My Super Sinful Lifestyle.
Hi my name is Nikki, and I am addicted to food.
There it is, I said it. And you know they say that admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, I hope that's true. They say accountability is key, and announcing your problem publicly and inviting in help will greatly increase your odds of conquering your addiction. I don't know who the heck "they" is, but I hope they're right. Because I'm realizing now, for the first time with true clarity, that this is more than a struggle with heath, weight, and body image, this is a struggle with sin.
Gluttony. The big "G". That word we never hear preached against from behind a pulpit. We never discuss it in our small groups or confess it during prayer time. For a lot of reasons I think we're afraid to touch this one. We're afraid, I'm sure, that the obviously overweight people in the room will feel like they're being called out for their sin. We're afraid that people will become uncomfortable with the mention of a sin that so many of us struggle with. Because we know that this isn't a sin that is known only to people who pack a few extra pounds, it is one that we have all been guilty of on occasion, if only during Thanksgiving lunch. And how awkward would it be to listen to a 30 minute sermon on Sunday morning about making our bellies our gods and then skip off to Sunday lunch with the pastor? Surely we should avoid such things.
How much worse for us to preach against it, confess it, pray about it, or simply acknowledge it as sin, and then realize that it's a fifth Sunday. And what do we do on fifth Sunday? Well we fellowship! And what goes hand-in-hand with fellowship (at least in a Baptist church)? Food! Baptists love their food and fellowship, as long as there is no dancing or secular music that is. Certainly we wouldn't want to preach something that would interfere with our sweet fellowship time.
It's a real problem, isn't it? How do we address a sin that is clearly spelled out in scripture as sin, without making those who struggle with it uncomfortable? Without hurting feelings or offending sensibilities?
The problem is, we don't seem to show equal concern for the psyche of the sinner when the sin at hand is, let's just say for the sake of discussion, sexual immorality. If a openly gay couples walks through the doors of a church, and a morbidly obese couple comes in right behind them, our reaction to both should be the same, should it not? We should tear out the pages in our bibles that condemn their super sinful lifestyles, and we should shove those torn pages down their throat, right?
Oh wait, no that's not right. That's not what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to love them. We're supposed to treat them the same way we would the respectable looking, physically fit, heterosexual couple who may appear to be perfect but we know have a heaping pile of sin of their own because, well BECAUSE WE ALL DO! And maybe they don't wear it on their sleeve or around their waist, but we know it's in their life, so to all of these we show the same things. Grace. Love. Mercy. That's what they should experience when they're in the presence of Christians.
Grace. Love. Mercy.
And how about...just a little...compassion?
Everywhere I turn right now I am being met with one word: story. We all have a story. It clings to our heels, everywhere we go we take it with us, adding to it with every step. It's a funny thing, our story, it is impossible to understand how a person got to the place they're in without meandering down the road that they have come down. When you begin to stop and listen to a person's story, it's a bit like watching the pieces of a puzzle click together. You start to understand parts of that person's character, their views, their struggles, their passions. Their hopes and dreams, their insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. You understand who they are, because you have taken the time to learn about what they have come through. It's a beautiful thing, and I think it just might be the key to loving the way Jesus called us to love. Loving people for who they are, where they are, without agenda.
When we do that, when we truly discover a person's story, and we start to love that person, this thing called compassion kicks in. And compassion has a way of snuffing out judgement. It does something to that speck in your brother's eye, it transforms it from the glaringly despicable, into something reflective. And in it you no longer see the filth of that brother's sin but instead, the reflection of your own. You can't see his speck because you are finally aware of your log.
And I think that maybe, just maybe, that's the way it's supposed to work. I'm glad that I have never been called to face church discipline because of my addiction to food. I am so thankful that when I stuffed my face at church banquets, filling up my plate and going back for seconds (and maybe thirds) no one stopped the festivities to request prayer for my struggles. How relieved I was every time I leaned back in my chair, belly so full I thought I might vomit, and no one came by to lay hands on me and cast out the nasty food demons that were overtaking me.
What a comfort to know that I would never be forced to stand before the congregation and fess up to my own super sinful lifestyle.
But at the same time, how frustrated I am by that double standard. I'm not asking for you to agree with me here, but simply to ponder these things. While your belly is full and your refrigerator is stocked, think about it. I can tell you this, something has clicked in my brain over this issue. My twenty year battle with food suddenly seems less about the measurement of my waist and more about the idea of my body being a temple, a temple that is less defiled by the ink on my skin than the junk I put in my belly. It is less about obtaining an ideal figure and more about modeling for my children a healthy relationship with food, where we eat to live rather than living to eat.
And so, as always, a challenge. Just think about it. Flip through the concordance in the back of your bible and read the verses dealing with food and gluttony. Read them, and consider them as seriously as you would a verse on homosexuality or adultery. And then, just for giggles, check out a few others words: greed, money, covetousness, envy, gossip, slander.
I hope you find the results as humbling as I did.