When I was in high school, our church youth group planned an annual retreat and invited high school age students from the churches in our conference. It was a weekend event with a speaker, planned games/activities, food and fun. I loved it.
One of my favorite games was walk-a-mile. We gathered in two lines – boys in one line, girls in another – holding hands. There was one boy and one girl who weren’t in the lines. They started the game by walking alongside on either side of the two lines, tapping someone on the shoulder and telling them to go back or forward a certain number of people. In this way, your partner was continually changing, giving opportunity to interact with retreat attendants as we walked down the road. It was always played after dark and had a romantic element about it as hopes were high that your partner would be the one you had been admiring all day. It was a fun way to meet the other kids and perhaps have conversation with someone you might otherwise avoid.
There is a different version of walk-a-mile in the gospels. Jesus, teaching about revenge (Matthew 5:38-42), said we shouldn’t retaliate when we are mistreated. Rather, he said, we should go the extra mile. If someone wants you to carry his gear for a mile, carry it for two miles. It was all about learning to love those who mistreat you.
Yesterday, I wrote about the bead I have been wearing in my shoe. It is there to remind my muscles to walk correctly. So, I have diligently worn it for the last few days a couple of hours at a time. It is too painful to wear all the time and it slows me down. It reminds me to adjust my gait or experience high levels of discomfort.
Sometimes chaos in life comes from an irritant (a co-worker, family member, neighbor) I see regularly. He/she reminds me that I need to adjust how I respond or I will experience discomfort. It is a regular admonition to exercise love toward others, even when I am mistreated or misunderstood.
Other times, chaos comes when a personal insecurity is triggered by outside circumstances. The last few weeks have been riddled with a growing obsession regarding my body image. It was quiet chaos at first and I was able to talk myself through it. But the obsession grew like a mushroom cloud, disturbing my peace of mind and affecting how I relate to others.
As I often do, I processed the chaos with my daughter. She asked me what I always ask her – “do you know when it started?” I wasn’t sure, but I agreed to explore it and see if I could identify a trigger.
It wasn’t long until I knew where it originated. I have been seeing a kinesiologist for about six weeks. During this time, he asked me to stop doing any exercises except what he gives me. So for six weeks, I have let go of my regular routine. And it is in that change, the little twister of chaos erupted.
I shared this with my daughter. She kindly pointed out that my relationship with exercise may not be the most healthy. She used the term “insurance policy” which was a new idea to me. I know for me maintaining a healthy weight is 95% diet and 5% exercise. I am not a dietitian or an exercise guru, but my head knows that what I eat impacts my weight more than what I do for exercise. If my exercise changes, I can still maintain a healthy weight by what I eat. The exercise is there “just in case.”
I realize my heart is easily confused. When my routine changes, I spiral into unhealthy thinking patterns and obsess over my body image. And soon I am all tangled up and confused about where my value comes from, filled with fear that I will be rejected because I don’t fit the cultural body mold. My daughter is right – exercise is an insurance policy.
Your obsession may not be body image. We are all tempted to find value in something other than what God says about us. It might be education, athletics, financial success, titles, status, possessions – you name it. And when we perceive that our value is threatened, we get obsessive. We struggle to maintain our place, our job, our things – we build bigger, buy faster, fight harder, work longer. All in an effort to prove to others, but mostly to ourselves, that we are valuable, worth noticing, deserving of love, care and appreciation.
And all along, our value hasn’t changed one bit.
Do I want to be thinner? Sure. Why? Because there is a part of me that believes if I was thinner, you would like me more … that I would be acceptable … that I would be better.
But wait…is that true? I know that I am more than the body I inhabit. I am loving, kind, generous, fun, funny, joyful, spontaneous and structured; I am forgiving and tender-hearted, I love deeply and am deeply loved. I am a place of safety, peace and comfort for all who come my way. I’m perfect (see Imperfect) and always growing to be more like Jesus.
I don’t know how many days the Lord has planned for me, but I want to be strong and healthy for every one of them. So I am going to pursue a healthy lifestyle. I will enjoy good food, take long walks, and know that I am more than my body shape.
And I will be grateful for times when my Father slows me down and helps me see that my focus has wandered. Wandered away from the great treasure that lives in me, to obsess over the fragile clay pot that contains the treasure.
It is not the pot that makes the treasure priceless; it is the priceless treasure that makes the pot special.
What kind of chaos do you need to expose? Is anything swirling out of control?
Until next time….
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26