Published first for Catholic Sistas in a series called Food For The Soul.
Some call it discipline, others control, but mastering techniques for healthier habits takes more than our own strength. Jesus’ act of redemption was a part of God’s plan to build a solid structure for our lives.
Last time we spoke we entertained the thought of how God used the fall of Adam and Eve to teach them (and us) to become more dependent on Him; to keep our eyes fixed on Him. When presented with temptation, Eve took her eyes off of God and with one bite, His plan unfolded. Here, God begins a plan to draw humanity back to Himself. Did you hear that? He had a plan, and so must we. But before we make plans for a journey, we need to know where we are.
Jesus prepared for his journey by connecting with his father first, alone, and in prayer. Jesus understood that his journey was a mission.
The definition of mission is a strong assignment; a strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling.
He also understood that he needed a team; a support system. So he stopped at the Sea of Galilee, where he gathered his team and told them to leave their nets behind. It’s scary to leave behind the things we’re used to. For the first apostles, it was their very livelihood. But they were leaving behind what looked good for the promise of something better. Jesus told them to fill their nets with the impossible and that is the same message he wants for you and for me.
So how do we prepare for our journey and who are we bringing with us? We, too, need to start with a plan. Where are we now? What don’t we have that we want to create? Is it weight loss, is it removing a food addiction, is it better blood work, or improving inflammation or disease? Understanding where we are and where we want to go will be the catalyst for the important choices we make along the way. It will always answer the question “Is ‘this choice’ bringing me closer to what I want out of life?”
Everything Jesus did was intentional, and he did nothing without bringing His Father with him. He knew the plans his Father had for him and he responded according to those plans. This is the stark contrast between Adam and Eve in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. He answered the call for a new covenant by responding differently.
How do we allow the strength of God to help us respond differently and master the behaviors that create healthier habits in our lives? In Matthew Kelly’s book Perfectly Yourself, he describes how fasting during Lent denies us of our own pleasure in order to replace it with something better. This fasting often becomes a lifestyle change for many. The reason for this is that we increase our freedom to master the behaviors that prevent us from creating healthier habits for our mind and body.
“Remember, whether a bird is tied down by a thread or by a chain, it still cannot fly.
What is the master of your life?” ~ Matthew Kelly
Our brain is programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s just the way it is. The messages and experiences we have received over a lifetime have created neuropathways that direct our responses. These responses are the habits that are set on autopilot. For example, we don’t need a reminder to brush our teeth daily, it’s a habit set on autopilot. That’s a good habit worth keeping, but for those habits that do not serve us – they can be changed!! So, reprogramming our brain and the way we think about food will create habits where we respond to old problems in new ways. We begin shifting from the comfort of food to the comfort of God.
If understanding where we are is the first step in our transformation, then here are some questions to contemplate for where we want to be.
God hears the desires of our heart, so if any of these questions resonate with you, use that as a starting point for your conversation with Him. Ask Him what’s missing between where you are and where you want to be. That answer is where the shift happens. That answer is where the work begins in asserting dominance over the body and mind.
THE MOMENT BETWEEN EVENT AND RESPONSE
So how do we shift from feeling that we NEED whatever it is before us to trust that God has the answer? We acknowledge it! “Yes, I know you want that cannoli, but today we’re going to have a cup of fruit instead and enjoy the sunshine outside.” Our bodies are our servant, not our master. This little step slows us down enough to then pause, take a few short breaths and become mindful of what is happening around us. Pausing for just a few, short minutes and discovering what we are really in need of and ask God to help us gain freedom from our negative thoughts.
We Live Out What We Take In
Earlier I said the brain seeks pleasure and avoids pain. If we are going to reprogram our negative habits, we need to replace them with healthier habits that feel like rewards. So think of some triggers that you may have and before they happen, have a plan in place for some fun and healthy replacements. We can also learn to love and nurture where our feelings come from because we know that God is with us in each and every one of them. Food cannot feed an emotion – God can. The most powerful thing we can do is to read Scripture and be nurtured by His truth. Write down the negative emotion and the lie (this cannoli will make me feel better), then find the truth in God’s promise that tells us that we are NOT that emotion and that this “food” won’t help us work the emotion out. Then ask yourself, how do I feel like when I make a good choice? Do you feel more in control, proud, happy, more aligned with your goals? That’s one small step towards freedom; one small step towards becoming who God intended you to be for the task only you were created to do.