At the gym…on the treadmill…listening to some shuffled song on my iPod…sweating like a pig (sorry, Piglet)…feet hurting…back screaming for relief…trying not to feel intimidated by the guy on the treadmill next to me running REALLY fast…hoping he doesn’t look at my pace (or lack thereof) digitally writ LARGE in RED LIGHTS visible from the international space station…puzzled by how I let myself get to be such a blob.
And…wondering: “Why is it so easy to get out of shape and so hard to stay in shape?” I have pondered this over the last several years as my waist size has expanded in direct proportion to the national debt. It used to be that I could not comprehend a number in the trillions; now, when I shop for belts, I get it.
At each juncture during my journey into blobness, I have chastised myself for continued deterioration of physique. I have actually sat there, on the couch, enduring Downton Abbey–my brilliant wife is a fan–I am not…how they manage to cram a 13 minute show into an hour is beyond me…and I know…this will cause some blogosphere angst…I am at peace with that)…but meanwhile, back on the couch, enduring Downton Abbey, crunching potato chips (I am more of a salty snack guy than a sweet snack guy), resting the chip bowl ON MY STOMACH, saying to myself, “You have to do something about this; it’s getting (gotten) ridiculous!”
Lately I have also endured additional, gently firm chastisement from my physician who, though not the Great Physician (but certainly a great physician), has done his best to warn me about the consequences of my lack of physical discipline. High blood pressure, type II diabetes, back trouble, having to adjust the seat in the car so that I can barely reach the steering wheel, wondering about the weight capacity of office chairs, having the police say, “Break up that crowd!” when they see me walking down the street, etc., etc., etc.
Those of you with trim physiques and for whom this is not an issue are probably snickering at my lack of self-discipline and my pitiful penchant for chips. Go ahead; your barely masked ridicule and disdain will never match my self-deprecation. Not even close. [I had a friend in the military who once, in a staff meeting, chaired by the (ahem) general) meant to say “self-deprecating” but instead said, “self-defecating.” Go ahead, take a few minutes to giggle; I still do.]
You see, it’s not that I don’t know that being a blog is unhealthy, it’s just that it’s so very easy to become a blob and so hard to deblobify myself. And being a Christ-follower makes this doubly difficult because I am convinced that the power of God is available to me to assist me in overcoming every challenge–including blobness–to “carry [His work in me] on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). So again I wonder, “Why is it so easy to get out of shape and so hard to stay in shape?”
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only w few find it” (Matthew 7:13,14).
Jesus is certainly speaking in the salvific sense in this excerpt from the “Talk Up On The Hill.” But the passage seems to have wider application to all of life’s “stuff,” even for one trying to follow Jesus. It’s just so easy to become a blob when there are so many blob enablements around. And it’s so hard to fight the blobness when there are fewer (or at least fewer self-promoting) counters to blob enablement. This is not excuse; it’s simply fact.
Plus, to fight the blobness as a believer, I have to walk that curious path between the “self-control” that is the product of the Spirit of God in my life (Galatians 5) and the “self-control” that is a product of a turning of my will toward the things of God (bunches of places…look them up).
You see, it’s not merely the physical blobness that is troublesome (as troublesome as that is). It’s my spiritual blobness that is so disheartening. I want to be a believer who is so immersed in the things of God and the purpose of the Kingdom that all of those things that enable me to “run with perseverance” are not just “things to do” but “things in which to revel.” But instead of reveling in the disciplines that keep my body and my spirit “in shape,” I rebel against them.
And, I have to be wary of turning my anti-blob campaign (both physical and spiritual) into another self-help project (“Let’s Build Something!”). This is tricky biblical and theological territory. This being “all in” with Jesus, looking to cooperate with His Spirit at work in my life, and yet realizing that it is ultimately God who enables my very feeble efforts in the first place.
The Apostle Paul, summing up his latecomer apostleship, put it this way, “I worked harder than all of [his apostlemates], yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
There too am I. In my ongoing battle against the blobness within me, I throw myself onto the grace of God. “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.” I could not save myself, only Jesus could do that. I could not even self-muster the faith to believe in the Jesus who would save me, only God could grant me that faith. I could not “self-justify” any more than I can now “self-sanctify.” And yet I, myself, am in it; I am an active and free moral agent with some (apparent) capacity to decide to cooperate with the Spirit of God within me.
What’s a blob to do? Celebrate the reality of the presence and power of God. Recognize that the “ability” to accomplish anything, is itself, a gift from Him. Pray for the courage in every moment to open myself to His great gifts. Be “at home” with the reality of the tensions in the Christian life. Laugh…a lot…at my frailties and foibles. Shake off the allure of the wide gate. Step on the treadmill. Pass by the chips. Stop comparing myself to the guy running REALLY fast on the adjacent treadmill. Thank God for each opportunity to say, “YES!” to His Spirit. Thank Him again for forgiveness when I say, “No.” Look for others who need some cheering on in the midst of their blobness (while resisting the temptation to call them “blobs”). Perhaps form a chapter of “Blobs Anonymous.” Oh, wait a minute, Jesus already did that.
“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18)
© All rights reserved. Scripture quotations from the NIV.
February 28th, 2014 at 11:29 pm
Howard, another great post…certainly food for thought (Sorry!). It prompts me to think that we all struggle with some sort of ‘blobness’—a propensity to yield to some temptation, some innate weakness, some proclivity toward harmful (even sinful) actions. Yours is excessive caloric intake. Mine is…well, there are more than a few. It seems inevitable that there will always be a tension between what we know to be Godly behavior and what our ‘lives in the flesh’ (as Paul calls it) directs us to do (Rom 7:5).
Paul records the battle this way, ‘For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’ (Rom 7:15) His frustration seems to reach even to desperation, ‘For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.’ (Rom 7:18) Paul’s struggles against what the law prescribes and what the Spirit promises are splashed across three chapters of Romans (6,7, & 8). It’s not an easy battle for him, nor is it for us.
Yet I find encouragement in knowing that ultimately, ‘…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.’ (Rom 7:26) And we gain more strength for the battle by, as you say, ‘…realizing that it is ultimately God who enables my very feeble efforts in the first place.’
October 16th, 2014 at 4:27 pm
Hi Pastor Howard,
I have been on the “anti-blob” quest since last November when a funky ekg at my annual physical sent me to a cardiologist…….For me, sitting in that cardiology waiting room was a “come to Jesus” moment. We in the Church need to take the sin of gluttony as seriously as other sins. We don’t. Almost every church function that I have ever attended is accompanied by an over abundance of unhealthy food. The ramifications of this are serious and varied. I believe that taking care of these earthly soul suits we call bodies is an act of stewardship. God can use us best if we are in the best possible shape that we can be in- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Fortunately, we are works in progress and He is patient with us………Keep the faith, put down the chips and stay on the treadmill. I will be right beside you cheering you on. 😀😀