Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dem Bones

In first grade, Mary Claire came home with a purple poetry folder. She loved to recite one of her favorites: “Dem Bones.” You’ve heard it before…♫ “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…the hip bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the foot bone…we have 206 bones.”♪ I loved the way Mary Claire could divide the word “bone” into about three or four syllables! Thank you, Texas! Yee-haw!

That poem (especially Mary Claire’s rendition) is funny, but it also gets me thinking…you know, dem bones are connected to much more than dem other bones. Dem bones are connected to dem hearts and dem minds, too! God made it that way. We all know it, or we wouldn’t feel so mentally and emotionally sluggish come January 1st after two months of abusing our bodies through the holidays with overeating and stressful busyness. Whether we want to admit it or not, our bodies need a little of our attention so the rest of us can keep on keepin’ on.

January is a time when many of us think about going to the gym…literally. Most of us just think about going to the gym! There are those, though, who will start off on the right foot. They will begin to exercise and eat better, but two weeks later they want to throw in the proverbial (gym) towel. A friend told me she heard on the radio that it was scientifically proven that January 17th was the saddest day of this year. Why? Most people are dealing with post-holiday blues. Nothing to look forward to, it is dreary outside, and besides, by mid-month, we’ve already blown our New Year’s Resolutions. That kind of stuff can surely leave us in the dumps. God knows I understand. For a person who needs her vitamin D, has struggled with clinical depression, and has legitimate real-life reasons to feel sad, January and February are always challenging. I fight my winter blues with a surefire “cocktail”: lots of prayer, blazing fires in the fireplace, scented candles, bright lightbulbs, cozy blankets and--thanks to a huge change in my perspective--a healthy diet, and EXERCISE. I’ve been the thinker (not the do-er) and the quitter before, but taking care of myself is no longer a New Year’s Resolution for me. It’s a lifestyle. Dese bones gotta keep dis mind in check!

Last year I observed first-hand the difficulty people have keeping the promise to get healthy. I had been going to the gym myself for just over a year consistently. I already had a routine, so I kept doing what I had been doing. I watched as the traffic increased in the parking lot of the gym on January 2nd. A few times, I had to wait for a machine. But, by March 1st, things were back to normal. Most of those new people had quit by then. I’m not making fun of them. I’ve been there…over and over. It is so hard to make a change in life, isn’t it?

When it came to health and fitness, in order to make a lasting change, I needed a shift not only in my behavior but in my thinking. A real paradigm shift. I will be the first to admit that my motivation in the past has been vain. In high school, as I was developing physically and hormonally, I began putting on weight for the first time in my life. I had been a gymnast as a child, and I knew what it was like to be in shape. I liked feeling strong. But, as my physical activity decreased and my metabolism changed, I began struggling with my weight. I am sure now that I did the wrong thing in response. I started drastically reducing my calories. I remember taking a bagel and a banana to school for lunch for about two years straight. I am lucky I didn’t struggle with an eating disorder. All my friends were following the latest fad diet, namely the no-fat one. Everyone scrapped the good stuff like healthy oils and low-fat proteins for the standard fare of the day: Snackwells cookies. That was stellar nutrition, ladies. (What did they make those things out of anyway?) And, so began my lifelong love/hate relationship with food.

I don’t think I will ever completely remove the struggle from my life, but now that I am older, I am not looking at my physical health in the same way I did when I was 18. Sure, it is nice to try on clothes and have them actually fit me. And, it is nice to feel pretty. But, I want to testify to you how AWESOME it is to feel powerful and positive about my life because of my health! I want to tell you how much more equipped I feel to do what God made me to do because I don’t feel sick anymore. I want you to know that you can be more prepared to cope with the emotional and spiritual challenges of life—however devastating they are—when you are taking care of your physical body. And, most of all, I want to tell you why I have begun to see taking care of myself as an important part of my relationship with God.

Before I delve any deeper into this subject, let me first make a few disclaimers. Most of us (especially women) have had some struggles with weight in our lifetime. We have wrestled with body image at one time or another. And, there are those out there who are battling with an eating disorder. For all intents and purposes, I will not be primarily discussing weight management, body image, or eating disorders this time. By the mere mention of physical health, I don’t want to heap condemnation on anyone or make anyone feel like they have somehow failed. I also don’t want to proclaim that I somehow have this all figured out. What I do want to do is tell you what God is teaching me about how our bodies and our spirits are meant to work together and how if we surrender it all to Him, He can bring about some victory in our lives we have not yet seen! Do you want that victory as much as I do? I have discovered that if we want spiritual victory, we must not ignore the physical disciplines of life. We must be intentional about taking care of ourselves.

Before you throw a brick at your computer screen, let me assure you I am not just another person ringing the New Year bell telling you to go on a diet and put on your running shoes so that you can be a good little Christian. In the past I have been prone to disregard someone’s words if they even hinted that there was a list of things I should be doing to make my Christian life perfect. Yuck! I detest legalism. Thinking like that heaps guilt. And, sister, we’ve got enough of that to go around already. Hear me: God is much more gentle and patient than that. He doesn’t condemn. He convicts. He doesn’t push. He pulls.

God spoke to me about my health in the same way he speaks to me about everything else…quietly, persistently, and lovingly. When it was time, God whispered to me. “I’ve got something great around the corner over here. Want to see what it looks like? Will you follow me here? I think you’ll be glad you did.” When God talks sweet like this to me, one word comes to mind: revelation! He is about to reveal something new to me. Just when I think I’ve got things figured out, He decides to show me something deeper, something more challenging—something with greater reward. I truly believe He is inspiring me to discuss this topic with you because--for some of you--it is time to walk around that next corner.

If you hear God’s voice beckoning you to get curious enough to peek at what He just might have waiting for you, then join me over the next few weeks on a journey to explore how your physical health is related to your overall health and even your effectiveness in your Christian life. Often, the new thing God holds around the corner requires that I change a bit. Sometimes that is uncomfortable, but when the invitation comes from God, it is always worth it to follow! Dem bones of yours deserve it! Will you come along?

During the next month, we will look at:

o “Falling off the Truck” (exploring the sometimes unforeseeable pitfalls that cause us to ignore our bodies)

o “The Dust of the Ground and the Breath of Life” (recognizing the God-ordained relationship between your body and your spirit)

o “Plato, Pop Culture, and You” (restoring the balance between the spiritual and the physical in our lives)

o “Getting Back on Track” (discovering how God can help us prioritize our health again)

Blessings until next time!


Liz said...

Thank you Sarah! You have NO idea how much I needed this today, this year, this decade! Blessings to you!


Unknown said...

Ha-ha....I had totally forgotten about Snackwell's! You know, I can still remember the taste....not so good. I'll take one real cookie over 5 of those "diet" ones any day!
- Marian