the temple of His Spirit it is. It’s something He created, and He thinks pretty highly of it. And these days I have the pretty good task of taking care of it as best I can.
Which brings me to an aspect to loving ourselves well (so that we can love others well) that we don’t always think about. And between you and me, it’s something I usually don’t want to think about. But I’m just going to throw it out there. Part of loving ourselves best is learning how to exercise a lil’ discipline in the form of a lil’ self-control.
The years where God led me through hard things into better things were some of the hardest but most rewarding years of my life. And the biggest thing He asked of me in order to grow healthier was self-discipline. For years I’d been bad to myself. It wasn’t just the sugar addiction. In addition to eating poorly, I slept poorly, entertained negative thinking, worked way too hard, dated all the wrong men, didn’t exercise, and worshiped things that were actually doing more harm in my life than good, like a glamorous career and my “cool” record collection.
In order to get healthier, God asked me to learn how to be disciplined in my life so that I could let go of those things that were harming me, no matter how much I loved my daily Kit Kat bars and hearing my name on the VIP list of New York’s coolest clubs, and embrace those things that were truly healing for me.
The funny thing is He asked the same thing of the Israelites in order to cross from slavery in Egypt to total freedom in the Promise Land. If you read the books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy they harp on the same things over and over again: the rules for living.
Now I know we’re not saved by The Law, so hear me on this. I’m simply saying it totally blew my mind when I realized God was handing these rules down to the Israelites for lots of reasons – but one of them was to teach them how to live self disciplined lives so they could love Him, themselves and their neighbors best and experience a happy community. He was preparing them in their journey to the Promise Land so they would know how best to take care of themselves when they were surrounded by the customs of the other people living in the land.
What looked like rules on the surface were in fact a road map to healthy, peaceful, prosperous lives.
Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. – Deuteronomy 5:29 (NLT)
In the same way, one of the best ways we can really love ourselves is to practice self-discipline, so that we reject those oh-so-tempting bad things that hold us back from God’s best for us (like addiction, unhealthy habits, unhealthy relationships, negative thinking, and complacency) and embrace those good things that help us love ourselves – and by extension our families, our people, and our communities – better.
I may have given up the Kit Kat bars, but I still cringe when it comes time to exercise. Now you tell us, where do you find it the easiest or hardest to be disciplined?
Original photo of Woman Pointing Heart Paper by stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net. Adapted for this post by Stephanie Oh.