Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. No, I’m not Catholic, and no, I don’t participate in the events of the day. However, over the last few years, I’ve chosen to give up something for the days of Lent. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it makes me more holy. I don’t think there’s really any other spiritual benefit to this time over any other time of year. However, it acts as a good reminder to have self-control and abstain from something that I’ve been perhaps over-indulging in.
As I think about this year and my decision to give up artificial sweeteners, I am reminded of Galatians 6:7-9:
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
I find it interesting that God uses the example of planting a garden (sewing and reaping) in order to describe the truth of cause and effect in the life of the believer. After all, often the things we do take a good bit of time to bear fruition in our lives.
For example, the decision to lose weight and/or get fit through exercise and good eating takes time. It’s not a one-time decision with amazing results “in just 10 minutes” or “just 24 hours” or even just “9 weeks”, as all the advertisements for new health, diet, and exercise products would like to tell us. No, unfortunately, it’s not an overnight decision with immediate results. Being healthy, losing weight, getting fit, running a half-marathon—all of it takes time, dedication, and hard work.
Spiritual progress is like that too. When someone gets saved, God does some serious house-cleaning, and I do believe that we see results of the heart change manifested in the life of the new believer. However, spiritual growth, like the workings of your vegetable/flower garden and the workouts of a person dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, takes time and dedication.
Spiritual digression works the same way. Unfortunately, however, we often feel surprised by the speed of this in someone we assumed to be stronger, but in actuality, the spiritual digression has been taking place as a slow process and the expression of it has come to a place where we realize they (or ourselves) are farther down the slope than we had realized.
Healthy food leads to healthy living. Unhealthy food leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. Artificial sweeteners, after years of use, are found to lead to cancer. It’s the same concept. That which I have found to cut sugar out of my life and add to my health now may lead to damage for my long-term health later. I’ve heard this for years. I’ve known this for just as long. However, the temptation to enjoy the now at the expense of the later is strong. I’ll admit. I gave in.
I hope that this “Lent” fast from these sweeteners will act as the beginning to my refusal to poison my body for the sake of today.
Knowing how easily I gave in to something as silly as artificial sweeteners has me analyzing my spiritual walk as well. What else have I sowed into my life with a denial that one day I will reap the product?
What are you planting in your life? Will it produce health or death? Growth or digression?