I heard somewhere recently that when someone wears sweat pants in public, it’s a sign that they’ve given up on life. It’s a thought that burrowed into one of the hidden shadows of my mind, and then began to itch, as most annoying little things do, like a mosquito bite. It’s been bothering me for a while now, and is now at that throbbing, can’t ignore it, what will make it stop? itching stage.
So here’s the rub…
You see, I have spent a good portion of my life in the company of people who have taught me to nurture having a hunger for something more…more money, more success, more happiness, just more. That abundance is good, and lack, is well, lack is bad. That having more was a sign of God’s blessing, and therefore, if you don’t have more, you are not quite as blessed as those that do. Mind you it was not always about material things, in fact it was often very balanced between having more things, or more money (so we can be a blessing to others) but also to have more opportunities, more fun, more friends, more spiritual gifts, more wisdom, you get the idea.
Then a number of years ago, we started having trouble with the more, (even though it was nowhere close to where we thought it should be). We couldn’t manage it properly. We started losing money and opportunities, and losing them fast. Then we started losing people too (literally and figuratively). We had had so many people in our lives we couldn’t take care of them all. We also lost TIME. So, so much time. Watching dreams and years of work go up in smoke. Our peace was shaken, almost destroyed by circumstances, and stress. Faith became work. Hard, impossible work. The harder we tried to hold onto things… the more we tried to scramble and be honourable, the worse it got. Our family was beginning to suffer.
Then the thoughts of “maybe we were wrong” crept in.
Maybe LESS is best. Maybe we should let go a little. Maybe we should be content with what we have (even though it won’t be enough to get the kids through college, and at this rate we’ll never be able to go on those missions trips we’ve dreamed of, or write those books that will help people, or just be able to be a part of changing our world, heaven forbid an emergency comes up) Maybe we should throw in the towel and put all our stock in our kids…maybe we should just go quietly into the night. Maybe it’s game over for us doing anything notable.
But the old way of thinking, dreaming, hoping, imagining the world covered with God’s glory…well that was still there too. Though just a whisper…
Somewhere along the way, we started to give up a little. Letting go of little dreams at first. Then the big ones, not outwardly, but inwardly. Letting go of everyday opportunities for fear of making things worse. Having grown weary of the struggle, we stopped trying to do good with what we did have. We went into crisis mode and got stuck.
But you see, internally, I still had this subconscious voice telling me that “more is better”. So on top of giving up on so much, I started eating more, because more food made me feel better, even if momentarily…we used to talk about a trip to Hawaii, but then I began to think that was a selfish pipe dream…less is better.
And one day, I found myself going out in sweat pants.
Then a couple times… and then it got to the point that none of my non-yoga/sweat pants even fit… and I didn’t have a choice in the matter. At that point, it was easy to take in more food, in fact I’d think that “I was never going to wear a bathing suit in Hawaii, so why not eat what I want today”…so I ate, but it didn’t help me deal with the itch long term.
The warring thoughts and beliefs needed to be put to rest and the appropriate choices must be made between more and less. I knew I would not be less tired by carrying around the extra poundage, but I will be energized by doing things that are exciting to me. And helping people is exciting to me. Travelling, making small differences in people’s lives energizes me. I am not meant to “go quietly into the night”. This decade of struggle will not be in vain. I have a reason, beyond myself for being alive. I repent, I turn away from this double minded thinking. I think the biggest struggle is not when your beliefs are challenged, but when you give yourself over to thinking the opposite of what you have always known to be true.
I have known that I am not here on this planet just for myself. I am here to be an image bearer of God, the one who created me. In order to bear His image, I have to reflect what I know to be true of His nature. His beauty, His grace and His love. His justice and mercy. His provision and compassion. The God who held nothing back, not even his Son, to save the entire world and to do away with sin, once for all.
Is living with less a fair representation of Him to my kids? Maybe regarding some things, yes. But with limitations on my joy, peace, ability to share and provide, health, dreams, creativity, adventures? Perhaps not.
On the other hand, is taking more of whatever I can get (like food) a good representation of Him? Absolutely not.
So, here’s what I walk away from the struggle with..
An open hand.
Not closed, not grasping.
Receiving in rest.
Resting in the One whose image I am to bear. A return to faith that is not work, but simply faith. Yet, knowing still that faith is exercised by works. Not for my own profit, but His, through faith, and not by my human strength or understanding, but through His rest.
As always, I’m reminded that this is nothing new, Paul the Apostle summed it up in Philippians 4 this way:
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess – happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
So there was a moment, a few nights ago, when I said no to that night time snack. I said no, because I thought “just maybe when this battle over my weight has been won, when I can lose the sweatpants for good. Just maybe we’ll be ready to make that trip to Hawaii”… didn’t feel like a selfish pipe dream anymore.
It felt like a possibility. I returned to the way of thinking that maybe the Hawaii seed was dropped in there, because there’s a reason to go to Hawaii bigger than me… and that the goal to get rid of the sweatpants is bigger than me too…
There is the grace that I can be thankful for, even in this season. When I’m on the other side of hurdle, but still growing through the struggle. This old dream has been given new life, and the journey to renewed thoughts has begun again.