I am coining a new term: “Sarah’s Law”. While Murphy’s Law says “anything that can go wrong will”, Sarah’s Law says, “If you try to give other people advice about something, you will struggle with that same thing next week!” It is God’s way of keeping me very, very humble. Case in point: As soon as I started writing my “Dem Bones” series, my whole family got the flu. One by one, we all succumbed to the illness. This was not a bug we could “push through”. It landed us on the couch…for three weeks. What happened to the gym? Skipped it. What happened to eating healthy? Forget about it. If it sounded good, I ate it. It’s no big deal to take a break from life for a while, but, for me, getting out of my routine sends me down a slippery slope. Even though I am no longer sick with the flu, the beginning of this week has been rough. My body is tired and weak. I want to bake a lot of brownies…which only make me feel weaker. And, I have been praying myself out of bed in the morning…again.
So, today I trudged into the OB/GYN’s office for my annual exam and announced, “I want to feel strong and healthy! Some things with my metabolism are still off. When I get sick, it knocks me down more than it should. I have to eat perfectly in order to feel good. I had a cup of coffee yesterday and my left hand shook violently until 3 p.m. Let’s explore my hormones to see if things are just right.” I’ll be honest. I really don’t want to see a bunch of doctors again. I don’t want to take medicine. But, I want to do what God is calling me to do. I want to be good at my life. I want to enjoy it. And, it is still really hard for me to feel healthy. Perhaps I will discover that one of my hormone or vitamin levels is off a bit. If not, then I will decide it is my lot to avoid certain foods permanently and exercise religiously. I can accept that. But, there is one thing I will not do ever again: give up the fight!
I have determined through all of my various stresses and losses that maintaining a healthy physical body is like pushing the “easy button”. You’ve seen the advertisements for Staples office supplies, right? Their tag line is “Staples. That was easy.” Their “easy button” ad campaign features situations when it would really rock if you could just push a button to make things simpler. Isn’t life like that? In the last 10 years I have often wished that I could push the easy button. Sometimes things can be so complicated. In my temporal life on this earth, the closest thing I have found to the easy button is prioritizing my physical health. When I am healthy, it seems I have just pushed the easy button. I have more energy, I have more motivation, I am more easily inspired, I have more patience, I have more mental clarity, I can make better decisions, I am less apt to become irritable, I feel more hopeful, I can forgive more, I can love more, I can sacrifice more, I can more easily act on my faith, and I have more of a desire to live the victorious, adventurous, joyful Christian life I was MEANT TO LIVE!
Don’t you want those things, too? As Christians, don’t we want a way to make doing what God is calling us to do a little bit more effortless? Then, take care of your body! Listen, I know we are not 100% in charge of our health. My mother-in-law died of brain cancer, and she lived a physically healthy and spirit-filled life. We don’t know why she got cancer. She couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. And, she couldn’t have done anything more to fight it. She had three brain surgeries and endured rounds of chemotherapy. She prayed and truly believed God would heal her. And, she died. I am not under the illusion that if we just do things right and try a little harder then we will be unscathed. My point is that many of us are making choices on a daily basis that hurt our physical health. I am concentrating here on what we DO have some influence over. Maybe not control, per se, but influence. If you could influence your health for the better and could essentially push the easy button on your life, wouldn’t you want to do that? You may have to make some sacrifices. But, I challenge you to think about what you have to gain. What would your spouse have to gain? How about your children? Even more importantly, I challenge you, Christian brothers and sisters, to think about what the kingdom of God has to gain.
Consider the apostle Paul’s words:
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:19, 24-27
Why, then, do we discipline our bodies and care for them? Of course, to honor God’s Holy Spirit who lives in us, but, also to bring our own spirits into a place where we can be better used of God. When we take care of our bodies, our blinders are removed and we can see more clearly what God’s will is for our lives. We are also better equipped to win others to Christ and to “get a crown that will last forever”.
I know God wants me to be in tune with Him. He wants me to start seeing the world from His eyes. He wants me to use the gifts He gave me to show others who He is. And, He has given me lots of day to day responsibilities—not to mention lots of junk to heal and recover from! He knows I need to be healthy (body and spirit) to do this well. Again, not just to survive it all, but to be victorious.
In the past, my physical health was the one area of my life I would let slide when I got stressed out or busy. This is still my default mode of operation if I am not vigilant. I used to think that eating unhealthy foods or leaving exercise off of my to-do list was “cutting myself some slack”, when, in actuality, it was abusing my body. Now, when I need to cut myself some slack, I try to leave laundry unfolded (or unwashed!), to cook scrambled eggs for dinner instead of a gourmet meal, to send a birthday present a week late, to opt out of a planned social engagement, or to (horrors!) skip the kids’ homework until we all feel like we can accomplish it with a good attitude. Not much really has to be done in a given day. We are tempted to live under the tyranny of the urgent. But, that is a choice. And, to the best of my ability, I choose to do whatever it takes to cut other things out so that I can care for my body and the bodies of those I love. By the time I have attended to that and to the spiritual well-being of my household, there is little time left over. I have to be choosy these days. So do you.
I have by no means got this all figured out. For me, it’s about not falling off the truck permanently. When I lose my way, I find it again. This time, I don’t have a goal except to keep going. God knows there are a lot of things we cannot influence, like genetics and certain kinds of disease. But, with God’s help, we can quit putting apple juice in our gas tank. We can do the regular maintenance that makes it more likely our engine will keep running throughout the fullness of God’s plan for us—all the days he planned for us before any of them yet existed (Psalm 139:16).
Do you need to make a change to get back on track? If you have fallen off the truck, don’t give up! With God’s help, you can prioritize your body again.
I pray God will give YOU all you need to take care of dem bones and live victoriously today!
Lord, please help us to honor you with our bodies. Help us to see them as important to you. We admit we are helpless to change ourselves. We need you to order our steps. Take each part of us into your perfect will so that we may please you and also enjoy the adventurous, exciting, purposeful life you have planned for us to live. In Jesus’ name, Amen.