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  • Richard Wilson

A Big Bang

My current state: waiting for a Big Bang. A definitive event, like the Damascus road; a phenomenon so true and unmistakable that it sparks an entire universe of change. In the back of my mind, though, I know it isn't going to happen. That's not because it couldn't, of course - God can do anything - but rather because in this circumstance, it just wouldn't make sense.


Some things have to be demolished before they can be transformed. Old houses are stripped or bulldozed, rocks are drilled or blasted through, words are erased or scratched out. There have been demolitions in my life, for certain, and needed ones. When I was who I used to be, I had so many habits and notions that were roadblocks to progress that my heart was in many places beyond mending. It just needed to be wiped clean, and begun again.


But my current situation is not like that. The biggest challenge facing me right now, the biggest obstacle to progress, is that I am not disciplined. I am not dedicated to seeing things through, to pushing past resistance, to creating good habits. This affects my eating, my sleeping, my work, and my relationships. In this case, a clean slate isn't going to solve anything. Sure, it might leave me with no habits, but there would still be the task of forming new ones ahead. And thus, if I may self-diagnose, what I really need is just to start the process of slowly, gradually forming new habits. To use a trite metaphor, it takes a long time to turn a big ship, and the vessel of my habitual life is indeed vast. But turn it must.


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When I was growing up, I remember adults complimenting my parents on how "good" of an eater I was. I was not overly picky, and I would always clean my plate. To be sure, I did not begin by eating this way expressly to receive praise, but I can certainly say that such praise didn't hurt. I didn't really set out to be a "good eater" at all. It wasn't a goal, just a side effect of the fact that I really liked food. Getting seconds became common, routine, absolute. Seconds were second-nature. And so throughout my childhood, I developed the practice of eating as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was fortunate that I had a ferocious metabolism, and I was a fairly active child, enjoying biking and skateboarding and baseball regularly, so it wasn't until many years later that I saw any physical consequences from this.


After I left for college, this habit of consumption began to spill over into other substances than food. I learned to drink, and smoke, and adopted a number of other habits as well, all of which took the same form as eating. I did as much as I wanted when I wanted, and I felt like there were no consequences at all. I took the same approach with video games, and with dating, leaving behind me a wake of missed days and pissed dates.


Shortly after I left college (after one unmemorable year), I got the first indication that perhaps my consumption methods were starting to catch up with me. I resumed my position at the same restaurant I had worked the previous summer, and one of the first comments I heard from a co-worker was, "Jeez, you put on some weight." Freshman fifteen indeed. Little by little, I began to reap the aftershocks of all the destruction I had sown in my life. I gained a ton of weight, got arrested more than once for substances, lost several jobs because I was lazy and disrespectful, and couldn't get a date to save my life. I'd like to say that I realized this is what was happening at the time, and that this was in fact my Big Bang, but that just wasn't the case.


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Fast forward to now: I have eliminated many of the specific behaviors that caused me to get into trouble almost 20 years ago, but the kernel, the heart, the practice behind those behaviors still thrives. Like a wild vine, it constantly sprouts anew, sometimes in the same place, and sometimes finding new places to emerge. Eating is still a challenge for me; eating too much, eating too often, eating too shitty. Video games, too, can be an issue. I find it easy to distract myself with them rather than do something I am supposed to be doing. My bad habits have also appeared in newer places. I don't always work diligently, preferring to rabbit-hole on the internet or look at Facebook. I don't take care of myself spiritually as I should, opting to sleep later or entertain myself with nonsense instead. I believe all of these issues are directly related. I believe they all have the same root: I am not disciplined.


In the 1960s, Walter Mischel conducted a study at Stanford University wherein children were offered a choice of either eating one marshmallow immediately or multiple marshmallows later, if they could wait an unspecified amount of time. These children were then studied again many years later, and this second study showed a pretty high correlation between those who could delay gratification at an early age and a variety of measures of success. Such children were more likely to have well-paying jobs, degrees, and happy relationships. Their conclusion was obvious: children who can delay gratification are more likely to be successfully functioning adults.


I am a marshmallow-now kind of guy, and always have been. I have a hard time motivating myself to exercise because there is so much good couch available. Sure, it might give me cancer in the future, but this nicotine is so good right now. Salad is settling.


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I am convinced that the solution to these challenges in my life is to develop, in small ways, good habits to slowly replace the terrible ones. And I am convinced that in order to do this, God is going to place me in situations where I need better habits to survive. My work recently got much more challenging, mostly because I have a new set of expectations from new bosses that I be highly responsible and take care of everything the moment it is asked. This is not really an unreasonable demand at all, but my work habits have not historically trended to the immediate. I did not choose a new position, nor new bosses or new colleagues. All of these things were selected by the shadow government somewhere in the secret nooks and crannies of our company. But to my view, this is God's doing. I have asked for help in developing better habits, in being more responsible and timely, and I firmly believe this is how that help will come.


Often times this is case, I believe. God puts us in places where we need to grow and rely on Him in order to survive. This is not Him refusing to help. This is Him helping me in the way that will best suit me later. Man, do I wish He would just swoop down and flip the switch in my heart here. But I don't think He is going to, because I'm pretty sure that's just another instance of me wanting the marshmallow now.


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-RW

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