“I thought that continence was a matter of our own strength, and I knew that I had not the strength: for in my utter foolishness I did not know the word of your Scripture that none can be continent unless you give it.” -St. Augustine
My first reaction on seeing the word “continence” in today’s Challenge reflection was to think of a Depends commercial.
It shows just how easily our minds turn to the messages of this world rather than to God’s. How conditioned we become by advertising to hear certain words and immediately think of the brand product associated with it.
But St. Augustine means the word “continence” in terms of “self-control.” Basically he is saying without God and his Word to guide us, self-control is beyond our grasp.
It is akin to that need to surrender to a Higher Power referenced in the Big Book and other anonymous materials.
Surrender must be the first step every Christian takes – to give oneself totally up to the Lord – before he or she can begin to possess any of the fruits of the Holy Spirit or undertake any of the discipline that comes with discipleship.
For me, self-control has come with starts and stops. I can be very disciplined for a prolonged period of time. And then, suddenly, something interrupts that rhythm I began and – poof – all is abandoned.
For nearly 20 years I was an exercise freak. It could be 11 pm and if I had not done my Jane Fonda workout, I would still make sure I did so before turning in. It mattered that much to me.
Then my circumstances changed and my ability to engage in this long-held habit became interrupted. And though I go through periodic spurts of trying to reestablish this discipline of physical fitness, I never quite succeed in fully re-establishing it as integral to my well-being.
The same can be said for my prayer life and my eating habits as well. I am reminded of a song by The Animals at this juncture:
“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”
But intentions are not actions, and right action does not come without discipline and self-control.
This is why I decided to try the Nineveh 90 Day Challenge. It encompasses both the healthy spiritual and physical lifestyle I want to be dominant in my life for however many years I have left of it.
So nearly 30 days in, how have I done?
The results are mixed. I have done much, much better with the spiritual challenge. I consider the habit of writing daily as part of this. There have been only a couple of days when I have doubled up due to not getting my prayers completed and my own thoughts down to share.
I am gaining some momentum on the physical side, though not in a regularly fixed pattern yet. Still, I have exercised several times at some point throughout these last three weeks, and hooking up with Kelly from Earth School Yoga for weekly restorative yoga classes has been a tonic. ( I even gave up Netflix for the Gaiam TV Fit & Yoga channel!)
The diet discipline hasn’t kicked in, but I haven’t been to the nutritionist or laid in a supply of her Healthwise protein bars yet. That is an errand for Monday.
Still, kicking the Coca Cola habit is the hardest, as drinking soda daily goes back into my childhood years growing up in the taverns where my parents mostly worked. (Reminder: they don’t serve milk in bars. And up North, we call soda “pop.”)
So basically I am still in the “surrendering” stage, working on building up my muscles of self-control.
I would grade myself a “B” for spirituality, a “C” for exercise and a “D” for diet. So evidently still plenty of room for improvement.
But my intentions are good.