During Lent, small groups at West Lawn UMC are studying The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren. Each Wednesday during Lent I will publish a post that coincides with the group discussion guide for The Daniel Plan. If you’d like to join a small group at West Lawn UMC, please contact the church office.
I anxiously looked at my watch. It was 10:45 which meant I had already been sitting in the DMV for nearly two hours. As the snails-paced work was being done, I had spent most of this mundane time playing on my phone. Finally, a feeling of thankfulness crept over me as I realized that I was about to get out of here. My number was due to be called next. I had collected all my required documents that are needed to obtain the REAL ID. As quick as the clerk could scan them and verify my identity, I would be on my way. I kept a watchful eye on the “now serving number” sign at the front of the room as I inched forward on the hard, plastic seat, ready to stand and walk to the counter.
Then I heard a voice. Not the monotone, computerized voice that I’ve been listening to for the previous two hours that said, “now serving number… at counter number…”, but instead a voice of a human. “Folks, we have a bit of a problem,” he began as he adjusted his name badge dangling from the lanyard around his neck, “our computer system is down.” You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought to myself. I’m next! “It’s not just our system, but all of the Department of Motor Vehicles across the state. And we have no idea how soon they’ll be back up and running. It could be five minutes or could be five hours. We don’t know.” Audible groans and grumbles emanated from the patrons that were packed in this government office like sardines (yes, I added to the audible groaning). Some people began to ask questions while others flooded to the exit doors. I checked my watch. Almost lunch time, but I’m not leaving. I’m next.
Time seems to stand still when you’re at the DMV. Time seems to be torturous at the DMV when literally nothing is being accomplished. Tick tock.
It was a few minutes after 12 o’clock and my stomach was now doing the groaning. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, which was five hours prior, and by my standards, I was starving. I had planned on having my homemade mushroom soup and a salad for lunch, but that was at my house.
“Restaurants near me” I typed into the Google search bar on my phone. I salivated as I scrolled through the glorious options that were just minutes away, instead of the would-be mountainous journey home some 30 minutes away for meager soup and salad. And there it was, like the holy grail. How could I have been so forgetful? My favorite local restaurant was only 4.9 miles away, a mere eight-minute drive and I’d be enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine.
I would end up squandering 3 hours and 31 minutes at the DMV, but it was those last 90 minutes that did me in. I’ve been dieting (again) and have lost some weight since the new year. It continues to be a struggle (always has been since my teen years) to maintain a healthy weight. I do well when I plan well, but not so good when the unexpected happens (like being stuck at the DMV for 2 hours longer than anticipated). When this happens, I turn into one of those Snickers’ commercials: “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” While I can get grouchy when hungry, I tend to become ravenous and willing to eat whatever is within reach in order to satiate my hunger pangs.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:14-15, 18-20 (NRSV)
I know that the soup and salad that I had already prepared was the healthy option. I know that its nutritional value is far superior to anything that I’d end up ordering at the Mexican restaurant. I know that eating out would not only cost my wallet, but also be detrimental to my caloric, fat, and salt intake for the day. I know that I should forget about the gut-busting lunch, have some will power and drive home and eat the healthy food. That’s what I should do.
About seven minutes later I found myself scooching into the booth and being offered a mound of freshly fried tortilla chips and a cup of homemade salsa. I had succumbed to the desires of my flesh yet again. I knew what was right, but I did what was wrong. I wanted to do what was right, but I did what I hate instead… but it tasted so good. (I didn’t completely fall off the wagon; I ordered the shrimp and chicken fajitas and skipped the soft tortillas.)
Of the five essentials mentioned by Pastor Rick Warren in The Daniel Plan – faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends – I struggle the most with focus. When I lose focus as to why I am eating healthy and lose sight as to why it is important to be in good physical shape, I tend to spiral out of control. One Mexican lunch brought on by stress and hunger pangs has the potential to tempt me to neglect exercising, as well as gorging on other unhealthy meals or snacks for the rest of the day (or longer). Over the past 15 years or so that has been par for the course.
Beginning today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I will be embarking on a journey along with others at West Lawn UMC, to change my lifestyle. We’ll be supporting one another as we seek to improve our health during this Lenten season by way of The Daniel Plan. I’ve yo-yo dieted for nearly two decades and, besides my love of potato chips and cheesesteaks, no diet plan or exercise regimen seems to last.
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:24 (NRSV)
When I read Paul’s words, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”, I hear not only his lamentation, but my own as well. Stepping onto the scale or looking at ourselves in the mirror or reviewing our bloodwork, we don’t need a doctor or a nutritionist or a personal trainer to tell us that we’re not as healthy as we should be. We’re clearly not living the abundant life that God desires for us. We know what is right, what is good, yet we struggle, and we do what we hate and what is wrong for our bodies. How shall we overcome these struggles?
There in Scripture lies the answer. Paul continues, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Through the power of Christ we will prevail. Through the power of Christ we will be rescued from “this body of death,” the desires of our flesh that are addicted to salt, fat, and sugar.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
It is through the power of Christ that I, along with many others and hopefully you, will partake in The Daniel Plan to make life changes that bring about an abundant and healthy life. Where I’ve failed in the past, The Daniel Plan will prevail. Unlike other diet plans, The Daniel Plan is not based on my will power. Instead it is founded on my faith in and the strength of Jesus Christ.
While making healthy lifestyle changes and choices may be difficult, they are not insurmountable. All things are possible with Christ. I look forward to beginning this Lenten journey with you and sharing my experiences with you. Together we’ll take it one day at a time, one choice at a time, with the guidance of Jesus along our journey to become healthy.
God bless you and yours.
Note: For lunch today, I did enjoy that previously mentioned mushroom soup and salad and will be hitting the gym later.