In 2005, I was learning something very powerful: To help people change, really get healthy, and know their worth, I was going to have to know more about why humans do what they do.
It wasn't about the bicep curls.
It wasn't about the carbs...or the tater tots, corn, peas, eggs, potatoes, watermelon, red meat, sugar, low fat, no fat, etc.)
There is a lot more going on with us than just learning to exercise and eat. I started hearing the same thing over and over.
"I know what to do, I just don't do it."
Right around that time, I started seeing the number 714 everywhere. Have you ever had that happen with a number? I mean, it was everywhere. The clock, license plates, addresses, on the hotel room door in a Big Bang episode. It got me so curious, I Googled it. It is Babe Ruth's home run record. It is also the number stamped on a Quaalude, a drug from the seventies. But I knew that wasn't it.
So I tried it in this format 7:14 and got this: "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am un-spiritual. sold into bondage to sin." Romans 7:14
WHAT?! I had NO IDEA what that meant (God and I were not hanging out back then like we are now). But the next few lines caught my eye. "I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out. For I don't do the good I want to do, but the bad - this I keep doing."
This was an EXACT description of my relationship with ice cream! And pizza, cookies, booze, cigarettes, drugs, the gym, exercise, my body weight, relationships, shopping, my finances, everything. I kept trying, but would always fail. It was a battle within me. I had the desire to change, but something kept tripping me up.
Around this time, I decided to get certified as a coach and started year-long training. I'm a good student and did all my lessons, practice exams, took the written test and passed it. But when it came to the practical exam, I didn't do so well. It was over the phone with one of the faculty members of Wellcoaches, and when we were done, he asked how I thought I did. "OMG, terrible!", I said. I knew it was bad. I'd been given the scenario of a male client who wanted to quit smoking and lose weight. All I ended up doing was telling him what to do. Eat vegetables, chew gum, don't smoke. Do good. Don't do bad. Follow the rules. Follow the rules!
That doesn't work.
Not only does that approach not help my fictional male client quit smoking or lose weight, it shames him AND makes me fail my practical exam.
The interesting thing is, I knew I was off track as I was taking the test. I could feel it. I was out of sync with my spirit.
On the day that I failed, I experienced a mental shift. Never again would I look at someone who was struggling (including myself) and simply think, we just don't know what to do. We may need a brief lesson in nutrition or exercise, but those things don't change a person deep within.
That doesn't free people from lifelong addictions and compulsions that rob them of their health and their life.
The Truth does!
The truth is, we ALL know what to do, but very often don't do it. It is part of the struggle of being human.
As I read beyond the dilemma and internal battle of I know what to do, I just don't do it, and into Romans 8, the answer was right there:
The RULES always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on brokenness instead of a deep healing of it. And now, what the rules asked for (but couldn’t deliver) is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
How much more authentic, joyful and freeing does that feel compared to a long list of do's and don'ts! I was so sick of redoubling my own efforts.
I brought this new understanding with me as I re-took my practical exam, and I passed easily. I had learned the lesson. I had changed.
That failure, like all my others, was a lesson. A real-deal, paradigm-shifting spiritual growth lesson that is I am still grateful for today. It's hard to see it when we're in it, but really that's all they ever are. Little mini-classrooms that help us see the world and one another just a little more clearly.
And with a little more grace.