Psalm 139:11-12

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (PSALM 139:11-12)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Not A Diet!

The clock tolls midnight to the sound of cheers, fireworks, pots and pans clanging, and a smooch. The new year promises a fresh start, a "clean" slate. We make resolutions to lose weight, do more exercise, stop smoking, spend more time with family, get out of debt. Apparently, only 3% of all resolutions are actually fulfilled and those that start often last only a month before they are back to old habits.

It seems that we can muster up the discipline for a little while, but unless we make a lifestyle change it's difficult to make it last, like a diet where you cut back and deprive yourself. It may be effective to losing those extra 10 pounds, but as soon as you "start eating again" the pounds easily creep back on.

In my last post I wrote about sexual moratorium or abstinence. You could also think of it as fasting. A friend of mine commented about not liking the name "moratorium" as it sounded so...morbid. My husband disagrees. He likes the label moratorium because it symbolizes to him a "dying to self". Unlike typical periods of fasting, my husband's goal is not to return to old habits the moment the fast is over. Like a diet that ends and the pounds return, our goal in moratorium is to make a lifestyle change.

A lifestyle change is modifying or eliminating long-held habits and maintaining the new habits over time. This does not mean that sexual intimacy will not return. The Bible is very clear that sexual abstinence in marriage only occur for a time (1 Corinthians 7:5-6).

Since the purpose of our sexual moratorium was to create more balance in our marriage, I have felt very anxious about what might happen once intimacy returned. Since it has been an area of weakness and struggle for my husband, it seems possible that, like unrestricted eating after a diet, it could find its way back to an unhealthy place in our marriage. Some of these feelings are my insecurity and I realize I need to trust God in this. However, the attitude and perspective of my husband is an encouragement to me. After experiencing the fruits of this sexual fast, he has no desire to return to old habits. He is looking at this as a lifestyle change, not a diet. One we both hope will be a new and permanent way of viewing sex in our marriage. One that balances healthily among the other important parts of our marriage relationship. One without expectations, bitterness, or guilt.

Change is hard. Lifestyle changes take more then just removing the problem. And change always happens with God's help.
  • Ask God to change your thinking, your perspective, your heart. Believe in your ability to succeed.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).
  • Understand why you want to change. What is your motivation for doing it?
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Change means not just saying you are going to stop or start doing something, but knowing how you are going to do it. What actions are you going to take to help you make a lifestyle change? Be specific.
Don't live any longer the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Dying to yourself, changing, rather breaking, old habits is a desire of the heart. You have to want to do it because you know you are called to do it and out of love for yourself and others. It means sacrifice. Dying to self is sacrificing what you "want" for what you know you "need".

If anyone wants to follow me, he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me. If he wants to save his life, he will lose it. But if he loses his life for me, he will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

I am thankful that my husband was willing not only to deprive himself (through fasting), but desires to make this a lifestyle change and not a diet. We are also fortunate to have a lot of support and encouragement as we continue to walk this unchartered path by faith. I am certain it will not be easy, but we have an awesome Guide and we are trusting Him.

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