Weight a Minute

Squeezing into a pair of blue jean capris pants, I yanked the zipper shut. Do I have the correct size? I double checked the store tag hanging from the waist band. Yep! And I thought all my clothes had mysteriously shrunk.

Vanity refused to purchase a larger pant size. I left the store empty-handed. Perhaps a hot green tea latte with whole milk and a raspberry scone will make me feel better. It didn’t.

I returned home determined to battle the bulge. For three weeks, I counted calories, weighed my food portions, and exercised. And each week, I stepped on the scale with the same results. Nothing! The only thing I lost was patience.

On the fourth week, the needle on the bathroom scale inched backwards by two numbers (which shall remain anonymous). Victory at last! Just keep on keeping on….

If self-discipline marks the road to a successful diet, then perseverance is my battle cry. Not unlike my Christian walk.

“Enter by the narrow gate….Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life…” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Oswald Chambers wrote, “If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all efforts of worth and excellence are difficult. God saves people by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and ‘it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13). But we have to ‘work out’ that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12).”

Chambers says there’s no room for “pampered, spoiled weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life.”

No joke! Some days losing weight seems like a piece of cake compared to discipleship. Lord, do you really expect me to love my neighbor as myself? Is it really more blessed to give than receive?

No one said following Jesus is easy. But Heaven forbid my Christian faith fluctuates like my weight. By His grace, I want to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

And that is a goal that lines up with God’s will and is worthy of my best effort.

The Next Thing

I didn’t want to do it. Everything within me rebelled at the thought of walking around my three-mile loop.

Emotions whined, “It’s cold outside,it’s getting dark.”

Body resisted, “I’d rather not, thank you.”

Mind reasoned. “Good idea, but I have important things to do.”

Will Power coaxed the other three into compliance. “Let’s just put on our tennis shoes and get some fresh air. The husband is pounding the pavement. Surely you can walk to the end of the driveway.”

Outside, I breathed in the damp air and walked past my driveway…. just to stretch my legs.

“See? This isn’t so bad. Do you think you can take that hill?”

Twilight gathered round me like a cloak, but Will Power challenged me. “Walk one mile and then you can turn around.”

 A week’s worth of rain had left ribbons of still water along the edges of the road. And the deep voices of croaking frogs hidden in the shadows cheered me, “You went this far, keep walking.”

Even when my aching knees protested and darkness enveloped me, Will Power spurred me onward with the words,One more step.” Until at last I was home free.

When faced with challenges or marathon trials, life may boil down to sheer will power and the decision to take one more step.

Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “Have you had the experience of feeling as if you’ve got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can’t possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself.”

She goes on to describe a Saxon legend carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. The legend is “Do the next thing.”

A poem about the legend says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” 

Some days, the next thing is all we can do.

But it’s enough.

I Love the Imperfection

Last week, I went into an antique store to browse old furniture. The man who worked there showed me a handmade fireplace mantel. He pointed to the scratches in the wood, and the uneven design along the front. Then he caressed a round, black stain on top of the mantel where a wet glass or candle had stood.

“I love the imperfection of it,” he said.

“What did you say?” 

“I love the imperfection,” he repeated, “because that’s what makes antique furniture unique and have character.”

Unique is not a word I’d use to describe the queen-sized bed frame I recently bought. It was manufactured in China, came in a cardboard carton, assembled by yours truly, and seemingly without defect … unlike the reflection of imperfection that stared back at me from a hazy, antique mirror.

I combed my hair with my fingers and left the store asking myself, do I love the imperfection in myself or others?

Absolutely not! I’ve been programmed from birth to look my best, be my best, and do my best.

Imperfection, the flawed condition of humanity, hides behind good intentions and exasperation. “I’m sorry, but I’m doing the best I can!”

But my very best falls short of the commandment to “Be perfect just as my Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Why would a holy, perfect God love me; the poster child of imperfection?

I try to wrap my mind around His love and grace, but imperfect emotions distort my vision. I return to His Word where truth resides:

And put my faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Earthly perfection is impossible this side of heaven. But like the Apostle Paul, I can be “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

IF I rest in that knowledge, I can stop striving to be perfect, and instead, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”(Hebrews 12: 2,3)

Since my visit to the antique shop, I have enjoyed the warmth of a crackling fire on a winter’s day. The polished wooden mantelpiece is smooth to my touch; it is not old or unique. But the words of a stranger, “I love the imperfection,” stirs my heart because it shows me how God “whose way is perfect” used even this to bring Himself praise.