We’ve been doing a team Biggest Loser competition at work for the last two months, with each person on a team of 4 or 5 choosing their own path to coveted weight loss. The winning individual and team will be determined by the highest percentage weight loss on January 31, 2011. Despite the fact that everyone chooses their own eating and exercise plan (or not), it is interesting how some are held accountable because of their teammates, others having strong conviction to themselves personally because of commitments they made.
We got into a conversation last week after one of our biggest losers thus far said she “cheated”, meaning she ate food that was not on her weight loss plan. I had this stubborn kind of self-righteous, or self-protecting response, that it’s not cheating, it’s a decision – maybe a bad one, but a decision or choice to eat something else at that moment. To view it as cheating takes away, for me, the possibility of maintaining a healthy eating and exercise program once the prize money has been awarded and post-biggest loser days are here.
Fast forward to beginning The Daniel Fast …. as I prepared for the fast physically, I was nervous about the physical withdrawal I could expect from caffeine, sugar, meat – namely headaches and what one person described as severe leg cramps during the night. Reading the Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast clued me in – a little too late! – to the importance of kicking down sugar, caffeine, meat intake for at least a full week before starting …. I didn’t have a week to prepare.
I was actually pretty good on the sugar and processed food, but caffeine and dairy were part of my daily diet – dairy in abundance, caffeine in need. So I made the DECISION that I would follow The Daniel Fast precisely ….. except that I would allow myself 1 cup of coffee in the morning this first week – instead of the normal 2 mugs, then kick it down to 1/2 cup, 1/4, next week and cease completely.
I thought I deserved that decision, it was my right to make it, I am always the good girl that has to do what’s right, follow all the rules … after all, without morning coffee I would not be able to function at work, would not even be clear-headed enough to hear God – my primary motivation for doing the fast. Okay, by now you surely must have picked up on my “other” primary motivation, that I am struggling to move to the background – that is to lose weight during the fast.
So I made the decision to allow myself coffee for a time, and every time I heard whispered doubts in my mind yesterday – you’re not REALLY doing The Daniel Fast because no caffeine is allowed, you should at least try it without coffee (you can always infuse yourself quickly if a headache and muddled thinking overtakes you!), you’re probably not going to hear from God if you need coffee more than you need Him …. I just recounted that biggest loser conversation last week and decided I’m not cheating, I’m making a healthy decision for myself.
Then this morning as I held my mug of coffee in my hands, drew in the warm, satisfying first sip, I opened to today’s devotion – Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” Okay, well my coffee is not really a god … is it? I just need it to get started in the morning and I am going to give it up next week altogether.
Then Psalm 24:3-5 …
3 Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols
and never tell lies.
5 They will receive the LORD‘s blessing
and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Ouch! Only those whose hearts and hands are pure? Does this coffee in my hand make me unpure? Not because it’s not part of The Daniel Fast, but because I need it, want it, can’t let go of it completely … not just yet. Why is this cup so important to me? What does it represent besides the fear it holds of giving it up? Is it an idol, something I’m making more important during this fast than stripping away everything so I can hear from God?
I knew in an instant it wasn’t about physical need, it wasn’t even about cheating or making a decision for the fast … it was an outright stubbornness to do it my way, to hold on to some small piece that I would not give over to God. And as I read the story of God asking Abraham to take his beloved Isaac to a mountain to sacrifice him as a burnt offering, I was ashamed. Just as it wasn’t wrong for Abraham to love Isaac, it’s not wrong to enjoy a cup of coffee or a delicious chocolate dessert; the problem is when we love someone or something too much it becomes idolatry – and idolatry is destructive to God’s purposes.
The Daniel Fast is my fast of choice when I need direction or refreshment, or desire to hear God’s voice more clearly. This daily, living sacrifice is a wonderful way to establish a constant awareness that I am reprioritizing my life, putting all idols away, and allowing God to reign in my heart. God has shown me time and time again that when we bring our appetites and flesh under the direction of his Spirit, he will reward. I am always touched by how God honors our efforts, no matter how small. Not because we have to work for his approval but because he is so full of grace and looks for opportunities to bless us. Fasting is one of those gracious opportunities. – S.HORD
How about you? Is there one small thing in your life that you may need to reprioritize? Is there an idol that needs to be put away to allow God to reign in your heart?
Is there something unpure in your heart’s intent? Maybe, like me, you have two “primary” motivations … one that serves God, one that serves yourself. The question I’m wrestling with today is “Can I make this Daniel Fast solely about ‘God in me’ and what He wants to do in my life, trusting Him to take care of the weight loss and handle caffeine withdrawal His way?”
I’m praying so. Can anyone relate to the struggle?