Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Learning How to Overcome a Slip Up

Have you ever had those Archway Frosty Lemon cookies? They are sweet, lemony goodness, and just seeing that red and cream-colored box with the flower-shaped cookies on the front catapults me back to my childhood. Back then, they sat on my grandmother’s counter or on top of my mom’s refrigerator or next to a cold, drippy can of Pepsi on my aunt’s kitchen table just waiting for my grubby little fingers to steal a soft pinch of their yellow deliciousness, but today, they sat on the conference room table in my office next to my academic director. I tried, Friend, to avoid them, but seeing them there, right in front of my eyes, made the temptation too great to bear. Before I knew it, “May I please have some of those cookies?” slipped from my lips, and seconds later I was wiping up crumbs and patting my belly in delight. Then reality sank in. As I walked through the school, I recalled the Subway white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips I ate last night with my veggie sub, and I cringed at my third slip in less than 24 hours.

“You know better, Marilyn,” I scolded as I retrieved a stack of papers I needed to review and sign. But that didn’t stop me. Later on, I ended up mindlessly eating a sloppy chicken gyro and cheese fries before landing heavily in a three-hour post-fast food coma.

Part of my personal development plan is to own my slips, acknowledge my setbacks, and move on anyway toward my goals. The truth is that I really did have my kids’ open house last night, which pushed having a healthy dinner to fringes of possibility. But if I’m really honest, I would admit that I knew about the open house, and I could have prepared ahead of time for the late night by crockpotting something healthy. And I did see those cookies so unexpectedly on the table next to my colleague. But if I’m really honest, I would admit that I could have asked her to put them away because seeing them is a trigger for poor food choices, and she would have gladly obliged. And yes, both my husband and I were exhausted. But if I’m really honest, I would admit that the vegan place down the hill would have been a better option even if it did cost a little more.

I’m learning that setbacks, whether food related or otherwise, are challenging for me to push through. If I encounter an obstacle, whether I created it or not, I move into a fixed place that makes it more difficult for me to persevere. I feel guilt and shame or frustration and anger, and I tend to blame or make excuses when what I most need to do is get up, dust off, and get moving again.

But I’ve been praying, and the great thing about prayer is that God really does answer us. Since I’ve been praying to be a better steward and more reliable to Him and the assignments He’s given me, He’s showing me how to do that in all aspects of my life: food choices, relationships, career, finances, etc. I’m starting to see how all of those things work together to glorify Him. And I just can’t sit in a place of negativity or arrested development about poor choices and continue to make them just because I made one or two (or six or ten). I’ve got to keep moving and growing and trying to get better.

I recognize how in my life slip ups and the resultant shame and later throwing up of the hands is the trick the enemy has used over and over again to keep me from connecting with Christ and the purpose He has for me. It’s foiled me in my career (“You can’t say anything now because you didn’t say anything before.”), in my parenting (“Well, they had McDonalds already this week, so what will one more meal out do?”), in my marriage (“If he won’t say what he’s thinking, neither will I.”), and in my walk with God (“I splurged on Amazon, so I’ll just pay my tithes next time.”), and I have fallen for it time and time again because it’s easier to sit back in blame and shame than it is to take responsibility and do better.

But, actually, it isn’t. Not anymore. The faster I get right with Him, the better I feel. And while temptation and setbacks and failures still come, there is a divine nagging that goes on now that I can’t shake as easily as I could before. I feel misaligned and undone, and coming humbly and honestly to Him in prayer, thanksgiving, and worship comforts and convicts me in new ways, and I’m emboldened to take action where before I would have slipped further and further away from my purpose and from Christ.

So, yes, I scarfed down those two cookies today like a greedy toddler, and I threw caution to the wind in the name of exhaustion for dinner tonight, but I didn’t eat the ice cream I could have eaten. I’m drinking lots of water to help flush bad decisions out of my body, and when I do eat tomorrow, it will be the healthiest vegetarian options because my God deserves my body to be in good working order and my mind clear of all guilt and shame so that I can go about His business in the way He requires of me.  I can’t be laid up with stomach aches and headaches and bloating. I’ve got work to do. And because I know that makes the enemy mad, I’ll have to stay alert for other tactics he may use to divert my attention. But thank God I know who really loves me and protects me and provides for me; for “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”


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