A 30° day in April is worse than a 10° day in January. After basking in the glory of 75° and sunny this Saturday, we were all tricked into putting away the hats and gloves and winter coats. Make way for spring! Or so we thought…
And then Monday happened. And 30° happened.
In January I had the ability to give myself a swift kick in the pants and just get outside. For the first time in many years, I reached my winter goal of getting at least one run or hike in every week – no matter how cold it was. When Saturday’s t-shirt and flip-flops weather hit, I felt like I had crossed the finish line!
Then I looked at 30° on Monday morning, and the last thing I wanted to do was voluntarily go outside when I didn’t have to! “But it’s cold,” I thought, “and I’m so sick of the cold. I just can’t.”
But after forgetting to say “Decaf” when ordering my Americano that morning and having the feeling I might spontaneously combust if I didn’t do something active, I put my shoes on and went anyway.
And guess what? Seven minutes in and I was rolling up my sleeves thinking, “I’m roasting. I should have worn a lighter shirt!” 🤦
This is not a new lesson for me. I learn it every. single. time. I go for a run in the cold. I never want to get my running clothes on because all I can think about is how cold I’m going to be. I never want to walk out the door because all I can think about is how warm and comfortable my house is. There are many days the warm house and warm clothes win and I can’t get myself to do it!
I know the discomfort of the cold will only last for approximately seven minutes. Seven minutes is less than a mile. In seven minutes, I will forget that I was ever cold! But sometimes seven minutes feels like a long time.
Being a follower of Jesus and being comfortable are phrases that rarely show up in the same sentence. We like all the stuff about how much God loves us and how He’s got a plan for our lives – but this whole ‘deny yourself’ thing isn’t much fun. Deep down I know that God’s infinitely wise voice is leading me toward all the good things He has for me, but sometimes I’m not so sure I want to go that way!
In Romans 13, Paul pleads with his readers to “wake from sleep” and “put on the armor of light” (v. 11-12). He instructs them to “walk properly as in the daytime” by living life as if this “light” was shining on them, exposing their actions at all times (v. 13). And how should they do this? First, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and second, “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (v. 14)
When I ‘suit up’ for my day, ‘clothing’ myself with Christ is a great place to start. Connecting with Him and being reminded that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) snaps me out of my self-focused, comfort-driven daze. But that doesn’t mean it completely goes away! Throughout my day, it’s a guarantee that temptation will fade right back in – whether it’s an invitation to gratify my sinful nature or the thought that I’d rather turn around and go home than follow through with an opportunity God has placed in front of me.
When Paul said “make no provision” he meant to not ‘enable’ or ‘allow for’ sin and disobedience to happen.* The way we do that enabling is, as the NIV translates, by “think[ing] about” it. Of course we must “think about” our choices, but Paul is talking about the kind of thinking that plans ahead with a focus on the fulfillment of a desire. In other words, the more I think about my desires, the more I’m likely to make the choice to fulfill them.
Making “provision” happens when I engage in lengthy debate with myself over a choice. Is that really the Holy Spirit leading me or is it just my guilt speaking? I start to rationalize: “I think I can probably handle this, it’s not really that bad. I’ll just do it this way.” or “I’m just so stressed I need to do/say this right now because it will give me relief”. Or “There’s no way I can face that situation! I won’t handle it well!” and “Serving in that way will take too much of my energy and I’m just so tired…”
Lately, once I’ve decided I’m going for a run, I don’t think – I just go. I’ve learned to not, as my Grandma might say, ‘hem and haw’ over the decision. I get dressed, throw on my shoes, and run out the door before I have time to talk myself out of it!
I don’t want to be uncomfortable. And ‘denying myself’ is a fast track to uncomfortable. Obeying God when He’s leading me out of my comfort zone? I don’t think that’s going to feel good. It would be much easier to stay in my warm house, in my warm clothes, sitting in my warm chair… Yeah, that would be better. 😉
But when I do obey, does the initial discomfort last more than seven minutes? Honestly, I’m not sure it ever does. Temptation tends to lose its power, and those hard things never end up being as hard as I thought they’d be. It’s amazing how quickly I *warm up* after taking those first steps to just do it!