As you already know, my Lenten journey this year is about “giving up” my excuses. The first excuse that came to my awareness was in regards to my overall health. I realized I could no longer “cheat” my way to good health knowing full well what every American is taught from birth (but many, like me, continue to deny in the “land of plenty”): that in order to lose weight I must make smart food choices (diet) and I must move my body more (exercise).
So I had to take a personal inventory: Did I really want to change? Yes. Was I willing to change? Yes. Was I willing to let go of old habits? Um…I think so…where are we going here? Was I willing to let go of my idols? Wait….what? How did this get religious all of a sudden? I thought I was trying to look like a super model. Or at least a local ad model. Or at least the best looking girl in the room (when I’m the only one it). How did this get to be about idols?
But my heart knew. And it did what it always does. It waited. It waited for my head to catch up. And eventually my head did. I realized that if I looked at the past three or four years, I’d worked out pretty consistently in some way or other for all those years, but, I’d also successfully lost and then gained and then lost and then gained. Could idols have something to do with it? In all those years there was ONE thing I could think of that I had absolutely refused to give up. That ONE THING was now on my heart, and in my head, so I knew it was time for me to let go. It was the “sacred cow” I’d never been able to let go of in all my other attempts to get healthy.
And its name is Diet Coke.
And it pours most deliciously from a fountain out of any McDonald’s restaurant.
And it only costs $1 (a dollar!) regardless of how big or small you want it.
And I have been addicted to it for over a decade.
I know it may seem laughable that I would think that giving up Diet Coke (it’s Diet, for crying out loud! ONE CALORIE!) would be a significant step towards good health. (Though there are lots of articles to say it is a significant step). The truth is, an addict is an addict. It really doesn’t matter what we’re addicted to. Sure, some things are arguably much more harmful than others, but the behavior is really the same. In fact, I would argue that the behavior itself is the most harmful of all! When you look at the definition of an addict: to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively, you can see right there that anything we’re addicted to, other than God, is breaking the first commandment. I had been addicted for years.
So…with a deep breath, much prayer, a hard look at my lifestyle, (and the reality of having just turned 40), I decided that I needed to stop drinking Diet Coke. I knew it was my “sacred cow.”
You see, when I think of “sacred cows,” what I think of are false idols. And I realized that not only was Diet Coke a “sacred cow” for me in the figurative sense —something immune from question or criticism–every time I’d tried to get serious about my health before, but it was also a sacred cow in the Biblical sense, something that takes your focus off of God. I specifically think of the Biblical story of Moses and Aaron. Remember that one? Where Moses went up the mountain to talk to God and receive the commandments, while Aaron, his brother, stayed down with the people who grew increasingly doubtful and impatient, so he built them a cow out of gold to worship? (Exodus 32: 1-35)
Yeah. It seems so ridiculous in its ancient context that it’s easy to think it has no meaning for us to today. I mean worshipping a golden cow? Laughable!
Until you realize that Diet Coke is your golden cow, and you’re a Diet Coke junkie.
Then it’s not so funny.
Then climbing that mountain for God seems really, really hard.
I can finally write about this because it’s been over a month now since I’ve had a Diet Coke or soda of any sort. And while that may seem like no time at all, those who know me know what a lo-o-o-ong time that is.
And no one is more surprised that I could do it than me.
Even more surprising to me is the fact that I really don’t miss it.
Or at least very rarely.
I have made some other changes, too. I’m doing this awesome Jillian Michaels workout every day, and out of respect to my last year’s Lenten sacrifice, I eat with more self-respect, consciously making better choices (most of the time).
I wish I had more news than that. You know, something real impressive like, I lost 10 pounds as a result! But, as of right now, I haven’t. (An unimpressive 3 pounds? Yes. An inspiring 10 pounds? Not so much).
Even so, something else has changed. Something even more important, I think, and that is this: I’m focusing on the change, and I’m letting the results be whatever they’re going to be. I trust they will come. Not in my time frame, but in God’s.
So why am I telling you all this? Is it because I think you should feel guilty for going to McDonald’s or drinking Diet Coke? Of course not.
But I do think you need to look at any “sacred cows” that may be getting in the way of something you say you really want. (Exodus 24:3)
And then take another look at just what’s stopping you from getting there.
Because no matter how hard you try?
You cannot climb the mountain while holding on to your sacred cow.