Self Control

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

This is a verse I repeat often to myself.  As I approach a meeting that I am worried about I have not been given a spirit of timidity or fear… As I walk into a conversation that I know will involve conflict.  As I look at daunting work goals.  As I put my almost 3 year old in time out- again.  My spirit is not timid.  I was not created to be fearful.

But of power, love, and self-control.

Power.  Courage and abilities, given from God.  check.

Love.  Overflowing from the Father, a blessing to others. check.

Self-Control.  I’m in charge of my life and things will go according to my plan.  Ummm… not so much.  

So often, this verse makes me feel more centered.  More able to meet life’s challenges.  And yet, for all the times I have read it and repeated it to myself, the concept of self-control is something that is sorely lacking in my life.  When I think of the concept of control, it is appealing, as long as it applies to my external environment.  If control is something I have been given to make sure that life happens according to my plans, then sign me up.

Self control on the other hand?  Whenever I say that phrase to myself, I immediately think of diets.  Of not eating delicious things.  How is it that such a powerful concept has been reduced in my mind to not eating carbs?

I read a quote John Ortberg used in his book Soul Keeping the other day.  He attributed it to an article about “How to Stay Christian in College.”

Make small sacrifices.  Make a vow to wake up and go to breakfast every morning, even if your first class isn’t until eleven a.m.  Choose a plain cheese pizza rather than pepperoni.  You’ll be surprised how these tiny sacrifices work an interior magic, shifting your focus ever so slightly away from  yourself.  Once you are a little bit to the side, God can come to the center.

This resonates with me as a deeply Christian concept.  Living a life formed with me not being at the center.  Living a legacy of small, invisible sacrifices, designed to help us be more aware of others, of our blessings, of God’s tugging on our hearts.  What small sacrifices can I begin to make, so remind myself that life isn’t about my own pleasure?  How will that practice shape my thought life?  How will it shape my actions and reactions?  Where do I begin?


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