Answering one question can start the journey.
I recently shared a before and after picture one year apart on my social feeds. It sparked congratulations and a lot of kind words. Over the last eighteen months I have lost over 100 lbs. My entire body has changed. I see old pictures and it doesn't even seem like I'm the same person.
Do you want to know something interesting? When I look in the mirror I don't really see much change at all. I will catch myself walking past a mirror and think, “wow! I've changed!” Then as I continue to look at myself I can almost see my body transform back to the “old me” in the mirror.
Many of the comments and conversations I have around this journey are about how hard it must be to be on a diet and how hard it is to exercise regularly. Folks are impressed by the consistency and perseverance. Often people want the “playbook.” They want the nuts and bolts about how I got here. I gladly share it with them, but more times than not, their eyes glass over.
The thing is, this really is a journey. It's my own personal hero journey. There are ups and downs. There are obstacles and pitfalls. There have been big successes and some big failures too.
A number of years ago after my second child, Libby, was born I lost a lot of weight. I wanted to to do it for “the kids.” Life was pretty easy and I dropped the weight.
A few years later, life got stressful. I gained all the weight back and kept it on for almost twenty years.
There were diets here and there and I lost some weight and I gained it back.
But, then something changed.
Over the last ten years I have become obsessed with trying to wrap my head and heart around two ideas. These two ideas are things that I come back to over and over again. I feel like they are all I talk about and think about.
Love and grace.
I suppose it shouldn't be all that surprising that a pastor thinks about love and grace (well, these days with the state of American Christianity perhaps it is). For the longest time I was more interested in truth and righteousness.
I wanted to be right. I knew I had the truth. More than anything I wanted people to embrace the truth and see that I was right so that they would be able to know what I knew. You could say, I was a bit of tool, and you'd be right. I was arrogant and self-consumed. I was not all that kind.
In the background of all that there was a nagging question, “What's so amazing about grace?” It had been posited to me by my friend and mentor, Bob. This question just floated around in the background like a little soundtrack that I tried to ignore.
Over the last ten years that question wouldn't remain in the background. It exploded into the foreground and with it came the question, “What is unconditional love?”
“What does any of this have to do with a journey toward losing weight?”
In some ways it doesn't have anything to do with it and at the same time it has everything to do with it.
My journey hasn't been a journey of weight loss. My journey, my hero journey, has been a journey of health. Physical health is but one aspect. And, it's almost the least important aspect of the journey! It's a consequence of a pursuit of love and grace. As I pursued these things I started becoming more aware of my need to be a healthy person. This meant a healthy spirituality, healthy emotionally, and healthy relationally along with the physical.
I titled this, Start with “Why?”, because when I finally got rolling on my journey it was when I had finally come to the realization that I loved me.
I loved me enough to exercise. I loved me enough to change my eating habits. I loved me enough to be intentional about relationships. I loved me enough to doggedly pursue my spiritual life.
As I set out on this journey eighteen months ago it was not for my wife or for my children. It was not to get healthy.
I took the first step on the journey because I had finally come to the place where I loved me.
I had to confront my lack of love for myself.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbors as yourself”. It struck me that love of neighbor was limited by my ability to love myself. How I treated myself was in some way a reflection of how I loved my neighbor. I was becoming obsessed with the idea of “loving well”, which for me is the incorporation of love and grace. But, to really do that, to truly and thoroughly love well, I had to love me.
I'm convinced that the first step in the journey toward health has to start with, “Why?”
I am also convinced that if the why doesn't include “because I love me” then the journey is likely derailed from the beginning. The journey toward health (spiritual, relational, emotional, physical) is the hardest thing that I've entered into. If it wasn't rooted in love, I don't think I would have continued.
Because the journey is rooted in love, grace is always nipping at the heels. Grace frees me from legalism. Grace in the midst of perseverance opens the door to stumble and fall and get back up knowing that I'm still embraced and accepted.
“How did you do it?”
Love and grace my friend, love and grace.