Thursday, January 30, 2014

Breaking Through Denial

Denial.  I know how to do it, but I didn't really think about what the word means.  The Free Dictionary defines denial as: 
A refusal to grant the truth of a statement or allegation; a contradiction.

Refusing the truth.  Contradicting the truth.  I might add--opposing the truth.  Truth is present and denial either ignores it (passive) or contradicts it (active).  Either way, the truth is not acknowledged.  I do, however, find that passively dealing with truth is much easier than actively dealing with it!  What do I do when I learn something new?  How do I process it and proceed with it?  New truth demands some sort of response--even ignoring truth is a response.

Ignoring the truth has pretty much been my pattern, when it comes to my weight, for most of my life.  My weight has been a monkey on my back since I was about 14 years old.  I have hated it, at times, and I have battled it, at other times, but I have always been aware of it.  I have laughed at my inability to do even a single pull-up.  I have embraced the "you only live once" mantra to excuse excess.  I have cried when I stepped on the scale--and then made the same poor choices all day long.  I have excused excessive eating with everything from "it's the holidays", and "she made this especially for me", to "I had a terrible day--I deserve this". 

The truth is that I don't deserve it.  I deserve better than lousy excuses.  I deserve more than failed attempts.  I deserve to live out the last half of my life with enthusiasm of mind and body and obedience to the voice of God.  

For the last 18 months, as I struggled with some health issues, I became aware of some changes I did not like.  My weight was creeping up (again!) and so was my blood pressure.  I have never had even slightly elevated blood pressure before, so I knew it was time to face these issues head-on.  I'm a nurse and I talk to people about this problem almost every day--I know the truth about how this happens and I speak this truth to my patients.  How could I ignore it in my own life?  

My truth is that my increasing caffeine intake and my increasing weight were creating my increasing blood pressure.  Bottom line; plain and simple; cause and effect--the truth.  If increasing was the problem, then decreasing had to be the answer.  The third day that I took my blood pressure and it was in the high 80s, I made the first change.  I dropped my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee per day and only rarely (2-3 times per week) allowed another beverage with caffeine in it.  The effect was immediate, but the cure was annoying!  I love coffee and it has been hard to remember to order decaf the rest of the day--but it has worked.

Making that small change woke me up.  I began asking myself just how many other changes might be needed and what kind of improvements I might see with just a few "tweaks" here and there.  But, none of these tweaks worked.  I could make a change here and there, but I would soon find another excuse to break my promise to myself.  

Compromise--that's what a broken promise is and that's what I came face to face with at the end of 2013.  I was on the verge of compromising on the restrictions I had placed on myself with my caffeine intake and I was just watching the numbers on the scale go up and up!  My frustration was driving me to eat more and the vicious cycle of "promise--compromise--defeat" was wearing at my soul.  In the midst of this season of discouragement, I read this:
"God made us capable of craving so we'd have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone.  Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided craving to the ony one capable of satisfying them."  --Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave pg. 16
Craving wasn't the problem.  Craving was the answer.  My cravings were designed by God to draw me closer to Him.  The problem was that I was trying to fill a God-sized hole in my soul with pizza and cinnamon rolls and coffee and pie.  There was nothing necessarily wrong with what I was eating--the problem was with how I was using these things to medicate the discouragement, anxiety, and stress in my life.   There was no moderation in my life, because I was using food as a drug. 

And then God pointed me to a bit of scripture that gave me direction.  Deuteronomy 2:3 says, "You have circled this mountain long enough.  Now turn north."  I realize this is specifically talking about the journey of the Israelites through the desert before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land, but it is also speaking to me.  Why were they wandering when the destination was known to them?  They were wandering because of disobedience--they had defied the leadership of God, and the testimony of Caleb and Joshua, and now they were circling the same mountains again and again--going nowhere. 

It was like a gong sounded in my head.  "That's what I'm doing.  I'm circling the mountain of my disobedience again and again."  I knew it was time to head north.  It was time to make a choice and to follow that choice with determination through the power of God.  If God made me to crave Him then I knew He would supply the power to change my cravings.  I could no longer deny what I knew to be true and I could no longer compromise. 

Breaking the grip of sugar was going to be my greatest challenge.  It meant no dessert, no sweet hot beverages, no chocolate.  How would I ever do this?  The answer was in the text from Deuteronomy, which I have repeated to myself over and over again--
I have circled this mountain long enough.  It's time to turn north.
I have made that turn and found that all the strength I needed was right there waiting for me. When I was denying the truth, I was also denying all the power of God that was available to me.  I have turned north and I am heading in the direction God is leading me.  No more circling the mountain of denial for me.