I Feel You, Paul

I honestly do not know how I would have survived this Fall without this Bible study. I don’t like making it sound like I’m the center of the universe, as though God scheduled my life and all the things that effect it as well as this Bible study, everyone else who is participating in said study, at the same time all to get me through (I feel that takes the concept of Divine providence and smothers it in human hubris), but I do know that I need this Bible study and it is helping me so incredibly much. I am extremely grateful.

So I’ve been studying about righteousness this week (doing some catch-up), and through this particular chapter of the Bible study I think I’ve found the way to describe my struggle with feeding my soul ‘junk food’ vs. actually feeding my soul.

It’s indulgence vs. self-love. At least, these are the terms that make sense to me because of how I define each.

Indulgence is a concept the current culture loves to include in advertising and various philosophies. You should indulge in chocolate when you’re having a rough day or feeling down. You should indulge in a shopping spree. You should indulge in food that tastes really, really good. You deserve this. You’ve earned this. All these little frustrating, discouraging, disappointing, saddening things that happen, you should reward yourself with product X.

Now, like much advertising, I believe there is a vein of truth to this, but it get skewed for the purposes of whatever company is advertising. I believe that we need to love ourselves, not only when we encounter the harder times in life but every single day. It is a genuine need. I’m still not good at it, certainly not consistent, but I know the premise is accurate. And these darling advertisers then try to sell us on particular ideas of how to love ourselves, so the products and services themselves are not merely an option, a want, but perceived as need.

And darn it, if I didn’t get sucked right in. Not into all the products themselves necessarily, but certainly into the mentality. Because I realised the ‘junk food’ I get in the habit of consuming is indulgence, and it is a poor substitute for the love and care my ‘self’ genuinely needs and is seeking to fill.

For example. The last few days I have a mountain of stuff to do. Which is great, and it’s all stuff that I either love doing or can include something I love (like Christmas movies/tv shows while I do paperwork). But I keep choosing to binge watch tv shows instead. Do the bare minimum. I am only just prepared for work, which stresses me. Then I get home, catch up on a little bit of stuff, eat, and tell myself I’ll just watch one episode and then work. Three episodes later, I am tired and just go to sleep. And then I don’t want to get up, because sleep is easier than dealing with thinking about certain things right now.

And then I’m more stressed because I’m more behind, I still haven’t done what I need and really, really want to do (I’m actually excited to do it, and then something just sucks all the life out of me). And ’round and ’round we go.

Cue the Bible study.

The lovely Priscilla Shirer notes that Paul struggled too, which is something I entirely missed/forgot. I tend to think of Paul as this incredible man of God who is, really, the first Christian theologian. A great Christian. Fantastic example. And this man writes, in Romans 7:15-19:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

This is that painful, frustrating struggle that makes me kick myself half the time. I feel stuck, fighting with myself. All these bad habits, repeatedly bad, genuinely bad, choices that leave me in worse and worse shape until I just…knock it off and do the right thing. Get up off of my bed, and go do chores for an hour. Pick up the pen and actually do the paperwork. I spend more time ‘motivating’ myself to get started than actually working on all the things I want to do (which, I’ve decided just as I write this, that I am calling myself on my own BS, and friends, lovely readers, if I ever say I am ‘attempting to motivate myself to go do _____,’ please know that is full on BS, I am not ‘motivating’, I am laying about hoping I will spontaneously develop good habits in place of this indulgence, and since this has not happened at all in the last 27 years of my life…I’m pretty sure that’s a crap strategy).

Priscilla writes that ‘corralling our flesh can be monstrously hard.’ It is a genuine struggle. But I think I have some insight into at least some of why it is such a struggle.

It’s indulgence masquerading as self love. I have to break the bad habits of indulging to try to fill my need for self love. Because when it leaves me unsatisfied, I try more. And more and more and more and more, until 3 hours have gone by. I did not do what I needed to do, what my self needed me to do. I tried to substitute junk food when my soul has been half-starved, and then I’m all ‘gee, why is it so hard to get myself in gear?’ Now, this is not the only reason I’ve had trouble lately, I have had some genuinely bad days and I’ve shared some snippets of those. I’m not saying this is the key that’s going to change my life and make everything easy.

But it does take away some excuses. Best of all, it reveals some lies I’ve been buying into, and explains why they are lies. Indulgence is not the same as self love, not always, at least. And I have to be more thoughtful regarding my self. I have to be purposeful. I have to choose my self.

I have to parent my self. Really, that’s what it comes down to. All the things my parents didn’t let me do as a kid, eat cookies for breakfast and stay up super late and go outside without a coat on and watch tv for 5 hours a day…yes, one of the best parts about being an adult is I am responsible for myself which means I can eat cookies for breakfast, but at the same time…I am responsible for my self. And my self deserves better than to be granted every single desire.

And crap, I’m already over 1200 words. I’m going to wrap this up and talk about the delight that is Parks & Rec next post. In the meantime, I shall attempt some thoughtful self love.

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