Monday, July 21, 2014

Elastic Waistband Living

I have a love-hate relationship with the elastic waistband:  

Love how it is so comfy.

Hate how it lies to me.

The elastic waistband makes room for me to eat and eat until I've reached its stretchy limit. It won't warn me that I'm about to eat my way into another clothing size. In fact, with a few adjustments, I relocate it to a higher altitude until I don't even feel it anymore.

The trouble comes when it's time to put on a standard waistband; you know, the ones with no give. And if we've been living in elastic waistbands for too long, we may be shocked to discover that the static waistband has developed a great gulf between the edges of the zipper. And we can't close it no matter how long the breath is held.

Willful sin is like an elastic waistband: you don't know how far you've gone until the gap becomes a great gulf. And the gulf is not just between you and others; it's between you and God. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." (Psalm 90:8) God sees our stretching routine, and He also knows that we think it's a great big secret.

News: It's no secret. Elastic waistband living is plainly visible to God, and you'd be surprised how many others are onto the charade as well. Like the person who imagines that they are thin because elastic keeps stretching to fit the growing shape, we can deceive ourselves if we keep up the false front long enough.

It is a wise practice to examine ourselves regularly for areas where we may be stretching in ways that are harmful to our spiritual lives. If we won't examine ourselves, we may begin to imagine that we are better off than most, and that's when we'll stretch to embrace bad old habits like they are good old friends.

Self-examination is a tool given by God to allow us to check the condition of our faith. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5) It's way too easy to look around at others, questioning whether or not their walk with God is "real." What about the person in the mirror? Is she a real Christian, or just fantastic actress?

We may examine ourselves, but God examines us as well: "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart." (Psalm 26:2) The word "examine" in this verse means to "try or test," as well as "to scrutinize." God is paying close attention not only to our private conduct, but also to our motives. God also has the all-knowing insight that also allows Him to  "search" our hearts for habits that could cause us pain and sorrow. This form of searching is not only a deeper examination; it's also an investigation into our lives: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Have you examined yourself lately? Here are a few common "Ifs" to begin the self-exam:

If we're pretending that we care about biblical principles when we're in church, but disregarding these principles in our private lives, then we've grown comfortable in our stretchy thinking. "What's so bad about this?" we ask, as we adjust the elastic to fit around the swelling rationalization for our self-directed living. Are we walking "in the law of the Lord" or are we making up our own laws? Attempting to stretch Scripture to fit whatever we want to do is hazardous folly.

If we're watching things on TV, DVD or the computer that we wouldn't want others to know that we're viewing, we're stretching the waistband to fit the convenient lie that says, "I can handle this." Many things that are entertaining or otherwise stimulating are not good for the soul, and the harm done cannot be easily undone. Remember: the mind does not have an "erase" or "delete" key.

If we're justifying sin in our lives, while condemning it in the lives of others, we are stretching to the limit. "How could they do something so idiotic?" And then we move the elastic waistband higher so that we can have room to breathe as we commit errors just as bad if not worse.

Have you been stretching to make room for sin, while squeezing out your spiritual life? This is not a good idea. Life has enough tight spots without us creating new ones. People may think we're the most rock-solid Christians of our era, but God knows who we really are. He has seen us stretching to make things fit the way we want to live. Because God loves us, He will eventually chasten us to deliver us from ourselves. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." (Hebrews 12:6) Chastisement may not feel like love, but it is enormously loving, as our character needs molding and shaping as we grow. We all need firm correction from the Lord now and then.

I wore an elastic waistband skirt on vacation years ago. When I got home, I was shocked at the number on the scale! I was so "good" during that trip, carefully eating my fruits and vegetables. Key Lime Pie is a fruit, right? And everybody knows that onion rings with ketchup equals two veggies...

S t r e t c h.

Elastic waistband living is artificially comfortable. It's deception. Give it up.

"Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults."
(Psalm 19:12)

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