I don’t know about you Girls, but for as long as I can remember, I have lived an “all or nothing” life. Maybe it was all those days of asking Mom to read Cinderella to me, but I always had a flair for the dramatic. Being a careless dreamer and a little rebellious landed me in plenty of trouble as a kid.
As I have mentioned before, my parents were pretty strict. Dad was a Marine Corps officer and once a Marine, always a Marine: oo-rah! So if I was a minute late coming home as a teenager, I was “late”. Late is late. When I turned 17, my curfew was a good 1-2 hours earlier than all my friends. The day I turned 18, in the middle of my senior year in high school, Voila! I had no curfew.
I was a terrible procrastinator in school. I would put off assignments until the absolute last minute, and sweat bullets, going into full-out panic mode. Then suddenly, something would kick in, and I would work hard, staying up all night, and wind up with an “A” – but what misery!
When I went to dental hygiene school after college, I realized this wouldn’t work anymore; so, right then and there, I became the model student. Anyone who knew me before this time, might have called me easy-going and people-oriented. During dental hygiene school, I became driven, motivated and task-oriented. This worked pretty well for me when I was working full-time.
But when I had my first baby, it was a terrible adjustment since no day seemed to go as planned. My to-do list mocked me. I lived in constant failure – what misery! I have struggled with my weight. No one would know it, but I have lost hundreds of pounds in the last seven years, after the babies. Five pounds at a time. Gained, then lost, over and over. It wasn’t that I was ever really overweight, but I have spent more time thinking about food and counting calories than I could ever know – what misery!
I lived at either end of the spectrum for so long that I almost forgot about the middle. But a few years ago, God showed me how weary this way of living was making me. I realized that this was not the way to please Him either. I have been trying to shed these habits since then, and things are much better, but I want to re-double my efforts now to be really free.
God’s way is always best and leads us toward peace, not strife. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I see “all or nothing” thinking in many other people I know and I have realized, that for all of us, this way only leads to sin and conflict within ourselves and with others:
- The Sin of Gluttony. Many people only associate gluttony with overeating. But a gluttonous spirit is is the enemy of all moderation. People who struggle with substance abuse, overspending, overeating or any other type of self-indulgent lifestyle are afflicted by gluttony. Paul taught that this way of life is not only self-destructive in a physical sense but also in a spiritual sense. “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phi 3:18-19).
- The Sin of Judging Others. Once people buy into the “all or nothing” way of thinking, is it easy to apply it to our understanding of others so that we can put people into categories in our minds. We do this to avoid pain from “difficult” people and find comfort with “good” people…but, once in the habit, the harshness of drawing distinctions simply leads to judging others. But Jesus warned us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘˜Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mat 7:1-5).
- The Sin of Slothfulness. This is one of the extreme ends you can tend to when you do not live in moderation. This may be laziness, procrastination, day dreaming, avoiding a task. It is the way of Satan to deceive us that we are pampering ourselves when actually we are choosing guilt, shame and stress. Solomon said, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Pro 10:5). Instead, Truth tells us “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3:17).
- The Sin of Idolatry. An idol is anything we put in the place of God; this means something we love more than we love Him. How can we see the idols in our own lives? What is your mind fixed on, throughout the day? How do you spend your money? What interferes in your fellowship with God? What are you chasing to make you feel happy or safe or loved? “O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: ‘Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!’” (Jer. 16:19-20).
Joshua was speaking about specific idols of his time, but in their place substitute words like “shopping”, “food”, “my relationships” “…Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Jos 24:14-15).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mat 11:28).
Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves and our warped ways of thinking and living. His way is the way of life and strength.