Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
I baked the caramel brownies as a special treat for my family, but for a week they taunted me. At first I let myself have a small taste, but then it was like giving myself permission to do it again. And again. I finally had to say no, not even a bite.
The last thing I wanted to do was run. My list was long and my day full. Yet saying no to the brownies told me I could say no to myself again, so though it was easy to justify skipping it, I ran, denying what I really wanted to do. And afterward I was glad I did. A little sweat worked out some aggression from the day before, put me in a better mood and adjusted my attitude.
I figure every time I deny myself like this moves me one step closer to God. Every denial of self, no matter how small, is a victory and piggybacks to bring more self-control to other areas of life. It's like I'm playing tug of war where my life is the rope, my way (and its accompanying pit) are on one end and God (and His promise of perfection in heaven) is on the other. Each time I deny myself IN ANY AREA OF LIFE I'm pulled closer to God. Each time I do things my way, I'm closer to the pit.
If I swallow the snarky phrase on my tongue instead of uttering it, one pull closer to God. When I push my Bible aside and open my laptop first thing in the morning, closer to the pit. Ignoring the tug on my heart, pit. Forgiving the hurt, God. Dwelling on the negative, pit. Finding the good, God. Loving though I don't feel like it, God. Avoiding the uncomfortable, pit. Obeying though it's scary, God. Giving til it hurts, God. Sacrificing time for the sake of another, God.
If I practice it, if I say no to me often enough, will it get easier? If I gain some small consistency of self-control by saying no to caramel brownies, won't it help me choose wisely when there's more at stake? Will the same self-control kick in when my kids are driving me crazy or I want to tell my husband off or I'm tempted to judge?
Every little NO to us, every denial of self, begins a practice that brings us closer to God.
How can you say NO to you in small ways that may translate into greater self-control?
Photo Credit: Mike Saechang