I remember being a spindly child. We could eat whatever, whenever, and then top it off with ice cream and still wake up looking like willowy branches. That lasted until middle school, when I suddenly experienced the changing body of a teen. Now instead of being shaped like a twig, I was shaped more like a growing Twinkie (and I loved Twinkies in the twin pack, so this made sense).
Weight is such a major focal point, and it has been ever since the scale became an instrument for weighing people instead of it's original design for weighing cargo. Most days, the average woman is thinking, if not fretting about her weight. Even women who are naturally thin will confess to engaging in a bit of weight obsession.
We are not what we weigh, but since people operate on first impressions, many of us have faced the "body scan." You know the routine: You meet a person and they look you in the eye, and then they look you up and down.
Is weight a big deal to God? I think we'd have to stretch to say that, but temperance matters. Instead of working on weight alone, I decided to work on being temperate in several areas. This project led to an interesting year of experimenting, managing, and self-correcting. At the end of the year, I weighed less, but I also gained a lot:
1. I gained a keen awareness of how very self-indulgent I have been.
We tend to think of temperance in terms of controlling what we eat, but there is so much more to it. For instance, it is vitally important that we learn how to control our emotions: "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." (Proverbs 25:28) This verse is often quoted by not so frequently practiced. The mind, will, and emotions need bossing around, and God gives the ability to those who are willing to apply themselves to the task.
2. I gained a knowledge of how much temperance impacts and permeates practically all areas of life.
How many times have you wanted to have a pity party, so you just went ahead and slumped down into one without stopping yourself? Or how about those times when we've given someone a tongue-lashing because we felt like "they had it coming to them"? These are displays of a lack of mastery of self. We can really hurt others when we lack this essential fruit of the spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is..." and at the end of the list we find "temperance." (Galatians 6:22-23) This passage has been memorized by many, but the verse that follows is often forgotten: "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Galatians 6:24) Could this be a big part of our problem? Are we still flesh-covered wrecking balls, going through life doing more harm than good?
3. I gained the ability to tell the toddler in my head "no" and "wait."
Why is it that we feel like we must have and do everything right now? Like the child who interrupts a conversation with, "Mommy, Mommy!" we are like petulant children who have to be told to be quiet and wait without interrupting. When we can't wait, we lose the strength that comes from "wait training." Have you been trying to press a matter that simply needs more time? You'll find yourself feeling frustrated and worn out. There is another option: learning to wait: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Maybe you're overly tired because you've worn yourself out by failing to wait on the Lord.
I have a really keen sense of how easy it would be to regain weight, and will never considered myself as having "arrived." Cultivating the fruit of temperance is so much like weight loss: you have to keep up the good habits that got you to your desired location. Otherwise, you may find yourself back at square one, with heavy heart (and heavy body).
The marvel is not when a person loses weight. We all know people who have done that. The truly amazing feat is if the person can maintain the loss. So it is with temperance: it's not just a matter of mastering it for today. We have to work at it for the rest of our lives. But temperance gives many rewards, so it's not long before a person unwraps the gift of temperance and finds that the fruit inside is sweet and worth the effort.
Still, I don't trust the Francie, so I've boxed her in. She now works for Weight Watchers®, the company that helped her with her body-temperance project, as an insurance policy against herself. When we're working on temperance, accountability really helps. And if backsliding is taken off the table as an option, we find other ways to cope. After all, if we're not hungry, food won't fix our problems anyway.
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:5-7)
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