Staying healthy has always been an uphill battle for me, and for good reason. I have a lifelong love affair with food and generally hate exercise. I used to be a jogger, but every time I ran I battled the temptation to just give up, lie down on the pavement and order a pepperoni pizza. I tried a yoga class, only to find that I was the only man in a group of 28 women, all of whom were stunningly pliable. Working out at the gym had its challenges too. Squeezing myself into Lycra, I looked like an overstuffed sausage skin on the brink of bursting forth.
Finally, I decided that something had to be done, mainly because I could no longer look down and see my feet, on account of them being partially eclipsed by the burgeoning planet that was my stomach. I didn’t have much hope for success, but it was a biblical insight from the garden of Eden that propelled me into action.
I realised that my historical downfall had been caused by negotiation. I would decide on an exercise routine (usually on New Year’s Eve) but, when the alarm yanked me out of my slumber the following morning, the negotiations would begin. I’m tired; I have a busy day; it’s cold outside; I’ll do it tomorrow; I’m too old for this. The reasons for postponing were endless. I could identify with Solomon’s ancient wisdom: “Loafers say, ‘It’s dangerous out there! Tigers are prowling the streets!’ and then pull the covers back over their heads” (Proverbs 26:13, The Message). Tigers are generally in short supply in my locality, but you never know…
Eventually, I decided to create what I’d like to call an anchor habit. Simply put, this entails carefully deciding what you are going to do, and making sure it’s realistic. I’m not going to attempt three marathons in one week; in fact, I’m not planning on running one marathon ever. Next, you predetermine what your emergency get-out clauses will be and, only in those specific circumstances, will you not do what you’ve planned to do. Finally, you do it. No discussion. Negotiations are simply not allowed.
Negotiation caused the fall of humanity. The first couple in Eden were given a clear directive: don’t eat from that tree. The command was given to anchor them into God’s will and purpose for their life. But when a chatty snake showed up, the negotiations began. That exchange eroded their resolve and made paradise lost, with disastrous cosmic results.
Satan took a similar conversational approach to Jesus when he was fresh from baptism and heading into ministry (Luke 4:1-13). It was then that the devil went to Jesus with some tempting offers. “Come on, Jesus, you’re hungry. Bake a loaf from those stones. Worship me and have a throne – there’s no cross needed. Prove yourself by taking a jump from the temple pinnacle.”
The father of lies was a slick salesman, even quoting scripture during the bargaining, but Jesus had no time for that chitchat. “It is written”, he declared simply. Three times. No negotiation.
So perhaps it’s time to bring an end to the discussions and deliberations that can reverberate endlessly in our heads, and get on with choosing well.
At the risk of sounding smug, I’m happy to report that, two months in, I’m fitter and happier, my stomach has been tamed and my feet have miraculously reappeared. The anchor, I’m glad to say, is holding fast.