minimal willpower but serious love

Several weeks ago, I took a risk by telling the blogosphere the exact number on the scale under my feet. One hundred and sixty. I challenged readers to join me in a win-win plan—for every unauthorized extra pound on our bodies, we’d donate one pound of food to a food pantry when we lost it. You can read the whole scary story here. Plus, you can read the stories of other risk-taking women here to see the fantastic people urging me on.

Well, I’m reporting that I’m down six pounds. Great, right? Well, sort of. If I could tell you I had done this as a result of creating a healthy diet and exercise program and mustering my amazing stores of willpower, then it would be great.

Alas, I have the willpower of a mosquito in a blood bank. I have never met a piece of chocolate I didn’t like. (Except white chocolate. That is not chocolate. It is an impudent imposter that tastes like nothing humans should naturally consume.)

Instead, it’s a result of being sick for an entire month. Haven’t been able to eat. Haven’t wanted to eat. Have eaten about a third of what I usually eat and that only by sheer force because I know from freshman biology class that a body has to have some kind of fuel to ensure continued existence. Plus to ensure the house will not be overrun with dirty clothes and dishes.

It is not a diet plan I would recommend.

I’ve been thinking of the term Sheldon Vanaucken used in his book–”A severe mercy.” Something God uses when we cannot, or will not, help ourselves to be our better selves.

I am not saying God brings about illness to teach me a lesson. I am not the kind of theologian who tweets about deadly earthquakes helping us to be more like Job. But I am thinking, through this month, about how God will take a situation and use it to do for us what we are unable to do. Out of severe (defined as very great, intense) love.

I have zero willpower. No matter how many good intentions I have, I could not (read that would not, because truth–no one force fed me chocolate chip cookies at gunpoint) stop eating junk. I prayed for help. But I would not help myself.

God can sometimes love us so severely that he will answer our prayers.  

I’ve had other prayers with similar outcomes.

I’ve prayed for success and railed at the fates of the world when it didn’t come. Why, God? If everyone says I’m so good at what I do, why hasn’t that brought me where I’d like to be by this time?

And God answered recently, pretty clearly. Because you couldn’t have handled it. Your life would have spun out of control with too much packed into it, and plus, you may have had a teeeeeny bit too much pride to make that a healthy thing.

Ouch. Does he always have to be so darn right? When I think about what might have happened, it makes me so grateful for the severe mercy that denied me dreams that would have been disastrous.

God used a drug addicted child to answer my prayers that he would heal me of being so judgmental. Through those most severe years of my life, he showed me an intense depth of mercy and his heart of compassion for lives whose complications and struggles I had never understood. I learned how to love—deeper, richer, truer than I knew I could. A severe mercy indeed.

So the risk is working—just not the way I thought. It’s hard to be grateful that I haven’t been able to do all the things I wanted to do in my daughter’s last summer before college. It’s hard when I look out at my garden and all the things I’d like to be getting into out there.

But it’s easy when I think about being still and listening. Learning. Waiting for the good that pours out of severe love.

It is, I think, that we are all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words, and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we don’t know at all that it is the same with others.” – Sheldon Vanaucken, A Severe Mercy

One thought on “minimal willpower but serious love

  1. Hey friend,
    So sorry you have been sick, but congrats on being down six pounds. I always love your story telling.

    I have a similar situation. Last winter I was praying for more time. I just couldn't fit it in. My head was full of a million things I just couldn't accomplish, but all of which needed to be done. I prayed to God for time. What did I expect from Him? Who knows? He laid me out sick (which, I Amy Sullivan, do not get sick). He let me lay there and gave me the priviledge of having to cancel everything which was “important” to embrace everything that was actually important. I love how He works.

    Oh, and a teeny amount of too much pride? Yep, I have that too. Actually, I'm gushing with a teeny amount of too much pride.

    Thanks for sharing about this risk here. It's a bold one to toss out there.


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