When Christians are health nuts, part two

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not perfect when it comes to applying this healthy living stuff. One of the big struggles of my life is trying to get what’s buried in my head hidden in my heart – I’m overly intellectual and can rattle off a million and one facts to you at any given moment, but to actually put these principles into action? To live them out?

That’s tough stuff for me.

Which is why I keep coming back to these two principles: (1) God is sovereign, and (2) we live under grace. As I work out my salvation, both the understanding of his sovereignty and his grace allow me to run to him with my faulty head-to-heart wiring. Because, after all, he’s the only one who can get things so deep in our hearts that they really change us into his image. And he loves us so much that he is alway, always willing to transform us.

You see, as much as I am passionate about health and nutrition and all things green vegetables, I have always struggled with some of the “dark sides” of these issues: skewed self- and body-image, compulsive eating patterns, and obsession with these things. I’m often on wild swings between over-eating or eating way, way too little. I eat for comfort; I eat to ease stress. And a LOT of my identity is tied to my appearance.

So, I’m not writing from a place of perfection. I’m writing out of my own healing and growth process.

It’s only been a few months that I’ve actually been able to put my philosophy of healthy living as a Christian into words. I’ve always felt it to be important, but wrestled with some of the issues of good stewardship with time, focus on earthly rather than heavenly things, etc.

And one of the major pieces of the puzzle is this next part of my manifesto.

Manifesto for Healthy Living in Christ, Principle II

God created us to be whole beings – wholly under his sovereignty and grace. No part of our lives is meaningless or outside of his reign, including our bodies or our health.

This one came as a lightbulb for me, a driving-in-my-car and suddenly slamming-my-hands-against-the-wheel sort of moment. In all my years of struggling with self-esteem and body-image and eating, the one chorus that had been singing through my heart but that I’d never put into words was this: “These things do not fall under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Would I have told you that God created us, body, mind and soul, and wants us to love him, body, mind and soul? Absolutely.

Would I have told you God wanted to reign over every part of our lives? Most definitely.

But as much as I struggled to bring my health into balance, I always subconsciously thought that God wasn’t interested in Jenni’s health that much. That it was too small, too petty, too earthly.

So there, on Nesconset Highway, in Long Island rush-hour traffic, that always gentle, always still voice knocked on my heart: want to be the God of your everythingAnd just as there is nothing too big for me, there is also nothing too small. Don’t you think I love you enough to care about every last ounce of you?

So please, please hear this: there is no detail of your life that is too microscopic for God’s caring. Maybe you care less about health and all of the most finely-crafted arguments in the world aren’t going to convince you that it matters. But whatever’s got you obsessed? Whatever makes up the static of your brain waves? Take it to the Throne. He cares.

Now…now I’ve been treating healthy living like I treat my marriage, and my career, and my finances, and my family, and my friends, and I’ve been walking this obsession to the Throne. Every. Single. Day. And committing it to his lordship and grace and asking for healing.

And you know what?

I don’t suddenly have the perfect body.
I’m still a little obsessed.
I’m hyperly self-conscious.
I don’t look all that different on the outside.

But on the inside, there are new pathways blazing from head to heart and I’m HEALING. Real, legitimate, eternity-type healing.
My identity is being rooted deep, deep in the love and joy of Christ.
My confidence is based in his love.
And my choices about health are not for size zero thinness, or youth, or defying death, but (hear this) for his glory.

Not mine. His.

Because here’s the deal. That puritan philosophy that our flesh is part of the bondage of earth, synonymous with sin?

Couldn’t be farther from the truth. We know that God intentionally created us with bodies, and everything he creates is good.

Don’t dichotomize yourself. Don’t you dare divide yourself up into little bits and pieces and then give God three and keep two for yourself. He wants you to love him with your body, heart, soul and mind. Let that sink in a little.

[Here’s where I’ve got a confession for you]

Yesterday, I said that if God wanted our lives to be solely spiritual, he wouldn’t have created us with bodies. But I want to adjust that a little, with this new understanding in mind. I wanted to make that statement so that you could see that God is the God of both the spiritual realm and the physical realm. He is sovereign, and he does things on purpose (like creating a physical realm in the first place).

But here’s my confession: I’m really nit-picky about words, because the Word has the power to bring light and life.

In God’s reality (remember talking about that?), all things are “spiritual.” That is, all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth fall under God’s reign. All things in our life – every meal, every diaper change, every intimate moment, every conversation – happen in a world where God is completely sovereign (are you getting how absolutely, totally important this is?). Which means each moment is a chance to worship and glorify God by submitting to his design.

You can’t follow God wholly without realizing you are a whole being. And he deserves every part of you.

The majority of your life? Is going to be spent doing “small” things, like eating your vegetables and changing your kids’ diapers and going to sleep every night. Hence the subtitle of this blog: living large in a little life. Because when life is lived under the lordship of Christ, every minute moment is infused with eternity, with meaning, with purpose and with grace.

So here’s my challenge: pick up the pieces of yourself that you’ve hidden away in insufficiencies and shame and self-doubt – your body, your marriage, your sex life, your teeth, your nose, your last pinky toe, your grades, your hobbies – everything. And take all those pieces to the throne.

Because you won’t believe what type of masterpiece God can make with a glue-gun and all your little pieces.

When Christians are health nuts, part one

All right. Here goes.

And I’m going to start with where I finished last time. There are absolutely two things you need to keep in mind when it comes to talking about living a healthy lifestyle as a Christian.

Remember these?

1. God is sovereign, over everything.
2. We live under the grace of the Gospel. God chose to love us from before the Creation of the world. No lifestyle choice of ours has, can, or will ever affect that love.

Why I want you to remember these things is because (a) the sovereignty of God is the underlying premise that allows for logical, practical applications in the area of health, and (b) I don’t want any part of what I say to become about works, or legalism, or gaining God’s approval. So please, if you remember nothing else, remember your Creator-God and His Gospel.

So…

Manifesto for Healthy Living in Christ, Principal I

Our existence in this world entirely takes place in a physical body, majestically and wonderfully designed by a Creator. This design – entirely INTENTIONAL and ON PURPOSE – implicates that the body works in specific ways (i.e., how it’s designed to work), and this design brings glory to the Creator.

Here’s the breakdown: God is sovereign, right? Which means that all things happen according to his plan and purpose. Which means that when God created the world, he created the world to look, smell, feel, taste, sound, and act like he wanted it to -according to his good purpose. And I love the imagery in Genesis that describes how God originally designed Adam’s body: he formed it out of the dust of the ground. Kind of like a potter moulding clay. Or Michelangelo chipping away at marble. Or a carpenter sanding wood into just the right shape.

I get this idea of God, with his sleeves rolled up his arms, and his hands all covered in dust creating this absolutely breathtaking piece of art.

You.

And me.

Doubt me? We’ve all heard Psalm 139: knitted together in the womb. Carefully constructed. Hand crafted. Totally miraculous, one of a kind.

I mean, have you checked out the human body lately? Its beauty has inspired art work for thousands and thousands of years. It fights off countless diseases every day. It wars against the ravages of entropy and time. You have a beating heart and a brain that all the brightest in the world have only begun to comprehend. You have fingers that can knit, mould, form, type, caress, feel. Your body was designed to run, jump, duck, twist, dance, sleep, have sex.

And not one bit of it is an accident.

Every last element of what makes your body a human body is totally and completely BY DESIGN.

So, let’s talk about design, shall we?

I am sitting at a computer that was, in part, imagined by another brilliant human mind: Steve Jobs. And when Steve Jobs dreamt of the Mac, he dreamt of it working in a certain way. When the programers who created the software that runs this computer were writing all their software codes, they meant it to work in a specific way.

When God dreamt of your body, when his mind created and formed it out of dust, he dreamt of it working a specific way. And because he’s God, and he’s sovereign (see why this is so important?), it does. According to his good purpose.

So when you hear on television that blueberries are high in antioxidants, are good for brain health, etc., etc., don’t think science and  chemical reactions and lab equipment and media propaganda. Think, design. When you are tired and need to sleep, don’t think can’t waste another hour. Think, design. When you hear that your body functions better when it has proper nutrition, hydration, rest, and movement, don’t think I absolutely don’t have the time or interest for this. Think, design.

Because, do you know what? It’s how God intended it.

And you know what happens when things work the way they are designed, beautifully and wonderfully? The creator gets all the glory. Who is famous for the Model T? For the Mac computer? For the lightbulb? The creators and inventors of these things.

They receive the glory as their designs work the way they were meant to.

So when you follow God’s design for your body, you aren’t being selfish, or wasting time, or being caught up with earthly things. You are bringing him glory as your body works as he designed it to.

Now, do we live in a fallen world? Absolutely. Are the perfect designs of God tainted by our sin? Yep. That’s why we fall sick and get cancer and break bones. That’s why our bodies aren’t guaranteed to work well forever. That’s why they do, eventually, die.

But none of these are reasons to ignore God’s design when it comes to how our bodies optimally function. Because when we submit to God’s design for our bodies, and allow him to be the sovereign Lord, he is the creator who gets the glory.

So, when you hear about the body working more optimally (i.e., brain health, heart health, higher energy, stronger immune system, better digestion, etc.), let it speak to you of the Lord’s intentional design for your physical body.

Because, guess what? He didn’t create you to simply be able to pray and read the Word and pray and read the Word and fellowship and pray and read the Word. If a human being did ONLY those three things, his or her body would whither and die quickly.

If God intended for our existence to be solely spiritual, he would have created us without bodies.

But that’s not how he did it.

And he’s sovereign, remember? So that’s how he wanted it. And how God wants is the ultimate, absolute best.

He created you with a body. He created you to need to eat, to need to drink, to need to sleep. And then, out of his great, miraculous love, he created foods that would help our bodies work optimally. He created blueberries, and carrots, and leafy greens. He created the omega 3s in fish and flax seeds. He created our skin to react to the sunlight in a way that produces a life-giving, life-sustaining chemical (vitamin D). He created it this way, on purpose.

So, when you hear that our bodies work optimally eating veggies, and drinking good water, and getting sleep, and exercising, don’t think that these are merely worldly obligations that will take you away from the Lord.

Because, actually, when you submit to God’s design, you glorify and worship him in all your eating and drinking, whatever you do. And isn’t his glory our ultimate calling and purpose, the motivation behind everything we do?