Fried Clam Bacon Cheesburgers {and other bad choices}

One afternoon, a few years back, I was visiting a friend. Between travel and talk, change in scenery and the hurry to make it to our destination in time, we didn’t eat (not at all-breakfast or lunch) until late. By the time we arrived at the beachside hamburger stand, I was so hungry I ordered the first thing my eyes focused on.

Fried Clam Bacon Cheeseburger.

First, let me explain some backstory.

I don’t like bacon cheeseburgers, bacon hamburgers or bacon on burgers in general.

I know, I know, everything is supposed to be better with bacon, but something, texturally, just makes me gag.

Literally.

Also, consider the fact that I have a very fickle relationship with any seafood or any kind of fish. Two bites (maybe one) and I’m good. Now, take that information and remember that we left off at the part of this story when I was ordering a fried clam bacon cheeseburger.

Sitting on a large piece of driftwood, talking with that dear friend, watching the setting sun reflect off of the waves, I took a big, hungry bite into my hamburger. It was this moment, forever cemented in my mind and on my taste buds, where I realized that I do not make good choices when I’m hungry.

In fact, I don’t naturally make good choices when I am tired, stressed, hurried or hungry.  Put two or more of those qualities together in my day and then I have the potential to make straight up terrible choices. Knowing this about myself, I have spent years praying and working towards changing this habit. It isn’t easy, however, to make the effort to live differently when life continually presents new stressful, exhausting and rushed scenarios and the go-to behavior is to pick whatever option first pops into my brain. I think it becomes a bit of an exponential consequence, a cycle that can be difficult to come out of. Add holidays, employment, unemployment, bills, marriage, kids, sickness, tragedy, heartbreak or grief into that mix, and suddenly I find myself living a life spent ordering fried clam bacon cheeseburgers every day (not literally-thankfully!-but making poor choices can become a habit, and the fried clam bacon cheeseburger is the one bad choice that I can laugh about. The others aren’t so trivial-or funny).

I’ve been thinking about this, especially lately, as the holidays are approaching and the days keep going faster, the calendar seems cram-packed and there seems to be more stress in the world in general. It seems that before I know it, a new year will be filling up with more demands on my time and energy and more activity to fill each day. My hope and prayer is that I can meet these demands with more on-purpose good choices than rushed, first-solution-I-see consequences (like cold, chewy clams).

How do I live intentionally (as opposed to reactionally), with all that living requires on this earth, in my country, in my city, in my very own home? For Christmas, the New Year and all the days between and after? How do I live intentionally and with joy, not just for myself, but also with love for God, for myself, my friends and family and my neighbor, too? What does this look like?

I am not an expert at this. If you were to follow me around for a day, that would become obvious in about two minutes. Writing this blog post is a way to remind myself as much as to share what I’ve learned over the years. I want to share these thoughts with you in hopes that it inspires you (& me!) to find ways to spend our holidays well and to start off the New Year making more life-giving (as compared to life-draining) choices.

#1. Repent and Read His Word.

 Whew. Right out of the gate this is a difficult one. It means I must admit that I haven’t done everything right, that I don’t know it all, and perhaps I haven’t made the best choices. Also, that I am a sinner. {Ouch.} Basically this step is reminding my heart Who God is (He is GOD!) and who I am (not God! A sinner saved by His grace!). It also corrects my focus (according to His word, not the world). Even for something like a fried clam bacon cheeseburger? Well, it’s not the fried clam bacon cheeseburger that I’m necessarily concerned about, it is the heart issue that is the concern (and I don’t mean cholesterol…although that might be affected, too). There are many factors as to why I placed that order (or made other such (and worse) decisions like this). Repentance reminds me that I am saved by grace, that I need to keep my eyes on Jesus to keep the path ahead in sight. Admitting when I am not making good choices, whatever they may be, (neglecting sleep, or not eating healthy or how I behave in relationships or with business decisions or how I spend money or my time) allows me to let go of the burden, hand it over to Jesus and have Him walk with me through the next steps. Otherwise, I am just muscling my way through each day and each decision and that will only lead to two things: exhaustion and despair.

#2. Slow and Wait.

Take a breath before a decision is made. Maybe, if it is a bigger decision than what hamburger to order, take ten breaths, or two weeks before I decide. It seems simple enough, but often in this breakneck-speedy-instant-everything world we live in, I get used to making decisions right now.

I forget that it’s okay to wait.

Waiting does not always mean sitting still, quietly and passively. Waiting as a believer in Jesus is active. We can search God’s Word, pray, live in community with other believers and generally continue to live life as required on a daily basis. This step doesn’t give me a pass to not do the dishes because I’m waiting on God. It means I pray about that thing (about all the things) while I’m scrubbing dinner from the pans (or whatever work that is required of me). I can actively wait for what God is telling me, trusting that He will direct my heart, heal my broken places and give me wisdom in the waiting.

#3. Trust-with Joy.

While I wait, I can wait with faith. Trust is defined as “confident expectation, anticipation, or hope”. I trust that what God is leading me to and through is for the best. For His glory and my ultimate good. And because I have this trust, I can wait with joy. This does not mean I always enjoy my circumstances, but I can always be in-joy with God. This also does not mean I am always happy, or never sad. This is where reading God’s Word is not only helpful, but it is necessary. Reading God’s Word will align my joy to God’s heart, not to the world’s expectations.

#4. Live {with LOVE}.

We are all walking on this same earth, experiencing (in our own unique ways) the same joys and sorrows and trials and triumphs. So perhaps your hang-up isn’t ordering clammy bacon burgers smothered in cheese. But, as sinners, we all have stuff. And the amazing thing about the Gospel Truth is that my stuff and your stuff and your neighbor’s stuff isn’t a surprise to God. He sent Jesus for those very sins. Keeping this in mind as we work through each day, pray through each day, and live through each day, can free up any tendency to judge or hold grudges or to write anyone (or ourselves) off as a hopeless case. No one is hopeless, because Jesus is our Hope.

#5. Repeat.

I never ordered a fried clam bacon cheeseburger again. Some lessons are harder to forget and therefore are more quickly learned. But there are other things that I have yet to make progress on, that I am still working at and praying for and waiting for. There will be things until I reach Heaven or until Jesus comes back. And so, I would be remiss if I left this last step out. When I realize that I have fallen back into my old habits, or maybe I suddenly become aware of some habit of mine that I never noticed before (that can happen when you are growing in Christ), then I can start back at #1.

Some Verses to start with:

John 3:16

Romans 7:15-8:1-5

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:2

Hebrews 12:2

Psalm 119:105

Isaiah 30:15

Isaiah 30:18

Habakkuk 3:17-19

1 Timothy 1:1

Hebrews 10:19-23

1 Peter 1:13-16