I’m bored, in a culinary way of speaking. I’m not undernourished. You can take one look at me and know that. I’m not doing without good food (and by “good,” I don’t just mean nutritious but also tasty). But, I have returned to the low-carb diet that I do three or four times a year. I’ve found it’s the only way I can actually take pounds off. I don’t jog. I fail miserably at calorie counting. I cannot survive on foods that God obviously designed to be eaten by rabbits, not by mortals. But, I can do low carbs.
A low carb diet is pretty enticing … at first. You can basically eat any meat you choose (and as much of it as you want). For breakfast you can have bacon, ham, and sausage if you have attained that level of gluttony. And, throw in two or three eggs for good measure, if you wish (just no toast or hash browns or grits, assuming you know what they are). At lunch, have a burger. Have two! Just leave off the bun. Eat a salad with it, or green beans, or spinach, or Brussel sprouts. But no fries (not even sweet potato fries). For dinner, well, there’s chicken or steak or pork chops with more salad or green beans or Brussel sprouts. But, no rolls. And no potatoes. And no pasta. And no chips with salsa. Have a spoonful of salsa, if that’s your thing. Heck, have a glass of it, just no chips for dipping. For dessert, you can have Jello pudding – and not just the red or green slinky kind, but chocolate or butterscotch or vanilla. But no cookies or cheesecake. Wine’s not good, either, but you can have unsweetened tea or a diet soda or all the water you can hold. Then, wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. And the day after that. And the day after that, too.
It’s “the day after that and the day after that and the day after that, too” that constitute the problem. Whoever said “variety is the spice of life” knew his or her way around a kitchen. After a few straight days of bacon and eggs, I envy the thought of anyone lucky enough to have fruit yogurt over granola. Seriously. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true. After a few straight evenings of steak, I lust for a slice of pizza or for spaghetti that is not made of squash or or tofu. At a certain point I would gladly trade a vat of chocolate pudding for just one bite of a Cinnabon. But if I sin with a biscuit here or a tortellini there, soon the diet is ruined and my clothes grow tight again, even as my sugar numbers go up. To achieve the desired results requires discipline. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth the effort.
The word “discipline” comes from the same root word as “discipleship.” When we seek to live as Christian disciples, there is a code of behavior we try to follow, a daily discipline that includes things like prayer, forgiveness, charity, tolerance, patience, and kindness. Sometimes it’s tempting to ignore one or more of those virtues and take in a different kind of spiritual diet. Sometimes we long for more decadent fare like revenge or gossip, licentiousness or self-absorption. But, a bite or two of those foods and we have made serious retreats from achieving our desired results. Jesus knew that living the life of faith is not always easy. He even said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:14) And yet, that disciplined way is always worth the effort.
You know, the simple fact is that I am not eating bland or unenjoyable food. I love meat and eggs and cheese and cucumber salads. And the life of faith is likewise blessed with things like peace and meaning and self-esteem. Sometimes it just takes work, a spirit of discipline, to keep doing the right things when other things cry out like voices from the Isle of Sirens. Disciples know about spiritual disciplines. And we know that being diligent in following the right paths always leads us to the right places.