I see these cute Christian shirts that make me think, “Ah. That expresses my faith well.” I am a quiet person. Perhaps one of these will give voice to my faith. One in particular states, “I love Jesus, coffee, and naps.” I love all three, and, while I rarely actually get a nap, I often feel desperate for one.
Another shirt states, “It is well with my soul.” Overall, that is true for me. But do I really represent that all the time? Absolutely not. And then I wonder if I am too worried about appearing hypocritical. Would I be making a stand for God or turning those who have no faith even further from God? Having friends who do not know Christ makes me shrink from purchasing such a garment for fear of presenting a conflicting message.
And then, I think, it is just a shirt.
I have been pondering which shirt to buy for some time, even though it is unlikely I will ever buy any of them.
How God Revealed an Idol
In the process of contemplating the messages of these T-shirts, God opened my eyes to a more profound perspective. It really began with sugar, specifically the sugar in my coffee. The coffee, of course, was listed on one of the shirts as one of my “needs.”
For a little background, I am in the heart of writing my dissertation which will earn me a PhD in psychology when I complete it. It’s tough. I have a family, a church family, and a full-time job. My mother lives with me. My mother-in-law is still learning to live alone after the death of my father-in-law. There are many reasons I feel continuing my education is a selfish endeavor.
I began brainstorming ways that I could function more effectively, disappoint as few people as possible, and still complete this dissertation. Let me also say that at this time I had been researching some strategies for pre-menopausal women, feeling like my hormones have been doing somersaults since my last child. I found that even in my late thirties, the hormones can create problems.
One strong suggestion from this research, because I am not into fake medications but prefer to utilize what God gives us naturally when possible, was to quit sugar.
After a nasty sugar detoxification period, going without sugar was supposed to leave me energized, focused, and steady. Those are qualities I would like to hear used to describe me from people like my husband, sons, family, and co-workers.
Sugar. My friend-for-life. How could I give up sugar while going through such a difficult task as a dissertation? I have quit sugar before — in all but my coffee — but I need that sugar in my coffee. It is such a comfort. I look forward to each cup (probably more like three or four). I can get through most situations knowing that a cup of coffee with sugar is at the end.
However, I realized that, if I am asking my family to sacrifice for me, then I must also make sacrifices. I knew I would suffer, however superficial it seems. Since I was giving up sugar, why not give up gluten, too? I have gone gluten free in the past, and it left me feeling much better. Healthier. Stronger.
Thus, in order to feel better and find the energy I needed, I went off sugar and gluten. By day three of no sugar, my husband was begging me to go back on it. I had a headache. I was irritable. I had no comfort.
But I am stubborn. I thought — if this substance has this much control over who I am, then I want nothing to do with it.
Several weeks into this new life-without-sugar, I learned a wonderful lesson, as are all lessons from the Lord. This one I know was from Him: At times when I should have been taking comfort in the Lord, I turned to sugar instead.
That was a blow to who I believed myself to be. Sugar was something so trivial that I let become a god to me. Judges 10:14 (ESV) states, “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in your time of distress.” Bingo. That was me.
Gaining Self-Control: Making Jesus My Comfort
Since giving up the sweet stuff, I no longer get tired in the afternoon. I can work for crazy amounts of time, still give my kids attention for their homework and antics, and perform well at work. I lost weight that no amount of exercise has ever gotten rid of. It was a struggle that ended with me on top, infused with God’s power rather than the power of “things.”
How many times have I heard at church that anything we rely on has the power to become a god to us? I chide myself that I didn’t see this sooner, yet, since I am human, I know something is bound to sneak up on me again. I can still enjoy sugar since my detox, usually every weekend, with no side effects. The sugar no longer controls me. I control it.
I did fall off the wagon once. I slowly let sugar creep into my day-to-day routine. However, when I began waking up in the morning feeling as though I hadn’t slept, I quickly realized the culprit. I got back up and quit sugar once again.
Moderation works. Anything of the Lord is good. The only thing I do not need moderation for is my time with Him. For it is never enough.
1 Corinthians 10:14 (ESV) states, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” I am thankful for the discernment God gave me that allowed me to garner self-discipline over this part of my life.
I no longer want the “I love Jesus, coffee, and naps” shirt that was “so me.” My perspective of what is important has shifted. I want every part of me, even my clothing, to reflect that. Plus, I drink less coffee now — only one cup usually. I no longer yearn for naps. As my father-in-law used to say, “You can sleep when you die” (and that is how he lived his life). And I will never again compare Jesus’ name to trivial, momentary pleasures on this earth.
Living my life with less sugar and with more Jesus is so much better.
Through a path that began with a shirt, diverted to sugar, and ended in idols, I found out more about both Jesus and my relationship with Him. In defense of the shirt, Jesus’ name is in larger font on it than either coffee or naps. Makes sense. He is larger.
It is important for us all to attempt to recognize what idols, even legal ones like sugar, we have in our lives. The lesson for me was to not just examine where I spend most of my time and energy, but from where I receive my comfort.
Despite all that I’ve learned, I do still like the Jesus shirts, though. The one I eyeball now states, “Blessed by Jesus — Spoiled by my husband.” I haven’t found anything wrong in that thus far. After the dissertation, I may treat myself to it.