Weight is my enemy. I’m always on the verge of seeing my weight balloon uncontrollably. I can barely remember when it wasn’t so, when I didn’t have to stretch over to see my toes in the shower or feel self-conscious about the spare tire I lug around.
I’ve tried a lot of different diets. They all work for a while. I lose weight. I celebrate my discipline. I buy new clothes.
But then it slowly creeps back. I rue my dietary lapses. I buy new clothes yet again. I feel bad. Irene, my wife, worries about my yo-yo dieting. “It isn’t healthy,” she says. But without this dietary tapping of my metabolic brakes, once or twice a year, I’m afraid I’m in for run away freight-train weight gain.
So I struggle. This month I’m starting a Herbalife diet. I make tasty milkshakes twice a day. They are loaded with supplements. I take vitamin pills. I try to remember to drink more water. And, of course, I try to eat less of everything else. I hardly dare visit the Tim Horton’s drive through anymore for fear that a momentary lapse of discipline might led to gobbling down a donut. In fact, yesterday, pathetically, while ordering my “medium black,” I broke down and also ordered a single Timbit. I felt guilty about it.
The Herbalife diet is only the start. At church I’ve joined an exercise class for over-fifties. So far, I’ve discovered that I’m not limber. I can do the jumping jacks and lunges but am amazed at how hard the planks and stretches are.
This is in addition to my three-times weekly (well, at least twice weekly) visits to my gym, where I put in 45 minutes of elliptical training. It all seems like wasted time. I could be reading or daydreaming, instead. That would be living.
So why do I go through all this trouble? Fear. I want to be healthy. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. I don't want to die young. So, no matter how hard, no matter how inconvenient I try and I try again to keep this whole weight and health thing on track.
But it also got me to thinking. Ultimately, this fear isn’t working for me. My weight remains a problem. I always feel bad about it.
And this is exactly what authentic Christian life should not be like.
The Christian life—including all of its good deeds such as loving neighbor or turning the other cheek—is not properly motivated by fear of hell, fear of being wrong, or fear of community rejection or judgment. Even when it is, you’ll just feel bad about it.
No, the healthy Christian life and every good work we do is properly rooted in gratitude.
The bottom line is that in a cold and dark universe God has blessed each of us with the spark of life and a sun that rises and sets. Many of us are beloved by parents, children, and friends. We have skills to hone and days to spend. Life is a beautiful gift.
The best response to such life is gratitude, gratitude that permeates every living moment and shapes our every act.
And perhaps one day, I’ll even be able fit my dieting and exercise into that picture!