Trading Bad for Worse
I read an article yesterday on McDonald’s that got my mind swirling about my habits and how I am often reactive rather than proactive. In the article it said there are just as many grams of fat in a McDonald’s salad as there are in 4 McDonald’s hamburgers. If you get a salad with crispy chicken and salad dressing, you would be consuming 35 grams of fat. A hamburger at McDonald’s only has 9 grams of fat. So, those people that wish to eat healthier by choosing a salad at McDonald’s are actually doing more harm than good.
Many times in life we are reactive rather than proactive. What I mean by that is we find out one habit is bad/unhealthy/sinful, so we replace it with another habit that is equally bad/unhealthy/sinful rather than changing our pattern altogether. We hear from friends or our doctor or on the news that we need to eat healthy, so we choose a salad rather than a hamburger. It seems logical and you feel better about yourself, but that does not make it truthful or right.
Here’s how this applies spiritually: Your daily time with God (your “quiet time”) has become rote, routine and dry. You know this shouldn’t be the case and that it shouldn’t be a chore to spend time with God. So, instead of pushing through until your desire returns, you take this time off of your “to-do list.” Jonathan Acuff makes a good point about this using satire in Stuff Christians Like. He says, “That’s right. I do love spending time with God, and the best way to show that is by not spending time with him until my heart is right. I want to be on fire for God and not fake it. Until I’m sincere, I’ll respect him enough to avoid him.” When stated so bluntly, our actions come across as comedic at best and destructive and foolish at worst.
There are many other ways to apply this analogy to the way we “do” church today. Think about it: We don’t want to share our faith by preaching in a bullhorn on a street corner or by handing out tracts, so we don’t share our faith at all. We don’t want to be like the charismatic church down the street so we snuff out the Holy Spirit in our own. We don’t want to be a fundamentalist so we don’t ever draw a line on anything. If you’ll notice, all of things are defined by what we “don’t” want to be. We react against what we don’t want to be based on a feeling and adopt a new practice out of a reaction rather than proactively thinking through the problem.
Dallas Willard calls this habit “the power of the mood.” He says, “People cannot distinguish between their feelings and their will, and they confuse feelings with reasons. They lack self-control, which is the steady capacity to direct yourself to accomplish what you have chosen or decided to do and be, even though you ‘don’t feel like it.’ Without self-control, people drift through the days and years using addictive behavior to endure.” If I could apply this to our McDonald’s situation, I would say that we “feel” like salads are healthier and better for us and we choose that route rather than choosing self-control and avoiding fast food. The challenge for all of us is to do the tough work of discerning those habits and beliefs in our lives that are based on feelings rather than being founded in truth, and then we must do the tougher work of allowing God to uproot these things from our lives.