Read Galatians 5:13-26
The first class after lunch was about to start and my favorite Bible professor stood before the students as we anticipated one of his usual witty questions.
"How many of you enjoyed the chocolate cake today?" He asked with a knowing smile.
Was he reading my mind? I personally enjoyed it a great deal! Actually my belly was rumbling in remembrance because I had two pieces of chocolate decadence, smothered in chocolate frosting.
Practically the whole class raised their hands to say they had a piece (at least) of the cake. The chocolate cake at my private college was the pride and joy of the dining hall experience.
The professor nodded at everyone's enthusiasm, but then said, "I did not have any. Not because I did not want some. Or could not have some. Or should not have some."
We were undergrads here, not rocket scientists. Where was this leading? Why not just have the chocolate cake?
"I did not have the chocolate cake because I was practicing something I am not very good at."
We were all ears. Could this popular professor have a fault?
"Self control," he said and continued by quoting a much-heard Scripture,"'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.' This list isn't a list of attributes some people are born with and some not. If we do not exhibit love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control then we need to practice until we do."
The chocolate cake sat heavy in my belly. The professor's point struck a nerve, even happily padded under the 20 extra pounds I gained during my first year of college do to the opposite of self-control in my food choices. Self-control was something I always liked to say I just wasn't good at. It wasn't my gifting. To self-indulge is our first desire, not self-restraint (Galatians 5:19-21).
12 years later and the dining hall cuisine is a distant memory. Yet my professor's words strike a nerve today too. Self-control. Am I practicing it on the things that seem unimportant (like a piece of chocolate cake) so I have the discipline for things that are?
After I said, "just a minute" for the tenth time yesterday, my conscience was bothering me. I wasn't practicing any self-control on the computer. Again. I use the computer for my work, research, recipes, keeping up with friends, and we can't for get Drops posts. These necessities make it really easy for me to sit in front of the computer for long periods of time. Just checking something really quick. Just seeing if anyone commented on my witty Facebook post. Just uploading some photos. Just writing an email.
Self-control isn't just a tidy suggestion. Without restraint we live for ourselves, not for God. My relationship with Him suffers -- if I can't get off the computer in just a minute, can I get out of bed early to do devotions? My relationship with my husband suffers because I'm clicking away at the computer instead of listening to him. And my children? Are they even home? Oh ya, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with steak knives on the couch. Where is their mother?
With my conscience bothering me like too much chocolate cake sitting in my belly, I did some practicing. Like mental and emotional push-ups, I set some boundaries. No computer at all until I took care of my top 4 (God, husband, children, home). It was HARD work. But I was far, far more productive when I wasn't jumping onto the computer for fragmented minutes. And the rewarding feeling of getting my lists done and then rewarding myself was the best feeling. A lot better than that guilty one I usually have when I say, "Just a minute," to my kids.
My current self-control test is the computer. What is yours? You don't have to tell me here, but I know something came to your mind when you started reading this. I encourage you to pray about it, set some reasonable goals and practice! We can be strengthened by knowing that our need to self-indulge was crucified with Christ. He paid the ultimate price so we could put our sinful ways behind us. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.