Thursday, March 27, 2008

Scared Straight

"He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." Hebrews 12:10

Last week I had a scare. I woke up with an irregular heart beat. I mean really irregular. I was dizzy and nauseous and felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. After about 20 minutes, I woke up my daughter and asked her to take me to the emergency room. An EKG confirmed my heart was in atrial fibrillation. My heart was racing at 157 beats per minute. They put me on an IV drug to slow my heart down. The irregular rhythm persisted. I was admitted for an overnight stay.

When the cardiologist arrived, he went over my medical history. I asked him what would cause a heart to do what mine was doing. He said it could be stress or even sleep apnea. He gently said, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but . . .” I knew what was coming. The weight pronouncement. I needed to lose. It was affecting my health. I’d heard it before, and believed it. But I hadn’t ever been disciplined enough to follow through. I am a procrastinator. I was going to start dieting tomorrow. Always tomorrow.

But the cardiologist shocked me out of my complacency. He continued “ . . . but you are morbidly obese.” Morbidly?? Did he have to use such a nasty adjective?? I was mortified. If I died of a heart attack, I had no one but myself to blame. My obituary would read: she ate herself to death.

Finally, around two in the morning, my heart kicked back into a normal sinus rhythm. They sent me home in the morning, armed with prescriptions and instructions. I started Weight Watchers point counting immediately. I started walking. It was time to get serious. Tomorrow was here. My sister told me, “You now have a new life. It was fun while it lasted. But you now are looking at life-risking habits that have to change.”

I am scared straight. A brush with a possible heart-attack or stroke in my future will hopefully be enough to motivate me to do what my doctor has nagged me about for years. My family is coming with me to walk every night after dinner. We are all determined to make this thing happen.

The writer of Hebrews was trying to scare his readers straight. They had received the good news of salvation and experienced new life in Christ. Now some of them were considering going back to the old Jewish system. They missed their old community. They missed the traditions. They were experiencing persecution from their families and the community at large. So the writer (we don’t know who wrote the letter) spends a great deal of time demonstrating to them the superiority of Christ over anything else they have known. By the time he gets to chapter 10, he has laid out all the information they need. Now it’s time for the motivation.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . . . it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10: 26, 31) He was trying to scare them straight.

Was their salvation in jeopardy? No. They had been bought with the blood of Christ, declared innocent of their sin. They had been adopted into the family of God and had a secure future inheritance waiting for them. The Holy Spirit permanently indwelled them as a seal, or guarantee, of their eternal life. So what was the writer talking about?

God will not sit idly by and watch us self-destruct. We are His. He paid dearly for us. And He is faithful. So He does what it takes to bring us back into the fold. The measures can be severe. Paul tells us that some Corinthians were sick and some had actually died because of their sin (1 Corinthians 11:30). Our life here on earth can become a living hell, should we turn away from the God who saved us.

Our salvation remains unaffected. But He will get our attention, one way or another.

Hopefully we will never come to that point of wondering whether following Christ is worth the cost. But should we decide that we want our own way and begin to live for ourselves, the cost will be higher. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) Grave consequences may follow our actions should we choose to abandon the God who loves us.

We don’t like to think of this side of God. We like the part of His loving kindness and compassion. But He is more than a genie in a bottle to us. And He will take care of His own. If you ever think about abandoning the faith, be sure to read Hebrews 10. It will scare you straight.


Sharon V. said...

Hi Julie, this is your new friend in Christ from Rehoboth Beach. I will be praying for you and the challenge that faces you. I know you can do it! You have a lot of people pulling for you. Good luck!

Sharon V.

Linda said...

It's great you have such solid family support. You inspire me to join you in an effort to drop some poundage. (My clothes agree with my doctor that I definitely need to do that--and NOW!)

Dave said...

Julie Coleman. I love you, I love your family (those that I know on more than a cursory level), and I love having class with you. See you on Monday!

Grammy Ona said...

God is faithful and you can do it. Day by day. I've lost 2000 lbs in my life and believe me I know what you're going through. Call any time and I'll give you a boost..
Minute by minute
Love Ona

Susan said...

Julie, We are in the same boat. I have severe sleep apnea and Diabetes 2 and I am morbidly obese (such an ugly phrase).

I have to change, I appreciated your honesty and openness about your weight and related health issues.

How about we encourage each other, along the way. I need a partner to lovingly remind me to eat properly and to exercise. With God's help we can do it!!!

As you know we are friends on facebook, so feel free to contact me through the message board. Okay?