By most accounts, I appear to have Will Power. After all, it’s 5:34 a.m. as I begin typing this. My alarm went off at 4:30 on Good Friday, a religious holy day, a holiday from work, and I am typing rapidly because I am leaving for the health club in 10 minutes. (Although truth be told, I only got up at 4:30 because it was preset on my alarm clock, and it was easier to get up than to change the clock.)
Typically, at this hour of the morning, I do tend to have Will Power. On week days, I get up, pack three coolers (only one for me, thanks) with breakfast smoothies, lunches, and drinks for the day; clean whatever dishes appeared in the sink during the night; put away clean dishes; deal with any laundry demands; and drink coffee. By the time I leave for the health club, enroute to work, I am packing some heat: specifically, a blow dryer and hair straightener — along with two bags of necessaries, my hanging clothes, my cooler, and my rolling crate filled with school tools. Today I am working out and showering at the health club but heading home, not to work, for the day. I left the cooler and crate at home.
Three hours later:
I am again at the computer, this time my laptop, having only constructed two paragraphs before the journey to the health club and having conceded the desktop to my son for his math homework. My husband is home from work for the holiday; my son has only his college class to attend, and he is resentful that he has to share the house with two annoying parents this morning. (I am finding all of us annoying this morning too.) I have made breakfast for three and dealt with the resulting dishes, have listened to too many conversations requiring answers or actions when all I want to do is write, write, write, and currently have a cat nosing her way into my lap, rubbing her head on my tapping fingers, and otherwise encroaching on my space. At my side is a now half-eaten bag of Target “Heart Throbs,” supposedly sour gummy hearts I purchased for my son for Valentine’s Day candy but are fair game two months later as they were still unopened. (They are not sour, but my stomach is. Why do I think sugar will help me focus or deal with stress?)
This is where I begin to miss Will Power.
In the mornings I have Will Power — and by “mornings” I mean early mornings, clearly, as it is not even 10 a.m., and I have already made myself sick on candy, demonstrating a certain lack thereof. I wake up, I work out, I determine to eat well so that I can fit into my clothes and generally live in a state of well-being. However, mere hours later, I turn to food — sometimes because I feel hungry, but often because I feel like my brain can’t function — and I seem to have no Will Power. And by food, I mean “food-like substances” or, generally, non-nutritive junk food.
I seem to be able to find it wherever I am.
This past week, it was the store-bought, buttercream-icing-covered cake in the faculty lounge. At home, I had a homemade feathery fudge chocolate cake (think luscious chocolate cake with real raspberry filling between the layers, covered in decadent dark chocolate icing). After the initial dose (at a birthday party for two of my sons), I never ate another bite, though half a cake remained in the refrigerator. But this boxed cake with artificial flavors and colors called my name.
I listened and succumbed. Three times, I believe.
The week before, when we had Capstone Project presentations by our seniors two nights in a row, the refreshments committee wanted a place to store the leftovers that could be served the next night.
“Don’t store it in the teachers’ lounge,” I said. “Those people [meaning me] are pigs.”
When I was a child, if I couldn’t finish everything on my plate, I would tell my dad I’d pay him a quarter to finish it for me. He usually did, though I don’t remember parting with any of the silver coins. He was sort of my human garbage disposal. When I now have leftovers — such as the chocolate goodies I make for Christmas packages — I leave them in the faculty lounge at school, where they disappear rapidly. Sort of a group human garbage disposal.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one who provides fodder for the lounge. And I am a willing part of the faculty — and an even more willing part of that human garbage disposal.
I need less of the willing part and more of the Will Power.
For years I have told people I’m on the Romans 7 diet.
“What diet is that?”
“You know. ‘For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’ (Romans 7:15b). ‘For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing’ (Romans 17:18b-19).
Of course, Romans 7 doesn’t end in despair, and the writer doesn’t subject himself to a simple loss of Will Power. Instead, he claims victory through Jesus Christ and gives thanks to God for it.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)
I too often claim the Romans 7 diet — and stop at verse 19, complacent enough to succumb to a lack of Will Power instead of claiming victory. I am wrong to do so. When I started writing this post, I wrote the title first, crafting it as though Will Power were a person. Fictitious. Pretending. Overemphasized personification, perhaps, if I wanted to write as an English teacher.
But as I contemplate it now, with the end of Romans 7 in mind, I think Will Power is a person. Me — or, rather, Jesus Christ in me. And that should make all the difference.