Over the last three years of being a pastor (as an intern and ordained) I’ve lost about 80 pounds - all in front of people who see me changing week to week to week. And yet, for most of those three years, it hasn’t been something we talk about. Most of the time, people are afraid to bring it up while all I want to do is dance and say, “Look at me!” Sadly, in my walk with Christ, there are times when all I want to say is, “Listen to this!” but I don’t, out of the same kind of fear.
Body issues are an undeniably important part of our human experience and interaction with one another. Yet, we don’t have a healthy vocabulary with which to discuss them. In fact, I think it’s similar to our inability to talk about the good work of sanctification that the Spirit is doing within others and within ourselves. We don’t want to draw attention to the fact that we judged or noticed the shortcomings of the “sinner” or “fat” person; we don’t know how to be honest about our motives for changing to a healthier lifestyle, just as we don’t know how to express what Christ has done for us; we don’t know how to invite others into the daily dying and rising of our sanctification, or the daily burn of our calories, beyond an accountability partner to keep us on the straight and narrow.
As pastors, each week we stand in front of God’s people and proclaim God’s word for those he loves. The Word is our constant, as we, the messengers, change week to week to week. We change physically, we change mentally, we change spiritually, because we are being sanctified. Hallelujah! But are we failing to see our changing as God’s message lived?
Further, does my weight loss really have anything to do with what God has in mind for me and my witness to him in this world? You can replace weight loss with any sort of physical change you are trying to build into (or out of) your life. I’m learning that when people ask their pastors to share more of themselves in the pulpit, my public transformation is an unavoidable way to display God-at-work with the family of faith. Just as each Sunday I am encouraged by the faces I see sitting in the pews, knowing what they have endured because they have invited me into their lives, my prayer is that they are encouraged not only by God’s word that I bring, but by my life and testimony.
But that means taking a risk. Because it’s been three years, and I’m still not at my goal weight. I’ve been a Christian for most of my time here on earth, and there are still areas in which I fail to cement the changes the Spirit has brought. And sometimes, that old doubt of whether or not people would look at me with disgust and disappointment if they really knew my weight, or my sinful struggles, plants itself front and center in my brain. We’re going to plateau and fail sometimes, and it stinks that we have to do that so publicly.
But Jesus gave his whole self over to the ministry of our reconciliation, didn’t he? And the world called that cross a failure, didn’t it? I can’t think of a more public display of God-at-work than Jesus’ death and resurrection. So why am I so afraid to shed a few more pounds or share how the Spirit’s turned my heart upside down?
(Image courtesy of sundayhill.)