Welcome to early January, 2015. This is always a special time in our calendar year, a time that brings different things to celebrate—like our very own personal renovation. It’s the time when we witness an unleashing of a restless, pawing herd of weight loss program promoters and marketers of exercise gadgets that trigger visions of the running of the bulls in Pampalona. Every hair-brained diet scheme, ‘body-sculpting’ gadget, and psychological manipulation known to man are turned loose to run wild and invade every communication device we own. No doubt some heretofore undiscovered ‘secret’ fat-burning blend of some organic something or other made from some kind of tree bark, along with secretions of bugs that live in the Australian outback (that were mentioned in the Bible, of course) will emerge as the key to robust health, sexual utopia, and effortless weight loss—all in a single pill (or, if you prefer, a delicious chocolate flavored liquid). Like the bulls in Pampalona, ads with extravagant promises supported by ‘doctor recommendations’ and pictures of women presented as overweight social rejects, but who now spend their days mainly standing around in high-heeled shoes and bikinis, will run helter-skelter through our digital environment. Like those who line the streets to risk sharing space with the bulls, multitudes of Americans will pay the price and expose themselves in the hope of finding some fresh new means of attaining personal significance and acceptance. How could we not celebrate such a time?
Early January is the time when all of us who have celebrated the Thanksgiving/Christmas season by eating like ravenous pigs from the last week in November through New Year’s Day need to do penance. All those nutritionally enhanced spiritual celebrations involving sanctified gravy, ‘holy’ donuts adorned with red and green sprinkles, and heavenly cheesecake leave us over-blessed, and loaded down with leftovers—among which is an enormous bowl full of guilt and self-condemnation. Clearly, we deserve to be punished. Such flagrant disregard for self-control and unbounded gluttony cannot be ignored. Demanding the justice we deserve, we inflict a regimen of torturous personal deprivation to counteract our indulgence. We sign up for gym memberships, purchase new exercise equipment, order racks of new work-out videos, and join clubs. We begin to feed on things that taste like something that should have been rolled up in large bales by farm equipment, and that leave us with the kind of after-dinner glow that one would expect from having spent 30 minutes chewing on a stick.
Ah-h-h…, January—the great imaginary transformation era in our country. It does bring an optimistic aura, though, and in spite of all the empirical evidence to the contrary, we begin it with renewed hope that this will be our year. This will be the year when we attain that pinnacle of American achievement—such a degree of personal fitness perfection that the hearts of others who see us are driven to conscious struggles with lust, and/or a level of envy where they secretly hate how we look. Either one will do. Though most never reach the goals they envision, we nonetheless get to share a sense of starting over. The positive implications of that are a good thing, but I wonder what would happen if we took some of this obsession with our physical condition and appearance and extrapolated it into a spiritual context. After all, though God does not share our determination to magnify the value of our physique, He does mention weight loss, and we ought to consider His comments as we engage in the early-January craziness.
“Let us lay aside every weight,” God said, “and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b NKJV).
The point here is that there are ‘weights’ that prove to be an encumbrance to our performance in the contest that He has sent us to engage. While weights are sometimes valuable in providing additional strength-building resistance in training, they are a destructive element to performance in the contest itself. Runners sometimes train by running with additional weights on their bodies to aid in building endurance, but it would be quite ridiculous to wear them in a race. The same is true of extra layers of fat on their bodies. Extra weight only stands in the way of victory when the actual race is on.
God’s directive to remove “every weight,” every encumbrance, is a weight-loss admonition that has nothing to do with how we stack up against the world’s standards. He’s concerned about our performance, not our appearance. Followers of Jesus are not called to walk about like spiritual fashion models on a runway, showing off our external appearance for the approval of those who like to gawk and compare. We aren’t sent into the world to be self-centered religious exhibitionists. We’re called to perform in a “race” whose outcome has immediate consequences and eternal implications for those around us. Unnecessary weights, and in particular those associated with our sinful self-indulgences, provide no help, and only ensure defeat when it’s our time to run.
In this season full of dreams of renovation and renewal, and with a pervasive sense of self-evaluation and commitment, maybe it would be a good time to shift out of our personal appearance focus, and consider things from God’s perspective. This is a great time to reflect on who and what we were designed to be—and to identify some of the ‘weight’ we need to lose.
From a human point of view, it seems that those most successful in physical renovations are the ones directed by a closely involved personal trainer, one with the know-how and equipment to take them to ‘the next level’. How appropriate then, that we have access to such a personal Trainer. My Trainer has nail scars in both hands, but He has all the experience and all the power to take everyone who will submit to Him on to the ‘next level’ . . . in every way. How about yours?
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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