It's a sad thing when you are convicted by your own words.
In Sunday School last weekend, I made a brilliant and insightful remark that everyone ooh'd and aah'd over. (At least, that's my recollection of the moment.) We were discussing how we distinguish the Holy Spirit's communication with us from our own self-promoting desires speaking to us. And I mentioned a lesson I learned many years ago: if I really want to hear clearly from God on a matter, I have to put myself in a neutral stance on that matter. I have to get myself to the point that I am genuinely willing to obey God in whatever He says -- even if it is the complete opposite of what I want, even if it makes my life difficult or possibly downright miserable, even if I lose friends and loved ones as a result -- whatever you want, Lord, that's what I want. I am in complete submission. Once I'm there, I usually find God's will is quite clear, because my own baggage has been removed from the picture.
My words came back to haunt me as I was eating my fourth or fifth hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie later that evening because the thought suddenly came to my mind:
I am NOT neutral on sweets.
I would NOT be willing to give up sweets if God asked it of me.
Never again bake another chocolate chip cookie? No. Never again enjoy a cup of custard or froyo out with the family? Wrong. No more candy corn at Halloween, caramel popcorn at Christmas, jelly beans at Easter, caramel apples in the fall? Watch everyone else at the table enjoy the gooey chocolate cake without ever again indulging myself? That is not going to happen.
Oh, I talk a good game about it, believe me, especially to God's face. And God and I have had this very conversation on a regular basis for the last few years because I have often wondered if . . . no, suspected that . . . no, feared that God was asking that very thing of me. Give them up. All of them. They affect your mind and body and stand in the way of our relationship. You use them to meet needs in your life that I'm supposed to meet. They are an idol. They have to go.
But, you know, that just doesn't sound like God, does it? "Give it up forever"? Give it up for Lent, maybe. Or for the week. Maybe just turn down this dessert. Or at least the second serving of it. But God wouldn't really want me to give them all up -- at least I've been able to successfully convince myself of this questionable fact.
However, with that half-eaten cookie in my hand, and with the full knowledge that I expected to eat more before the evening was over (and lick out the cookie dough bowl before it went into the dishwasher), I was suddenly driven (by the Holy Spirit, I'm sure) to face the facts.
It doesn't matter whether God would ask me to give them up. It matters that, deep down in my heart, I know I wouldn't willingly obey even if He did.
Now, some of you may find that ridiculous that I am so attached to my sweets, especially those of you who have already been forced to give them up for health reasons and your life continues quite swimmingly. But I challenge you to examine your own life: what are YOU not neutral on? What's the thing that -- if God said, "That has to go." -- you would flat-out refuse? Because I'm convinced we all have something. Some of us have less things . . . some of us have less obvious things . . . for some of us, our things are things that don't seem necessary to give up so the question has never arisen.
But we all, I'm guessing, have something that we refuse to submit to God's authority over.
So, I'll pray for you if you pray for me. Jesus isn't Lord over me if he isn't also Lord over my chocolate chip cookies. And establishing him as Lord is the first step to everything that matters.