I’m on a quest to lose what seems like an eternal five pounds. Actually, it’s more like eight. Five just sounds better. It’s a good round number. I’m not terribly serious about it, or else I would have done something radical by now. I’ve already bought roomier clothes, temporarily, of course, so I could be comfortable while dropping the extra weight. Now that I’m comfortable, what’s the rush? Some days I’m not bothered by them at all; others, they cling like unwanted leeches, creating just enough snugness in just the wrong places that I want to scream! I am determined, however, to lose them without doing anything extreme, like giving up chocolate or bread or exercising like a maniac for an hour or more every day. I just don’t have the discipline to maintain such difficult standards. I’ll find success for a time, the pounds will eventually fall away, and I’ll celebrate with chocolate, bread, and a few days of much deserved respite from rigorous physical activity. And I’ll end up right where I am right now.
Consequently, I’m resolute to take reasonable measures. That mentality in and of itself has to be a work of the Lord in me. I don’t ever do anything reasonable. I’m way too all or nothing for that! So instead of imposing a diet of deprivation upon myself and running until my joints scream with agony, I have decided to work out with weights, because muscle burns fat (so says Chalene of ChaLEAN Extreme, anyways), and think a little harder about my food choices throughout the day. Some days, I think hard about chocolate. Others, I truly consider the nutritional value of my choices. The weight is not falling off. Slowly, though, I think I’m getting a little more lean. The beautiful thing is I’m okay with it either way. The evidence of God’s deliverance is in the absence of the obsessive-compulsive desperation that used to drive me. It feels good. Unfortunately, all this balanced thinking vanishes with hunger!
The other night, about 10:30 p.m., my hollow stomach drove me to the pantry. My body clock was off from a long weekend getaway to Arizona, and dinner was long digested. Standing in the kitchen, cereal box in one hand, bowl in the other, I paused. “People who lose weight are willing to go to bed hungry,” whispered the voice of conscience. So simple, yet so profound.
I shared this epiphany with my pastor’s wife as we ran together a few days later, and as I confessed a different area of indulgence I really don’t want to admit because I’m not sure I want to change, it occurred to me in my self psychoanalysis that the forces behind both are the same: I want what I want when I want it without restriction or consequence so that I can be happy. Not surprisingly (even though it seemed quite remarkable in the moment), the answer to overcoming both is the same: the discipline of the pause.
When I stopped before thoughtlessly consuming that bowl of cereal, it gave me just enough time to think about the consequence of my choices. Whether or not I have a late-night snack may not have spiritual implications, but in how many other areas of my life would the discipline of the pause make all the difference in the world? Stopping long enough in my hectic life to truly consider what I’m doing, why, what God wants, and what course of action is pleasing to Him. Honestly, I don’t think He cares if I eat a bowl of cereal before going to bed. But if doing so sets me on a course of self-loathing that interferes with my intimacy with Him, then all of a sudden the spiritual implications are significant. For me, mindless living results in all manner of self-indulgence, which is essentially selfishness, which is at the root of most sin. To pause is to take enough time to make a right choice. It interrupts the momentum of the flesh and cracks the door for the power of the Holy Spirit.
The discipline of the pause has endless implications. What if I paused before every response to my kids? what if I paused every time James asked me for help? What if I paused before every online purchase I made? What if I paused before every commitment I made, including the ones that result from my own ideas? What if I paused before every television show I watched, every phone call I made, every mindless time waster in which I engaged?
“Consider your ways! ‘You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!’” (Haggai 1:5-7). My selfish pursuits will never be enough, just like the Jews to whom Haggai is speaking! Without the pause, I am a hamster spinning my wheels.
In my cereal moment, I’d love to say I was super spiritual. I wasn’t. I simply stopped long enough to make a choice to be hungry and perhaps a step closer to my goal. I missed it. The pause is an opportunity to consider my ways. To pray. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). In that suspended moment, we can heed the Lord’s counsel. We can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Be still and know what it is this God wants of me. Be still and harness the power of the Holy Spirit within to follow His will in that moment. Be still, that God may be glorified.
Will you join me in learning the discipline of the pause? Life is hectic. I think the devil likes it that way. When we’re mindlessly rushing from one commitment to another, one deadline to the next, we often don’t take time to consider the people we could be loving along the way. The lives we could be touching. The gospel we could be sharing. Whirlwind living is great for Satan.
Lord, please work in us to pause. To be still and consider You. To consider our ways. To receive the power we need to know what You want and how You would have us handle people, circumstances, commitments, conversations, and time. Accomplish Your work in us that you may be exalted among the nations as we become more wholly Yours.