“Hi Shannon. This is just your reminder. Today is the day your diet must begin. You will be relentless until the day you meet your goal. You will NOT take any breaks. Remember why you are doing this. Your aim is to surrender this area to the Lordship of Christ…”
This was the beginning of a letter I wrote and emailed to myself on New Year’s Day, one decade ago. The funny thing is, I could have re-emailed the same letter this year! And last year, too! Pretty much every year, my goal is the same and my strategy is the same. Because I have the same problem.
Do you struggle with food like I do? Or perhaps your struggle is with money or managing your time or your thought life. Whatever your besetting sin, it can be exasperating to face the same struggle repeatedly. Especially when—like I said in my letter—your ultimate goal is surrendering to God.
Now honestly, I don’t think God cares whether I’ve dropped a size or lost three inches since January 1. God’s focus is beneath the extra padding; He is concerned with my heart. However, my struggle with discipline is a heart issue. Rather than living within God’s limits woven into daily life, I crave a life without limits. I want to eat the rest of the Oreos. I want to choose Cheetos for a snack. I want to eat late at night with no thought of facing the morning scale. When I constantly cave in to myself, I train my heart to be selfish and stubborn, not sweetly surrendered to God.
We often think of surrender to God as big life-altering moments, when we say, “Jesus take the wheel!” or “I surrender all.” Yet I know plenty of women (myself included) who say they’ve given God control, yet often live like they’re the ones in control. They regularly cave in and say yes to themselves and no to God—which doesn’t exactly cultivate godliness.
So while I would never diminish the importance of huge moments of course-correcting surrender, I think life transformation actually happens in the small moments of surrender, when rather than giving God control of the next five years I surrender the next five minutes.
For me, food is the perfect way to practice surrendering to God, because my cravings never stop. Every time I pass a drive-through or hear the chocolate cake calling my name, I have a new opportunity to train my heart in the art of surrender, saying, “God, I surrender to you, rather than caving in to me.”
My responses are cumulative. The more consistently I surrender, the more I change the direction of my life. Rather than demanding or insisting on my way, I develop a heart of surrender, saying as Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done.”
So next January I’ll probably have the same resolution: eat healthier and shed some pounds. But you know what? This struggle is good for me. My food cravings provide ongoing opportunities to retrain my heart to follow God, not follow the path to the Oreos.