Bathing suit season is almost over. Women everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. They are letting their stomaches out again while stuffing their latest 2 piece in a drawer until next year. The crock pots, slow cookers, and stews are about to make their annual appearance next to the pumpkin spice latte.
There is a feeling of change in the air: New year of school, new season, new you. It is very "in" right now to be exploring yourself and your identity (I'm all for it). Part of that is to try out new ways of healthy living. What amazes me as I reflect on what I've heard this summer during my travels is how the church is responding. More and more churches are adding "Biggest Loser" type programs complete with weigh-ins and dieting plans. I'm all for the church encouraging healthy habits, but is this it?
Most recently one of these programs in my hometown split. From what I can gather from various friends, the founders had a disagreement and one took off with half of the people from this particular "community" gym. Sound familiar?
So now we are entering treacherous territory where gyms are looking like churches, albeit unhealthy ones, and churches are looking like gyms. I know people who are more loyal to their workout than to their church and others who would much rather be at the church potluck than ever put on a tennis shoe. Where is the model of health in this mess?
Jesus' model was a healthy one. He walked pretty much everywhere with his disciples. He celebrated and feasted once in a while-- even giving out doggy bags on occasion. He was present to his community, but also present to his body.
As a recovering perfectionist food is a topic that confronts me daily. I am often met with two options -- bad or good, and it has taken years to overcome that mentality. Too often, food is used as a reward in our culture and is also a comfort when it shouldn't be. We have turned to our friends Ben and Jerry more than our communities because a lot of us don't even know what that term means anymore.
When we are told to be in the world and not of the world, but that doesn't mean to simply put a Christian stamp on something and make another exclusive club that is supposedly free from sin. This can be seen with everything from weight loss programs to music. We need to be better at asking questions of our communities and ourselves. Why are we doing this? What am I eating? Why am I more faithful to running than church? Does my weight measure my worth?
There are plenty more questions to ask and not enough time to shy away from asking them anymore. Yes, exercise regimens are good at times, but someone yelling at you to do more laps or push-ups -- is that healthy? Too often we replace one abuse with another.
We need to reintroduce grace, wholeness, and exploration into our mindsets of food and body. Only then can we live radical lives that look like they are not of this world. As the transition of seasons is upon us, I want to explore these ideas further. I invite your questions about food, body, the church, and Jesus too as we dive into a conversation filled with grace, wholeness, and exploration.