There is no such thing as self-control. Do you realize you can't "not" do anything? The more you try "not to do," the worse it gets. The moment I'm on a diet, I think about Twinkies and Snickers and I'm not even hungry. When I think about not eating, all I see is the food I want to eat. That's probably why the only thing I've lost on this 21-day diet is three weeks. You can't "not" do anything.
For example, just imagine that an elephant in pink pajamas and yellow roller skates is rolling along beside you right now. Picture the funny looking elephant. Can you see it? Now, get the elephant out of your mind. You don't see it any more. It's not gone. No? You still see it? The only way to remove the image of the elephant is to replace it with something else — perhaps a zebra in blue pajamas. You see, putting off (stopping) something is temporary unless you put on (start) something else.
Let's say you come to my house and tell me, "Charles, this furniture is junk. It's late attic, early Sears — it's awful. You need to get rid of this junk." I say, "I know. I hate this chair and that table is pitiful. Will you help me get rid of it?" You say, "Yes, I've got a pickup truck. Let's load it up and take it to the dump." We load it up, take it to the dump and I come back home. I say, "Thanks, I feel better getting rid of all that junk." I'm a little tired but there is no chair to sit on; it's at the dump. I'd rather sit on the floor than in that chair. I'm hungry — no table — I'd rather eat on the floor than that pitiful table. I will sit and eat on the floor for a while (temporary), but if I don't replace the furniture soon, I'll be right back at the dump getting the same old junk.
The Country had a campaign years ago that said, "Just say no." The problem is, that's impossible. In order to say "no" to something, you have to say "yes" to something else. There's no such thing as self-control. You can't erase unless you replace. If you have had a vacant lot in your neighborhood, you know vacant lots attract trash, and so do vacant lives.
Our tendency is to go through life trying not to do things. We make up more rules and regulations of what we can't do instead of focusing on what we can do. The four spiritual laws become ten, and we get narrow, negative, nauseating, and, well — vacant.
Today think of something you can say yes to. Don't say "yes" to just anything, or you'll be like the single girl who answered the phone, "Yes, yes, I'll marry you — who is this?" Say "yes" to something that will improve your vacant life.
A desperate girl was tired of living, so she jumped off a bridge. A man saw her and jumped in to save her, forgetting he couldn't swim. As he began to thrash and scream, she swam over and pulled him to shore. She went from tired of living to excited about life; from giving up to helping out; from being destroyed to being developed. She went from being blasted by life to blessed by life. Why? Because she found something to which to say "yes."
Go out there and jump off a bridge (symbolically speaking, of course). Find something to say "yes" to and quit trying not to do everything. Your lot in life is beginning to look better already.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.