Spiritual Health

I love food.  When done well, it tastes and smells so good. Some food comes from (or reminds you of) different cultures. Some food goes through a lot before it actually gets to you. And a lot of times, we eat while talking and laughing together in groups of various sizes. In truth, food can sometimes be quite an experience.

It’s probably easy to tell that I love food from the fact that I’m fat. I don’t mean that in an insecure way so much as a descriptive way. It’s not like I’m looking at myself through a funhouse mirror that distorts the image I see. I’m actually a large person, and after being in this large body for about 23 and a half years, I’ve finally made my peace with that.

I’ve been big my whole life. When I was little, it was more subtle and manifested itself in an adorable way. As I grew up in both age and weight, it became less cute and more unfortunate. For about four years, I was made fun of at school for my weight. And because some people never grow up, I’ve been made fun of several times since then. Between the not-so-awesome people I ran across and society, I felt so bad about myself that I legitimately didn’t know what to do when someone complimented my appearance in any way. It was almost like they were just being nice or lying to me. So many people had made me feel like I was ugly and gross that I had come to think so myself and accepted it as a fact.

Body acceptance is important and hard to achieve, and it wasn’t until I wasn’t trying to impress the people around me, regardless of whether or not I liked them, that it happened to me. “Fat” is no longer an insult to me. It’s a descriptive word. That’s because being “fat,” “chubby,” “plump,” “curvy,” “average,” “petite,” “small,” “slender,” “slim,” or “skinny” has no bearing on whether or not a person is beautiful. We’re all beautiful, despite what we may think or what our society may think.

That being said, I’ve always been a fairly healthy person. No sugar problems, no blood pressure problems, no heart problems. Whenever I go to the doctor, the report is always good. There was one kind and honest doctor who once expressed concern about my weight and the history of diabetes in my family, but it’s six years later, and so far, her concerns haven’t turned into actual problems.

My brother has always been smaller than me and has always been less healthy than me. Derek at one point had asthma and currently has high cholesterol and is a diabetic. I’ve never had such problems. Derek, while always being in better shape than me and more active than me in later years, is actually in worse health than his fat little sister.

I’m telling you all of this to illustrate a point. It’s something I talk about and think about often. Our society immediately associates health with weight. We think that smaller people are healthier than larger people. While this is sometimes very true, it’s not always true. I’m in just as good of shape or even better shape than some people who are smaller than me. I’m healthier than my slim older brother. I’m not alone here; there are other people like me. In addition, smaller people can have diseases or disorders that are very unhealthy that cause them to be small. This is all a dialogue that needs to happen so people can understand that it’s not a person’s weight that matters, it’s their health.

I liked Alan’s sermon on Sunday. I think it had a lot of valuable material and lessons in it. But when Alan associated health with weight, I don’t think that’s what he really meant. I think he meant a higher weight was a potential result of being unhealthy, not unhealthy by itself. (If I remember correctly, he said something similar to what I’m expressing here, but I don’t think it was stressed enough.) Again, I enjoyed Alan’s sermon, but I feel the need to clarify what I think he really meant here.

There is a problem with constantly consuming and never doing anything with what is consumed. Physically, it leads to being out of shape and endangers your health (such as clogged arteries, fatigue, etc.). In any sense, it means being left with things, whether good or bad, that you can’t (or don’t know how to) distribute or get rid of.

The metaphor of God’s Word as food is both smart and effective. Food sustains us spiritually. And taking in both without allowing the nutrients, vitamins, and substances they provide to work in us or to be worked out will not help us.

I’m an advocate of reading the Bible as much as I am of eating food. And like food, some parts of the Bible are sweeter than others while others might not be so savory but help us grow. Those verses on lineages and wars and punishments? Consider them veggies. And they don’t seem to taste as good or go down as smoothly as verses like John 3:16-17, the spiritual equivalents of ice cream.

And all this does you no good if you don’t do anything with it. If we don’t meditate on the verses or put them into practice, what’s the point of reading them? Some verses are good for comfort, assurance, and encouragement, but all verses are to be known, gleaned from, and put to use in some form or fashion. Without doing anything with what we get, nothing happens. Nothing happens to us and nothing happens to the world around us. It may not directly hurt us, but it certainly won’t help us at all.

How selfish is that of us to let something like that go to waste? If God gives us love or joy or peace, shouldn’t we give that out to others as well? Isn’t that our purpose in this world, to be an extension of God, a point of contact between Him and the world? If we don’t give it out, how will people know it’s being given out by God? If we don’t pump positivity into the world, how overcome will it be with negativity?

There’s also an alternate side to this whole thing, and that is getting rid of or giving out too much. There’s a certain point where one stops working out enough, or even plenty, and starts working out too much. It can be an issue where it strains and harms your muscles or an issue of not consuming enough to sustain you with the amount you’re burning off. At some point, all the excess is gone and you start delving into what you actually need. (That’s right, guys. This chubby girl paid close attention in health class.)

We are called to share what we have with the world, be it the Good News, joy, love, our talents, or whatever. But we need to remember to keep enough for ourselves, enough to keep us going. God’s gifts are to everyone, and that includes us. Save enough love so you don’t feel unloved. Save enough peace that you don’t lose sleep at night. Save enough strength that you can get up every day and face whatever struggles may await. Don’t give more than what you’re getting, and don’t give away what you need.

Food is good. God is good. (If you don’t see the relation between the two, take a trip with me to Olive Garden sometime. The happiness it brings me is truly a gift from God.) As we need food to survive physically, we need God and His Word to survive spiritually. (That spiritual wellness can often affect our physical wellness too.)

But if we take in too much or give out too much, our well-being is in danger unless we do something to correct it. There’s a balance that can be hard to maintain. Just remember that you need to eat (and eat well), and the more you eat, the more you’ve got to do.

By Carrie Prevette

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