This week marks the one year anniversary of me joining the weight loss program which led to me losing almost 60 pounds. The past few weeks have been difficult with traveling, illness, weddings and other celebrations, so I’m at about a net loss of 50 pounds. Ironically, I’m finding it difficult to remember that I’m still 50 pounds lighter than I was last year. I’m still so much healthier than I was. In fact, I obsess about those 10 pounds as if they are all that matters.
While I was in college, I worked with kids on the autistic spectrum at an early invention preschool. To change kids’ negative behaviors, we would make charts. First, we’d measure how often they did something (e.g. getting out of their chair when they were supposed to be sitting). Then, we’d create some strategy to help address that issue. As we implemented the strategy, we’d keep track of how often they did the behavior we didn’t want. The habit we were trying to break would still occur, but as we tracked it, it often would happen less. A child might go from getting out of his chair 10 times an hour to 5. That’s a great improvement, but without tracking, it would be all too easy to focus on the 5 times that he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. Every step in the right direction mattered.
I bring this up because I’m learning that the same thing in necessary in my life. I have bad days; I make poor choices at times and I want to define myself by those decisions. I’m still a very different person than I was, bad days included.
I’ve gone from exercising rarely (like, never) to 5-6 days a week. I’ve started thinking about food decisions with clarity. For instance, when I thought it would be easier to get Thomas lunch at Costco, I realized there wasn’t anything I could get him that he’d finish (and that I’d end up finishing for him). Instead, I waited until we got home to eat. These are little changes that feel like they pale in comparison to bad choices, but they matter. The way that I’m thinking has changed in meaningful ways, even if my behavior hasn’t completely caught up yet.
The difference between finishing the race and giving up entirely will be in whether I continue. Focusing on the ways in which I’m not where I think I should be makes me want to give up. Why bother trying if I’m never going to change? Instead, I can choose to continue by celebrating the real (but less conspicuous) victories. I choose to continue by recognizing that habits take a lot longer than two weeks to make or break (especially when they’re what you’ve clung to your whole life). If perfect is the only acceptable outcome, I’ve already failed.
To say it another way, good isn’t perfect, but it’s still worth celebrating.
One year later, I realize that a change in behavior is unbelievably hard. Making lifelong changes requires a lifelong commitment to change and a great deal of faith. The most important lesson I’m learning now is to see myself with sober vision, which is to see myself the way that Jesus does. I’m not who I was. Neither am I yet who I will be, but I’m on the way with God at work in me. Producing fruit takes time, but as I abide in Jesus, it will happen. Ultimately, this is a spiritual battle for me, so I take Paul’s words seriously:
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:13 -14, 21)
One year later, I press on for his glory.
I pray that you’d be encouraged by little victories in your own lives, too, so that you’d press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God has called you in Jesus.