Confession time: I hate dieting.
Not that everyone else loves it. In fact, I would say given the general health crisis around weight in America, not many people even consider it. I wouldn’t, except for a recurring problem I’ve developed over the past year of two. A few years ago, while my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary, I began to feel a burning in my throat. I’ve had indigestion and heartburn off and on, but this was different. Years of eating fatty, sugary, calorie dense foods were catching up with me. I ended up feeling miserable for several weeks before doing something I dread: I went to the doctor.
I hate going to the doctor because they tell me not to do the fun things I want to do, especially when it comes to eating. And this is ironic because my wife is a dietitian and I already know better. I ended up seeing a nurse practitioner who told me I had something called LPR or silent reflux. She gave me choice: change my diet and exercise or take a pill. Oddly enough, for all the garbage I’ve eaten through the years, I hate taking medicine. I hate it worse than dieting. I’ve seen so many people stuck with medication that helps one thing and wrecks something else. And I’m not interested, thanks. So, I changed my diet. After several months, I got rid of the LPR and managed to lose some weight, which I needed to do.
I went back to some of my former habits. I let myself slide a little here and there. Then I found out you have to be vigilant to keep it from coming back. Any time I let myself get back to old habits for too long, the reflux comes back. Holidays are bad because everything is so rich and dense and filled with sugary, deep fried, fatty goodness. This past holiday season I let myself ‘eat a little more’. For the past two weeks, I’ve paid for it. I could have avoided it by keeping up the good habits, but I really wanted to eat what I really wanted to eat. Now, I’m wishing I hadn’t.
Churches are like this. They realize something is wrong with the church, usually because people leave. They panic and start changing things, changing attitudes, but only temporarily. Maybe they add a new program. Maybe they build a new building. Maybe they form some new groups. Over time people get used to them, let them slide. They go back to the comfortable things and comfortable attitudes that drove people away. The things that were ‘fixing the problem’ are replaced once more with ‘what we’ve always done’ traditions that people weren’t really willing to give up. People leave again panic sets in again, and the whole cycle starts, again.
If we want to avoid this, we need to decide beforehand to be constantly living into new opportunities for personal and social holiness. This is the equivalent of staying on the diet, the diet being living into the change and expecting we will have to change and evolve traditions again in the future. There is no magic formula, no silver bullet. There is only the patient persistence of living the Way. The message doesn’t change but our understanding and practice of it does. When negative traditions conflict with this, we either let them go permanently or face the consequences.
What are willing to live into or out of to find better expressions of personal and social holiness?
Which of our traditions are in the way of making disciples?
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