It has been a while—about a year, in fact, since I’ve written for my personal blog. I don’t really know why, but here goes anyway.
First, I want to praise God and tell you that I am blessed among men. If, for no other reason than, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 [ESV]
Or, as the prophet Jeremiah put it, Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. Jeremiah 17:7. [ESV] And that’s not even to mention my sweet wife of nearly 47 years, my son who is a great pastor, his wife, 4 grandchildren, and so many more who have invested in my life over the years.
And still, life hurts sometimes. I was reflecting about life the other day and it occurred to me that, like many of you who read this, I’ve had some painful episodes over the course of years. Not too long ago it was kidney cancer. Before that, a nearly deadly blockage in my heart. Before that, my dear old dog died. Before that, my parents died a few days apart. And a long time ago, over fifty years in fact, my first bout with cancer ended in a surgeon using a circular saw to remove an entire joint. Ouch, I still remember waking up to the pain. So, life has hurt from time to time because of death and maladies. And that doesn’t even address all the other hurts that concern people who I care about.
What I really want to speak to in this essay is the prison we sometimes jail ourselves in because we refuse to listen to our own body or the sage advice of another person who is trying to help us live a better life. You need to know that what really got me thinking about this is the sermon series my son just finished up at church. The series title was simply, HABITS. Here’s a link to the last message, although I encourage to you watch the whole 4-sermon series; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOZcZmS0zLM&t=2s. In my personal opinion, and I’m not the least bit prejudiced, this is the best series I’ve ever heard about developing good habits and defeating bad habits.
You are probably thinking, Oh boy, here goes the preacher picking on my XXXXXX. Nope, not gonna happen. I’m not about to tell you what is right or wrong—you already know that. I already know that. And still it seems that we often lock ourselves up because of what I call mental blindness.
What is mental blindness? It’s when a normal, clear-thinking person allows their self to be hurt by. . .their self. Let me explain. Over the course of the last 24 months or so, I’ve had a couple of those hurts that pretty much sidelined me from activities that I enjoy. What I’m talking about is the heart/cancer issue. Sure, it hurt physically. Who wouldn’t hurt after a surgeons knife goes poking around inside your body. It hurt emotionally. When your physician comes into the room and tells you your heart is about to explode or you have a cancer growing, it’s scary, whether you want to admit it or not. Having both, back to back, took a toll on me. And, it hurt spiritually. Now I know God in Jesus Christ very, very well. He’s had my back for a long time; actually since before I was born. But we’ve had a close personal relationship for over 40 years because I accepted him as my Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit has been my guide for all of those years, the Bible has been my roadmap, and ministry has been my vocation. And, yet, those days of pain caused me, allowed me, tricked me, I don’t know—did something to me that started me down a path I didn’t want to go down, didn’t intend to go down, and frankly, never thought I’d ever go down again. Let me see if I can describe that path. . .looking for a word, the word, any word will do. No, not just any word, a particular word that is so descriptive of my case, it simply cannot be ignored or denied. The word—INDOLENT. My 1948 Noah Webster’s Dictionary defines indolent as indulging in ease, avoiding labor, lazy. Ouch. The current Merriam-Webster online dictionary adds habitually lazy. Double ouch, but guilty.
How do I know this applies to me? I stopped eating right, I stopped sleeping right, I stopped exercising, I stopped being in the Word several times a day, I stopped praying regularly, and on and on. The key here, I STOPPED. I bet you didn’t know stopping could be a bad habit. Sure, you’ve heard plenty about stopping stuff that hurts you because it’s a bad habit. But what about stopping stuff that’s good for you?
In my case, it was weight gain caused by eating stuff I have no business eating, eating too much of whatever I was eating, and failing to realize that the resulting physical pain had nothing much to do with a bad back but, rather, a bad. . .dare I say it, HABIT. There was much more than poor nutrition, though. I put stuff off—I’m not even wired that way. I’ve always gotten out of bed with a plan, things to do, people to see, a schedule and a budget. What I found myself doing instead was planning how to do little, put off more, and sit around feeling sorry for myself because I “hurt.”
And, then, the worst part. My quiet time became alarmingly quiet. God became distant. I didn’t think I could hear him anymore like I could before I retired. The Bible started becoming stale. The message didn’t resonate in my heart anymore. Does that sound at all like a place you have visited, a road called silence?
You see, mental blindness usually has two sidekicks, physical lethargy and spiritual deafness. I wear hearing aides and know a lot of people who are hearing impaired. It’s not a happy place when you can’t hear the person sitting next to you. It’s even worse when it’s God. Worse yet, well maybe not as bad but it seems like it, is when you’re sitting on the couch with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon watching some stupid program on TV wondering when you’ll get that next half gallon when you finish the one on your stupid lap.
Stop it, just stop it. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. Success. Some. Failure. Plenty.
Here’s the good news. Even while it has seemed sometimes that I was lost and on a path to nowhere, that same Spirit that has lived within me for going on 50 years never stopped telling me to get up and do life right. By the way, that’s the way it is for every person who has been saved by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, I got up. Still eating ice cream? Yeah, just not as much and not as often. Potato chips. Same thing. And that reminds me of an old song.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Not gonna sink. No sir. The God I serve is greater than all my weaknesses, all my excuses, and yes, all my sin. When I’m lowest, He is still highest. When I can’t hear his lovely voice, His trumpet still sounds. When I can’t get up by myself, He reaches down from heaven and somehow lifts me up again and again and again. Thank God!
Is there a moral here? Maybe. For me it’s just time to get “back at it.” And I have. One more thing. When you get yourself in one of these predicaments, the people around you are affected, too. When I quit eating right and exercising to stay alive, my sweet wife was dragged right down into that mire with me. Thankfully, she didn’t sink as far, but still, it’s just not right to hurt the people you love that way.
I’m back to stretching, getting ready to start regular workouts, looking forward to conditioning, enjoying my time in the Word, and looking forward to re-developing the good habits I forgot about for way too long.
I’ll leave you with this, not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 312-14 [ESV]