Sunday, October 01 2006
"Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the second Cardinal virtue was christened 'Temperance', it meant nothing of the sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further." Mere Christianity
Balance . . . it's my wife's favorite word. I have trouble keeping certain things in balance, or practicing temperance in certain areas of my life. Take, for example, eating. I love food, of all kinds! Consequently I often eat too much--more than I need. And eventually I gain weight. I have certainly been overweight, even obese according to the standards of the medical profession.
The real question is: why? Why do I eat too much? I probably use food to make up for other things, or even relationships which I think are lacking in my life. Most of this works at a subconscious level most of the time. But I can actually remember the first time I used food as this sort of psychological comfort. I was, perhaps, five years old. I was on the outs with other kids in the neighborhood, for some reason I do not now remember. I came home in tears. My mother offered me an ice cream sundae. That seemed to fill the gap. I have used the same method of compensation many times since, both consciously and unconsciously.
So how do I get back in balance and live with greater temperance when it comes to eating? Certainly I must start by reducing my food intake. I also need to exercise every day. I have done these things fairly well over the past year and lost fifty pounds--bringing my weight into the proper range for my height. I'm grateful to the Lord for helping me accomplish this. But I know it is only a beginning. Eating right and exercising daily must become a lifelong lifestyle.
I also need to maintain health in other areas of my life--in my human relationships for example--so that I won't be so tempted to use food to fill a relational gap. Most of all, I need to feed daily on Jesus, who said:
I have long loved the following holy sonnet from the pen of John Donne (1572-1631). It may be said as a prayer. And if one changes the last line to read: "Nor ever temperate, except You feed me." then the sonnet ties in directly to today's meditation. Of course, the sexual dimension of life, to which Donne refers, is yet another area where we may be intemperate, unless Christ ravishes us.