Monday, February 8, 2010

When I fail

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

I knew better, but I tried to get away with it anyway.

At the beginning of January, I began still another diet. As I followed the four-day jumpstart eating plan, I noticed it was high in protein. No flour products such as pasta and bread—not even whole wheat.

Now I love pasta and bread. These are my Achilles’ heel, and probably the reason I’ve been trying, without much success, to lose weight for the past 30 years. White flour and sugar foods literally make me sick. Within an hour after consuming them, I feel achy and tired, like I’m coming down with something.

But I convince myself a little bit now and then won’t hurt, that substituting white flour with whole wheat or buying a low-glycemic brand of pasta won’t affect me in the least. As long as I don’t go hog wild on whole wheat products or sneak in a serving of something made with white flour too many times.

Now, Friday evening is hubby and my date night. Pizza and a movie. Just the two of us. I make homemade pizza (half whole wheat, half unbleached white flour), and Dean makes a big salad, which is to keep me from eating half the pizza. As long as I stick to two slices of pizza, I’m OK.

One Friday night we decided to eat at a local pizzeria. I wanted the whole grain crust pizza, but was told they don’t make it anymore.

“A couple of slices won’t hurt,” I thought.

We ordered a large, pepperoni pizza and a basket of bread sticks—made with white flour. While we waited for the pizza, we shared the bread sticks—two and a half each. When the pizza arrived, I selected two of the smallest slices, then halved a third slice, which didn’t have any pepperoni.

I was proud of myself for my self-control—until the too-familiar sick, achy, tired feeling hit me and the numbers on my bathroom scale jumped up and stayed up. It took me a week to get back to where I was before I fooled myself into eating that pizza. (The bread sticks didn’t help, either.) I had less energy and more cravings than I had before the pizza incident.

You’d think I’d learn.

James describes this phenomenon when he writes that temptation starts with desire, and, if not dealt with, will lure us into doing what we know we shouldn’t. First the desire, then thinking “This isn’t so bad” or “A little bit, just this once, won’t hurt.” Once we convince ourselves, we plan how we could do this and get away with it. Then we do it. (James 1:13–15)

I felt like a failure all week. Hopeless. Discouraged. Disappointed in myself. I hate setbacks, and it was I who engineered this one. Failures tend to make us want to quit. There was but one thing to do: Put this self-inflicted defeat behind me and get back with the plan.

I’m going to have setbacks and failures, not only with weight loss, but also with life itself. Unforeseen expenses. An unexpected diagnosis. Loss of income. Accident. Illness. Problems with relationships. The list goes on. C’est la vie—such is life.

I’ve learned diligence, perseverance, endurance, and patience aren’t easily acquired, but are ideals toward which I work—traits that aren’t mine in abundance, but, like muscles, strengthen with training. The more I use them, the stronger they get. I’ve learned that I’m not perfect, and neither is life.

So what to do when I fail?

Don’t beat myself up about it. Don’t sob in my tea. Ask for forgiveness, wisdom, and strength—then forget what’s behind and reach for what’s ahead ( Philippians 3:13–14).

That’s the only way to overcome failure.

Thank you, dear Lord, for the strength, grace and mercy that help me to press on, so someday I can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Amen.

Special-Tea: Hebrews 12:1–2; 1 Corinthians 9:24–27

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