Despite that the wise in our society advise us to take “everything in moderation,” it sure is hard to follow that adage around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Being surrounded by so many delicious treats, along with lots of lovingly-cooked dishes, it’s easy to want to stuff your face. Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, I can most definitely relate.
This year, I told myself that I wouldn’t indulge, and that I would take just a little bit. I didn’t want to dismantle a fairly-regimented eating design. So, I tool a little bit of everything. That was my first mistake.
After filling up my plate with a little bit of everything, I took note of the large pile of food I had collected. I wasn’t sure how I had gotten to that point. Not a single spot of plate could be seen, and the height achieved was somewhat admirable. To rectify, I then determined to not finish my plate. I would only eat three or four bites of each item, giving the rest to my three dogs. That was my second mistake.
The suggestion to eat only 3-4 bites was an issue, as I had about 10-12 different kinds of food on my plate, the size of 3-4 bites each. I couldn’t neglect any one food, now could I? After 10 minutes or so, I was regretfully staring at the clean bottom of my empty plate. Not that it was bad (that was clearly not the problem); it’s that the food was so good. I had eaten too much of a good thing, and all before dessert. As most people know, that overstuffed feeling is never pleasurable. No matter how good something is, overdoing it never leads to satisfaction.
Additionally, overdoing it leads to a quick burnout, despite your good intentions. I watched this idea take shape while we were exercising as a family. We had decided to complete two rounds of a series of exercises (squat thrusts, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.). My son decided that this amount of exertion wasn’t enough for him, so he went for the hand weights. Standing at 90 pounds, he managed to hold a 10-lb weight in one hand and clutch two 5-lb weights in the other. I didn’t say anything, wondering how long this was going to last. He made it through about 15 lunges before he decided against this course of action. He had burned out quite quickly, despite his good intention to get stronger.
Overdoing it never leads to the intended result. We end up instead getting too much of what we wanted with none of the satisfaction or results. Think of it this way: you have to cook a turkey for 1 hour at 425 degrees. To save time, you do some math, and decide that you could cut that time down significantly by cooking at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. So, you decide to cook your turkey at 1700 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes sense on a logical level, but try biting into that turkey, and you’ll see the reality of your inept cooking.
Solomon tried this approach, too. He decided that since he was king, he could be happy by giving himself everything that he wanted. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil” (Ecclesiastes 2.10). However, the more he dove into what he enjoyed, the more diminishing the returns were: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (verse 11). Everything in moderation. If we don’t overdo it and temper ourselves, we enjoy life more, growing more in the process.
Finding that sweet spot of moderation is key, the point at where you’ve achieved what you wanted but didn’t go too far and ruin it. It’s the same concept for the things we enjoy as for the things we work so hard at. We desire to grow and develop, but if we take it too far and overdo it, we end up doing more harm than good. Athletes work hard to grow stronger and develops skills, but at some point, they risk pulling a muscle. The same can go for our spiritual lives. I’ve seen many young Christians get heavily involved in as many Christian aspects as they possibly can, only to get sick of it quickly and reject everything shortly from there. Just because it’s good, overdoing it doesn’t mean it will be better for you.
Years ago, a fellow teacher taught me that when teaching your students, you want them disappointed that the bell rang, not grateful that it did. You always want them to ask you to continue to read something when stopping, instead of being thankful that you stopped. You want them to want more, but if you give them too much, they won’t want more, anymore. For the things we enjoy, more doesn’t make it better. God created these things for us to enjoy, but taking them all in at once doesn’t lead to more enjoyment. And growth, like cooking a good turkey, takes time. Overwatering a plant doesn’t make it grow faster. So, don’t go all in all at once; leave yourself wanting more. Pace yourself and plan out over time. God gave you a heart that wants; now ask for a spirit that is patient. That way, you’ll avoid burnout and stuffing yourself, and instead will enjoy the things that God meant for you to enjoy, growing at the speed at which God wants you to, without all of the exhaustion and fatigue. Amen.