New International Version (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
*emphasis mineThis week I've been thinking a lot about boundaries. I started reading Boundaries With Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and it started to dawn on me - I did not grow up learning boundaries. I'm not saying I had no rules. My parents were very good about setting rules for behavior and about protecting me. But I didn't grow up with a lot of emotional and relational boundaries. I didn't grow up having a lot of personal self-control. Please believe me - I am in no way blaming my parents for my lack of self-control. Until I started reading this book, I didn't even know these were concepts you could teach. I just thought "either you're naturally lazy, or naturally focused" - I was always "creative" or a "free thinker" - easily distracted and prone to giving in to my cravings. Or I'd be a binger - starving for months, then splurging on too much food or letting my whole house go, then cleaning for days straight. But I have learned, over the last few weeks, that these are not natural tendencies - not completely. The book argues that 70% of our inclination toward or against personal boundaries are learned behaviors. We are often not self-controled because we are not taught at a young age to know the difference between what is really our responsibility and what we need help with -the difference between "help" and "rescue." The consequences for lack of follow-through aren't stiff enough. Wow. You can bet I ran straight to Amazon and ordered the adult Boundaries book. I have a lot of catching up to do. (And lots of praying for my kids - I'm a 'rescuer' and not very good at allowing my children to experience natural consequences for their lack of forethought or follow through - but when I do, boy do they learn fast!)
Then I arrived at my women's circle at church this morning. I've known for months that this week's topic was Self Control. What I didn't expect was to hear the phrase "Self-control is the mastery of boundaries." Zing! There it was again. I've known most of my life that I have trouble with self-control. I struggle with a vicious cycle of 'trying really hard' to be in control of myself, then failing and giving up with a hopeless "it's just not in my nature." But that's the thing about spiritual fruit. They aren't something found deep down inside ourselves that we just have to dig a little deeper to find. They are seeds that God plants in our lives. And how do we grow seeds into fruit? By tending them with care. By putting in labor and hard work to water and feed them. How do I grow discipline? By practicing discipline. How do I train to run a race? By going out and running. Will I always run? Will I always complete the miles I intend? No. But neither would I give up and think "oh, this race is impossible, I didn't get in my run tonight." So it is with life. I cannot allow myself the luxury of thinking "oh, I gave in and ate that cookie, I might as well stop trying to be healthy." But some days that is exactly what I find myself thinking!
The leader this morning gave us a great 5 step plan to growing self-control. She drew her ideas from Nehemiah 2:12-20. As the men repaired the city wall, so we can patch the holes in our lives.
1. Find accountability partners - it's much easier to stay on course when others are there to support you.
2. Give yourself an honest self-examination. Remember that you can't patch character holes that you refuse to admit exist.
3. Admit internal disgrace and self-indulgence. Take it to the Lord and ask His forgiveness and His aid.
4. Begin repair work. Set goals, stay focused and have a plan.
5. Give it to God - over and over. If you have a set-back, remember that it is a set-back not failure.
I know I have my work cut out for me. But I have a plan. I am armed with some good books, a list of scripture, a great accountability partner (hooray for best friends) and a whole sheet of "Exercises in Self-Control."
Step 1 for me is a week long media fast. As of tonight, I'm shutting off the computer and not turning it on again for a week. At least, that's the goal. I know that the internet is a weakness of mine, so I'm testing my spiritual muscles and letting it go for at least 5 days (hopefully 7). Wish me luck and send me prayers - I'm going to need them!