The Christian Life: Struggle, Resist, Be Forgiven, Repeat

Maybe, I’m just not a good Christian. I say that because I’ll never admit total victory over any of my sins. I know how they creep up around me, hiding in the shadows, waiting to pounce, even just for a moment. I know victory is mine, and I know this because Christ has defeated sin and death at the cross and from his empty tomb. Because of this, someday I’ll reap the benefits of that eventual reality once I’m separated from this body that still wants to draw my sin out of the shadows at time. 

Not admitting total victory is a safety net for me. It reminds me, I can still fall, and do it rather quickly. It keeps me humble, to a degree. I say that because we all have different ways we sin daily. We may not make them a habit, though sometimes we do, but we know it to be true. The  big ones, though? The ones that amount to our “jones”? According to some, those we’re the ones we are supposed to overcome once and for all. Again, that has never been the case for me. My two biggest struggles for me, have always been Pornography and Gluttony. Not writing anything new here, am I? For me, this is not a surprise, because I can trace back these struggles to my childhood. It has been intertwined in my life for far too long. While one of these sins, pornography, has included various seasons of victory and defeat, the other, gluttony, has always been a constant struggle.

Let’s be honest, gluttony, is just not high on the worry list of sins for a lot of people. It’s not illegal to eat nearly any kinds of food in any quantities you want. This is probably the reason it’s such a battle for me. Though things like pornography and other related sexual matters are hardly taboo anymore, it’s more of a recent development. Internally, it will always feel wrong. It did when I snuck a look at my dad’s magazine’s as a child, it did when I would travel throughout the city as a young messenger, awed at entire stores dedicated to various “paraphernalia”, and it did even when I looked at it openly with a girlfriend back in the day, who was totally into it. It’s still taboo in my head. That never changed. So, when I compare the two, porn feels worse, more unforgivable. I’m not going argue the moral implications of what’s worse. Both are sins, both can kill relationships, and depending on where further exploration of either might draw you, they can kill physically as well. 

So like I said, porn, evil and bad! A glutton with food? Not so much. Heck, we have TV shows and contests dedicated to excess eating. We reward people who can eat the most hot dogs or the biggest steaks. For me, even though my sexual struggles remain, although in check for a while now, Food is my current porn. I like to eat. I don’t think about the limits of my ability. I just think I like it and want more.  

Like any other sin, all it takes is a taste. God bless you if this is not your struggle. Its mine, and so many others. Whatever reason we sin in the various ways that we do, we know one of the reasons we do it, is to replace something or someone.

The Israelites wanted a certain kind of God to worship in the desert. It didn’t matter what The God of the Universe did for them previously. It didn’t matter that they were direct witnesses of multiple miracles and supernatural acts, coming at them rapid fire. The moment a lull came upon them, they wanted to fill that space with something. Silent for however many years, God rescues them from captivity. Silent for short time, let’s make a golden calf. It’s not just sin that we compose for ourselves, but the sin that scarred us that leads us down the unsafe paths and unhealthy choices. Our symphony of bad choices are born from a nature out of tune with God. 

Ultimately, its pride that’s leads me. That intrinsic nature birthed in all of us at the fall. It wants to be satisfied and it doesn’t care how. For me, food and porn filled holes that I thought were missing, but wasn’t. Every sin can be traced back to wanting to be fulfilled or satisfied. Sometimes food is connected to those feelings, sometimes sex, even the idea of wanting someone to love and to love you. When you have you mind made up about what makes you feel satisfied, even negative feelings can meet that need. “I have to hurt people because I hurt. I’m unloveable, so I’ll push people away to prove it.” 

Well, I said a lot, but it felt like rambling. Let me get back to reality. Nearly three years ago, I began a battle with my gluttony. I was 5’6” and 260 pounds, suffering with chest pains, and other ailments related to my weight, not to mention depression over how I saw myself, mentally and physically. It took many a restart to get into any kind of rhythm but eventually, in the first year I dropped down to 223. By the summer of the second year, I flirted with 199, and hung around 210 through most of the fall and part of the winter. In the midst of all of it, I had moments where I rekindled my love affair with gluttony. Almost always, it was a tryst that lasted a day or two. With no excuse to give, later on in the winter of 2017, gluttony became the “other woman” again.

Instead of a one day affair, it felt as if I was never more than one day apart from her. Everything I did to beat this sin into submission was undone. 210, 213, 220, 225, my weight crept up slowly. There wasn’t a day throughout it all that I didn’t say to myself and God, this was the day I’d get it under control. I’d fail. This is it God! It starts today! I’d fail. I feel determined today God! This is happening. The gym is 2 minutes away! I’d fail. As I’d fail, the weight would creep up and the pants would get a bit snugger, the stomach would be just a bit more visible. 

Yesterday, Sunday, May 20th 2018, was my best day in a long while. Today, has been decent as well. Something to build on for sure. I am 228 pounds. And I take small steps as I always have. 5 pounds at a time. One choice at a time. 

What’s the point?

This is the Christian life. It’s moving forward in the midst of a lot of little failures, and sometimes big failures. It took over two years to hit 199 pounds. I can tell you in those two plus years, I failed more than I succeeded. I found it hard to believe I was where I was at, because I know how many times I had failed. How many times I ate instead of ran. How many times I watched TV instead of simply getting off the couch and moving. In the midst of my journey, it never felt like success. It felt like failure, because it was a regularly part of the journey. 

I had success in the midst of all my failures. Now at 228 and rising, but hopefully not, I find failure in the midst of all my failures. Sometimes, the christian life resembles this. It’s sucks and I don’t like it and I don’t want it, and have no excuse for it. Still everyday, “God help me, strengthen me, encourage me.”  

“Forgive me for my failings” 

This is also the Christian life. Free to fail doesn’t mean, do whatever you want. It means sometimes, we do “whatever we want” and we feel convicted, and guilty, and we bend a sorrowful knee. At that bended knee we find no condemnation, no casting out from God. We find ourselves, like the prodigal son, restored, even more, treated as if we’ve never fallen from grace. 

Who will deliver our wretched, sin-encrusted lives from this body of death? 

Christ will. Christ does. Always.

If you struggle with sin. The hard ones. The respectable ones. The ones only you see in the middle of the night. Do me one favor. Indulge me, just a bit. 

Tomorrow, as a new day breaks, and you wake up feeling the same struggles and urges that have always plagued you, …resist.

But resist and know I am asking you to do this, not as a jagged-edged law waiting to clamp on you as it keeps you just shy of God’s love and salvation. Resist, like a child unwilling to settle on gravity’s pull, like a child learning to walk, knowing that if you fall again(and again), your Father will catch you, love you and prop you up as you continue on. 

God is not a father waiting for us to finally walk on our own, slowly taking his hands away, as he’s more sure of out stability. He’s constantly catching us, setting upright, catching us, setting upright. 

You can’t fail enough to outpace God’s forgiveness. We don’t get past God’s grace. 

I’m just a layman in the same trenches as you. I have the same kinds of struggles. 

As you take that first step, or like me, those first steps 40 times over, I’d love to hear how it’s going. 

Shoot me a line at dsantorejr@gmail.com

God’s blessings to you. 

-Dominick (A Defeated Victor)

 

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