Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Properly Imbalanced Balanced Life

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” 1 Chronicles 28:9a

The last few days I’ve posted some thoughts on the over-indulgence of health and fitness. Anyone who knows me well knows I am not anti-fitness. I spent my childhood riding my bike everywhere, including the two miles to school and back when the weather cooperated. I did that through college. When my kids were born, I attached a Burley. I’ve participated in charity bike rides and running events. Exercise, especially outdoors, is good for the body and mind.

I also am not against healthy eating. I thank my mom for raising my five siblings and I on powdered skim milk, sugarless cereal and made-from-scratch meals. My dad had high blood pressure so we never used salt and I continue that habit today. Junk food wasn’t a staple and I never felt deprived. I simply learned healthy eating habits as a way of normal life. It would never have crossed our minds to make too much fuss over or feel superior for how we ate.

Much has changed in the world since then, foremost the family farm. Today there is a healthy increasing awareness of how food is grown and beef and chickens fed and cared for. The push for humane treatment of animals and non-GMO crops is a good one.

At the same time, hamburger and chicken restaurants, not to mention a multitude of other venues for food, have imploded. As a child, I remember visiting friends in a big city and driving over to see the newest addition to their town: McDonalds. I had never seen one before, and we were told they were all the rage. The floodgates were opened, not only to fast food, but also dining out as a common thing.

Now, with sincere thanks to young adults, we find ourselves pushing back. Restaurants are beginning to feature only food sourced locally, along with organic beef and chicken. I’m heartened to see the tide changing and the public voting with their wallets. I think food is starting to be re-appreciated for it’s divine purpose: breaking bread together in community and providing sustenance to our bodies. Perhaps one day the majority of people will stop going to fast food restaurants altogether.

While the return to local and organic food is a positive, on the negative side there is a revival of what I call the “If I get it right, I’ll live forever” crowd (or at least, I’ll live a long life in excellent health with no stress!). They are the ones grasping at straws to do the impossible: find essential oils that will strengthen the hair, imbue the skin, cure insomnia, and bring one to a perpetual Nirvana. 

On the heels of this is the supplement, probiotic and powders crowd who buy into every convincing sales pitch on joint, bone and brain care. These beguiled-for-a-better-life shell out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, spending millions upon millions of precious minutes of their earthly life in the misguided thinking that they are the engineers of their inner metabolism and gene pool.

The greatest sadness is that many of these folks, while trying everything else, have never heeded the call of Jesus in their life. Others are gambling that what some of these purveyors of eternal youth and health are saying is true: God doesn’t want you to be sick. If you are sick, you aren’t doing it our way.God, however, cannot be manipulated.

See, the problem is that when we put the world and those in it first, and are not building our walk with God, we will fall for every wind of teaching (Ephesians 4:14 ). This doesn’t just apply to sound doctrine in our Christian life. It applies to everything.

Scripture says be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Do we have that mindset when we are reading about a new supplement that will supposedly remove our arthritis or change our life? Supplements, gurus and so-called “experts” are not to be our first hope, or used in place of God.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness...” (Matthew 6:33a). That isn’t what we usually hear, even from some supposedly Christian peddlers of health and wellness. Instead it’s, “Try us, and God will bless you. Listen to us, and God will bless you.”

The truth is, only through God do we learn what real blessing is (and blessing isn’t always the answer we desire, but it is blessing none-the-less. This is foolishness to those who don’t know Jesus, 1 Corinthians 2:14).

The Bible is the source of how to live a balanced life (2 Timothy 3:16). But it requires an imbalance, if you will. And that imbalance is that our lives be top heavy with Christ. And by that I mean every aspect of life: thoughts, motivations, words, written letters, deeds, plans, vocation, conversations, relationships, marriage, parenting, and what we eat and how we spend our time all come under His headship (Ephesians 4:15). He is the main thing over everything. Everything.

These verses in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 are my favorite because they teach best, I believe, how to found a Christian family:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

These verses are some of the most beautiful in all of Scripture depicting the Christian life. The Bible’s teachings are to always be with us—the fount of everything! Whether we are talking with ourselves—mulling an issue, or involving another in conversation, or simply through our actions, Scripture is to be lived out. This isn’t about quoting the Bible but living it due to having the ability to quote it if asked.

Deuteronomy, to paraphrase, is saying, Yes! Talk about life from a Biblical perspective: on the road, as you work and before you go to bed at night.” The implication is knowing Scripture so that we can live the words of Scripture out. If we want to live truly organic lives, live Scripture! Know what it says, hear what it says and do what it says!

If we claim to be Christian, we claim the Christian book, which is the Bible. We cannot live the Christian life without it. If we think we don’t need the Bible, we will indeed fall for every new thing (and Ecclesiastes 1:9 assures us there really is nothing new under the sun). Without Jesus and Scripture, we make ourselves vulnerable to the wolves at the door (John 10).

So to sum it up: eat right, but don’t make what you eat your identity. Find something physical you enjoy, but don’t make it your identity (points from yesterday’s post). Commit, instead, to finding identity in Jesus Christ. That is really, in the end, how we attain moderation and freedom from incessant striving for self-actualization.

When Christ is our identity, there will be less and less of me, and more and more of Christ. And if you look at the fruit of Christ in us, which is spelled out in Scripture, His fruit is not self-centered ambition. It is not self-obsession, self-promotion, or self-actualization, but humility and love of God. Jesus’ fruit does not always result in a healthy body or a life free of trial. But a life of Jesus over time always results in love: of God first, and then ourselves and others.

At some point in life we simply become sick and tired of trying to discover how not to be sick and tired.

Jesus bids us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His rest can mean many things, such as freedom from: striving, trying to impress others, obsessing over what we look like, and dread of growing old. But His rest also includes freedom from the fear of death. And isn’t the fear of death one of the big motivators behind health and wellness striving?

What if we were to start with Jesus and His good news? It won’t look or sound like the false good the world tries to peddle. But His good news is free. And free-ing! And certainly worth a try.

copyright Barb Harwood

“...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:13-16


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