Imagine for a moment, you’ve just finished baking a fresh batch of homemade chicken nuggets. You used your mom’s very secret and very delicious recipe. People have been trying to get that recipe for years, and you cherish it even more because of it. You walk into the dining room where your 14 month old toddler has been playing very contentedly with her toys, just feet away from you on the floor. She sits chewing on a plastic… Wait! What is that? Upon closer investigation, you realize your baby is chewing on… a chicken nugget, but not one of YOUR chicken nuggets! The culprit is a week old McDonald’s fragment that was hidden in the corner of the room beneath the wooden rocking chair where the sweeping has been sub-par for far too long. It doesn’t take much examination to see the hair, fuzz, and general filth connected to the object of your child’s desire. Immediately, you snatch the intruder out of her hand, but almost before the chicken nugget leaves her chubby, little fingers, the tiny girl begins to scream as though you have just taken away her reason for being alive. You try to explain to her that you have more chicken nuggets for her; they are delicious and fresh and warm and wonderful, but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t want a tray full of delicious, scrumptious, beautiful chicken nuggets. She wants one fuzzy, dirty, hairy chicken nugget and nothing you can do or say is going to change her mind.
It may surprise you to find out that the baby in the story is actually me. It may surprise you even more to find out that the baby in the story might very well be you too. Let me explain. We sit in our cozy, little world’s, and we find pleasure in all sorts of things. Maybe it’s a chocolate bar that you eat in secret places when the kids are causing you stress. Maybe you enjoy a specific type of music or a television series that makes you laugh and helps you unwind at the end of the day. Maybe you have a beer or a glass of wine. Maybe you smoke a cigarette or two in an attempt to sooth those fraying nerves. Maybe your boyfriend or girlfriend helps you feel calm when everything seems to be spinning out of control. We all have things in this life that we enjoy and we look forward to, and that’s a good thing. At least, it’s a good thing if we are looking forward to GOOD THINGS. As we draw closer to the Lord, it’s inevitable that He will speak to us about certain things in our lives. Maybe there are things you’ve been doing for years while happily serving the Lord, then one day you feel the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart. Maybe He asks you to give something up completely. Maybe he asks you to spend less time doing an activity that you have done for a long time. Maybe he shows you that you have allowed something to consume you and control you, and He wants you to allow him to have control over that area of your life. With me, it was two things… food AND my TV time when the kids go to bed.
Oh, how I love those two things, and together… well together they are like my own little paradise. Some delicious food paired with a funny sitcom or other show or movie…those things have long been two of the most pleasurable parts of my day or night. I’ve tamed the things I’ve watched over the years, because I felt like some of the them were probably inappropriate in one way or another… or several. Still, my TV time has always been MY TV time! I love it, and I revel in it like a delicious piece of chocolate, and while I revel in MY time, I’m usually reveling in something of a more edible nature as well. Pepsi, Mmmm, one of my favorites, chocolate (Snickers), or chips… especially Doritos… oh, how I love them. I’m practically a Super Bowl commercial. Well, recently, I began feeling like God was wanting me to adjust my lifestyle a bit. Now obviously you can’t quit food, but I realized that instead of food being there for me to consume, I was allowing it to consume me… now that’s deep… at least for me. I wrestled for a while with that thought. One moment, I would think, “How can I possibly give up this love affair with all of my delectable goodies?” The next moment I would be thinking, “How can I possibly let something as insignificant as food keep me from getting closer to God?” Then, almost as soon as that thought crossed my mind, another would come. “How can I go through life without the freedom to indulge in ANYTHING I want to indulge in WHENEVER I want to indulge in it? It’s just too enjoyable.” Then another thought would come. “It’s completely ridiculous that I feel like I even have to make a decision between God and food. OF COURSE God is more important!” And the battle continued… back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then even as that battle was raging, another one began and this time… how can I even speak of it… this time I felt conviction about the amount of time I was spending each night on… ME time. NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Not my precious escape from all the stresses of the day, my heavenly haven of comfort and zoning. God could not be asking me to revise or limit my wonderful and glorious television habits in any way… could He? And so the battle raged again, and it wasn’t just about the quantity of time I was spending staring into that hypnotizing screen of delight either. It was also about the quality of some of what I was watching. Now I’m not sitting around in my living room at night watching what most people would consider filth. In fact, my viewing is pretty tame for the most part. Even so, I knew there were too many things, in some of what I was watching, that were not exactly wholesome. I had drifted a little in my resolve over the years. I was letting some of the old content sneak back in slowly… but it was so funny… and so enjoyable, and the battle raged again. It was mostly one sided. “How can I give up my ME time, or even change it to any degree? How can I face the next day without that long and pleasurable buffer of pure, unadulterated, time burning, life escaping, brain draining pleasure?” I needed it to help me unwind before jumping into another crazy whirlwind of busyness once the sun brought a new day.
In my head, I knew that God was immeasurably more important than food or hours of relaxation time in front of a screen, even so, just the thought of having to turn those areas of my life over to someone other than ME, made me sick. It made me sad. It overwhelmed me and scared me. It made me feel like I would be sacrificing something extremely important… too important! I was actually in a place of mourning over the thought of losing freedom over these areas of my life. How could I CHOOSE to give up anything that was so precious to me!? I battled with my own mind and my own thoughts over the course of a week during which we were participating in a time of prayer and fasting at our church. As a family, we had decided to give up electronics for the week and food to whatever extent we were able. I had no idea that God would ask anything of me beyond that one week. Well, maybe I knew he would ask SOMETHING of me or speak to me in SOME way. I actually wanted him to. That was one reason why I was doing the fast, but in true God fashion, He was asking more of me than I was able to give up on my own. I had no choice but to pray and to wrestle with God over these things even as I continued to wrestle with my own mind. Right in the middle of the battle, I miserably failed. I willfully chose to binge on as much food and sweets as I could physically stuff into my mouth for a period of hours one evening before bed. I knew I was still supposed to fast most meals and ALL sweets for a few more days, but I didn’t care. I was done.
The next morning I woke up, and I didn’t feel guilty even though I knew I had purposed in my heart to do what I was not supposed to do. In fact, the night before, as I was indulging, I didn’t feel guilty either. I usually felt guilt about everything, so how could I feel so indifferent about my willful decision to do exactly the opposite of what I KNEW God had been asking of me in the area of food? It was almost like God was purposefully not intervening. His Holy Spirit had not prompted my heart or convicted me either on my night of feasting or the next morning. He allowed me to make the decision, because even without His prompting, I knew what I SHOULD do and what I SHOULDN’T do. He was giving me the opportunity to obey Him, even when I didn’t feel him, even when I couldn’t sense His presence. HE knew that I knew what I should do, and He let me make my choice without a single fluttering of my heart. Even with the absence of the guilt, however, I still knew that God was sitting up in heaven, watching me. He watched me fall, and he watched me fail, like a child hiding in a corner that is still very visible to his parents, thinking he is secretly eating the cookie he was told not to eat. He sat and watched me eat the cookie (actually a whole lot of cookies… and pizza, and candy, and more pizza and more cookies… with milk and on and on the list goes) He didn’t say a word to me about the cookie. He just sat very quietly on his heavenly throne and waited for me to come to Him and say, “I’m sorry.”
I knew I needed to start back up on my fast for the remaining days I had originally decided upon. That’s what I would do! I began to journal and ask God to forgive me even though I didn’t feel any guilt. After a few minutes of writing I began to worry, because not only did I not feel guilt, but I didn’t feel God either. Had He given up on me? Was he finished with me, because I knew better and had willfully chosen to disobey Him? I contemplated that for a few minutes, even though after being a Christian for so long, I would tell anyone else thinking those same things that they were being silly. Of course God hadn’t given up on them, and in true God fashion, as I called out to Him, I finally heard his voice. It came through the words of a song that, out of nowhere, seemed to pop into my head, but it was so perfect and so tender and so loving that I knew it was my God. My Father was reaching down, picking me up, kissing me on the cheek while he held me in his arms, and saying, “Of course I forgive you. Now let’s try again.” And I did try again, and after that day, the battle didn’t seem so hard anymore. That longing and that desire for food and TV didn’t seem so overpowering anymore. What God had been asking me to do didn’t seem so impossible anymore. I could have quit trying after my epic failure, and that may have been the end of the battle I had been facing. It would not have been the end of my relationship with God, but for at least a time, it may have been the end of the new thing that God was trying to do in my life… but it wasn’t the end. On top of giving me strength and giving me encouragement, he gave me one more thing. He gave me understanding.
When I chose to break my fast on that night, I thought I was hiding in the corner unseen, eating a delicious, morsel of goodness. I thought that my love affairs with food and television were divine and gratifying delicacies that could never be eclipsed by another, but I was wrong. The moments of binging and the hours of television were wonderfully delicious to me, but what I thought was the world’s most delectable cookie was really just one fuzzy, dirty, hairy chicken nugget in comparison with what God was holding out to me. All week long He was holding out a steaming tray of fresh, beautiful, homemade, secret-recipe chicken nuggets (That taste like cookies), but in my fit and my tantrum all I could see was my one fuzzy, dirty, hairy chicken nugget that I wanted so desperately to eat and to savor.
I don’t know everything that God has in store for me, but I know it is so much better than what I had in mind for myself. It is a life of communion with Him, and with His help, a life of victory and of purpose. Even this morning, as the rest of the house is still asleep. I am doing what I love… writing, about the one that I love… my Father in heaven. This moment alone is worth so much more than anything that God has asked me to give up. It is delicious and scrumptious and pleasurable and beautiful and it is sooo good… and sooo God.
So whatever fuzzy, dirty, hairy, chicken nugget you are holding on to right now, I implore you to LET… IT… GO! God has something sooo much better for you. I couldn’t possibly tell you how good it is. You have to taste it for yourself!