Sugar, Sleep & Spiritual Disciplines

So, I’ve been convicted lately of some things that I think many people probably struggle with in one way or another, and I figure, if I can save someone from having to learn the incredibly hard way by sharing, then it’s a worthwhile investment.

In the beginning of 2014, my church did a church wide fast for 21 days, prayer and fasting combined.  I’ve never been a faster. I remember in college seeing some of my peers learning about fasting and becoming very boastful about their righteousness because they could fast for x amount of days from x amount of things. I also had someone tell me when I was younger that fasting is for the super spiritually strong, and that if I couldn’t do it, I was immature. Needless to say, after that, I steered clear of fasting and those that involved themselves with it.  I always knew that it was a spiritual discipline, and something our Lord Jesus did on a regular basis, but I was not interested in taking part.  I had grown up Methodist/Lutheran and we sacrifice things during lent. it was so very different from fasting in my mind, though it was basically the same thing!

This January was different for me. I felt a strong tug on my heart from the Lord to participate in this discipline with my church family.  As I prayed about what I should fast from, the Lord spoke to my heart about food, something I typically don’t dare let him mess with! ha I try and eat healthy, take care of myself, work out etc…but why does the Lord need to be involved in my food choices?! It just didn’t make sense.  Well, sure enough, the Lord spoke even more specifically as I prayed and as I spoke with wise friends, about fasting from REFINED SUGARS. Say WHAT?! Initially, I thought…hmm…no ice cream for 21 days, no problem! I can do that…although it’s my favorite food.

Well, as I began to research refined sugar, I realized that I had made quite a commitment. Did you know it’s in literally EVERYTHING?! I had no idea. I just thought I was making good food choices! So, as the 21 days began, I slightly became depressed about my lack of choices for the next few weeks.  My church also had 21 days of early morning prayer at 7am, which was great for me to keep focus of why I was doing this to begin with.

Thankfully, Gateway had the early morning prayer online as a live feed and then throughout the rest of the day for you to replay at a time that worked.  For those that know me, you know I hate the early morning hours unless I am going to travel, or do something amazing! I would win an Olympic gold medal at sleeping.  For these 21 days, I was committed to wake up, roll out of my bed and at least turn on my computer and join in the hour long prayer time.  I was successful…for the first few days.
It was so good until I slept through my alarm!

What I learned in the process was profound. First, I have really bad boundaries with my time and how I spend it, which leaves me going to sleep late, and struggling to wake up on time or early. Second, I learned that foods with refined sugars have filled a lot of things in my life that I never knew.

I found myself stressed, upset, angry, happy, sad, tired…whatever it was…in the moments, I was often craving the foods I had vowed to fast from for 21 days.  Sugar was satisfying my emotions, and even spiritual needs that I should have been satisfying with the bread of HEAVEN, the WORD of God.  It really did sort of shock me that I’d never made the connection till now.  I’ve been getting healthy for several years now, and struggled in the process. In all my work outs, in all my healthy choices, viewing of the biggest loser, I never made the spiritual connection in my eating.

I found that I not only had more energy, lost weight, and felt better than I have in years, but above all, I was more closely connected with the Lord than I have been in a long time. Before the fast began, the Lord really impressed upon my heart this verse: 2 Timothy 1:7 “I did not give you a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline.” I really felt the Lord say to me “Ash, I gave you a spirit of discipline. If you choose not to use it, that’s on you. I gave it to you. You are without excuse.” Ouch. Sometimes the Lord has to be sort of sassy with me, because let’s face it…I’m sassy, stubborn and don’t always listen closely.  But when I read that verse, I was so convicted that I had said for so long that I don’t have discipline, and I want it…and here the Lord was telling me He’s already given me a spirit of discipline. I just have to use it.  I was just being lazy in spiritual disciplines. Just like I was being lazy in my boundaries with my time, claiming I struggled with discipline. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

During those 21 days, the Lord spoke truth to me that I hope I don’t loose. I was made aware of a stronghold in my life, that I’ve hopefully broken free from but will continue to become free from daily.  I learned the importance of structure, though I’ve since failed at keeping those boundaries. I learned that God is alive and always speaking, but I may not always be in tune. I learned that American food is full of a ton of crap. I learned God’s grace is abundant, that I cannot wear out His patience, and that His love for me is so rich and so deep that He would not let me stay in the stronghold I was unaware of. 🙂

It’s a struggle to be disciplined, to have healthy boundaries not just in relationships but in your health, and your time….it’s just a struggle to be a mature adult. Sometimes, the growing pains hurt more than I expect, but at the end of it all, I’m so grateful the Lord revealed this to me as I started off the year 2014 with a desire to be different and not look back next year and say “I wish I would have _____”. I am confident the year will be hard, and that breaking strongholds will take work, but I am confident that the Lord will lead me and that as 2015 begins I will look back and say “With the Lord by my side I did ______ and this year I will do _____”.

What does the Lord want to show you?! I hope this snippet into my life as of late has encouraged you to press in and know Him more deeply.

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