The modus operandi, the usual way of doing something in our culture is the short race. We want and expect sudden results, quick fixes, and fast turnarounds. We attack life with short bursts of intensive energy. Our culture sprints well. Yet, I would argue the best things in life require time. Life is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash. Our cultural MO impacts not only how we view eating (diets and fads) and exercise in our culture, but also how we address our spiritual lives.
Long-term success requires discipline, sustained action, persistence, and perseverance. The word faith means, “Keep on keeping on.” In other words, in spite of adversity and difficulties, people of faith keep moving forward. They have sustainability. They envision the long race.
I distinctly remember leading a discussion on the book, “Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby. The study helped us to explore how God was working in our lives and in the lives of those in our small group. At the conclusion of the study a woman asked, “Now what? What’s our next study?” We experienced God and “Now what?” Really? So, let’s erect a monument on our church property marking the place and time we experienced God. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and the Experiencing God Bible. [By the way, I’m not knocking the study. Experiencing God was a significant factor in my discipleship. While the content was excellent, it’s impact on my life was the interactive nature of the study that encouraged the community of faith to be on the lookout for God in our daily lives.]
Discipleship, for her and for many other believers, becomes a collection of studies, another notebook to put on our shelves, rather than a way of life. We move from one Christian fad, one charismatic leader, and one insightful book to another, hoping this one thing will be the one key that will transform our lives. Transformation is a lifelong process, not an event or a one-time experience.
The term “spiritual disciplines” is out of vogue in the Church. We love worship “experiences,” events, activities that give us the illusion that we are growing spiritually. They are short races. Spiritual disciplines is the MO of the transforming believer. Following the teachings of Jesus is a way of life, not simply a cognitive experience.
Some time ago, my wife and I took a hard assessment of our health. We were 40+ lbs over what we weighed when we got married. We felt fatigued all the time. Our joints and muscled ached. Many could rationalize our current state of beings was just the effects of getting older. We recognized there were many things in life out of our control and if we continued to breathe, we too would experience the normal affects of aging. We are not delusional. Our goal was not to lose weight (though that was a result), but to find a healthy lifestyle that we could continue throughout the rest of our lives. We weren’t looking for that magic fountain of youth that would allow us to live longer, but to have a better quality of life.
We researched the latest findings about nutrition, exercise, and the psychology of change. We watched many of our friends try current fads and surgeries that worked temporarily, but after six months to a year they were back to their same lifestyle and health issues. We weren’t looking for quick fixes. Whatever behaviors we took, we wanted to make sure they were things we could do for the long run, not the sprint.
What resulted was, in some ways, really radical, but in other ways very simple. We stopped eating grain of any kind. Yes, no pasta, no whole grain bread, nada, nothing. We limit our intake of processed sugar. We cook our meals rather than eating processed foods or eat out. We attempt to exercise daily or increase movement. We read labels on products to see what they contain before we buy.
Here is what we discovered.
1. Many things we’ve been told on how to eat healthy are wrong. Some of the things the experts have said we should be eating are the very things that are creating our problems. Our new motto is, “What else have we been told that is wrong?”
2. It’s easier to make changes in your life when others are willing to walk with you on the journey.
3. After 60 days, you no longer think about your choices. Our behavior is now a lifestyle, not a fad.
4. I still don’t like brussel sprouts. While touted as a super food, no matter how I’ve cooked BS (and please don’t send me any recipes), my palate has not learned to enjoy it. However, we discovered that rather than limiting our menu, our new lifestyle has opened us up to a variety and abundance of food we would have never experienced and enjoyed had we not embarked on this journey. Rather than eating less, we’ve been able to eat more and still lose weight. We’ve not had to starve ourselves in order to be healthy. When we were first married, I could not imagine that forty years later we would be eating and loving mashed cauliflower and zucchini noodles. Our friends and family have noticed the results and when pressed, we tell them about the changes we’ve made in our lives. Several will say, “I could never do that! I couldn’t give up my pasta, my breads, my or desserts.” They want change, but they don’t want it that badly. They are comfortable being sick. They are healthy enough.
I’m sure these are the same thoughts and emotions non-Christians must have when they ponder what they must give up in order to follow Christ, or what believers feel when challenged to grow spiritually. The perceived costs are too great.
From our experience, we know personally this way of life is worth it. We won’t minimize the costs involved in getting us to this point (money, time, and sacrifices), but the benefits far out weigh the things we’ve lost in the process. We feel better. We have more energy and less inflammation in our bodies. We have had fewer colds and illnesses. We spend more time together in the kitchen talking while we prepare our food. We could bore you with the many more benefits we’ve experienced. And yes, we’ve become as weird as Austin, TX.
We expect to have some relapses in both our physical health and spiritual health. However, we also understand what is required to return to this lifestyle. So, what is your MO? Are you going to remain sprinter, or run the marathon? Will you continue to seek the quick fix, the easy solution, or commit to be a healthy person of faith that keeps on keeping on?