“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.”
Lamentations 3:40 (The Message)
Yes, you are reading that correctly. I am so excited about my fat pants! I know, it’s a bizarre thing to say, and probably even more bizarre to connect with living a Christ-centered life. But go with me on this, because I actually believe it will make more sense than you think.
I don’t know how you’re wired, but as I’ve moved into my mid-40’s it has become painfully obvious to me that weight doesn’t fall off like it did in my 20’s. This truth in conjunction with that fact that I now eat when I’m stressed does not make for a winning combination. Out of necessity, regular exercise and balanced eating habits have become part of this season of my life.
Over the years I’ve made some really great strides, growing in becoming healthier. However, this past year I kind of slipped. I had all kinds of wonderful justifications for why I wasn’t at the gym or why pizza rolls had become a staple in my diet. I would even rationalize, “I still look ok for a woman my age, right?” Of course, my husband always smiled and gave an enthusiastic, “Oh yeah babe, you look great!”
We believe these little lies and justifications until we just can’t anymore.
So there I was, walking into the store, dreading buying new pants. I loathe clothes shopping, but even more so when I’ve put on weight. However, the time had come, so I grabbed a few things and went to the dressing room.
Ugh, nothing fit!
This was the size I had been for years now, what was happening? I knew I’d put on a few pounds but this was ridiculous. In frustration, I stormed out of the dressing room of shame and threw the pants on the reject pile by the dressing room attendant, careful to avoid eye contact. Surely it was obvious to her those wouldn’t fit, right?
Walking back towards the pant rack, I decided to swallow my pride and do the one thing I absolutely abhor – go up a pant size. The thought of this was so stupidly painful that I couldn’t even bring myself to go try them on. I just wanted to get out of the store and forget the whole ordeal. To checkout, I went and quickly exited the store.
Sleep came and went that night and I didn’t give the pants another thought until I was getting ready for work the next morning. I stared at them, hanging there in the closet mocking me. I felt like I stood there forever, trying to build the courage to actually put them on.
I rationalized, “They are cute pants, so besides the size, what was the big deal?” Sigh… “Ok, fine, let’s do this,” I whispered under my breath as I grabbed them. I put my first leg in… no problem. I put my second leg in… no problem. I pulled them up and around my waist, ready to button them… PROBLEM!!!
MY NEW FAT PANTS WERE TOO SMALL!!!!!
All I wanted to do was cry. Had I really gotten that far off track with my weight? Was I really that oblivious to how my eating habits and exercise routine had slipped so far off course? Apparently so, and I had the evidence in front of me, now sagging at my ankles, to prove it.
Reflecting back on that day, I have been struck by an odd parallel it holds to the life of many Christ-followers.
At some point on our journey through life, we’ve come to the place where we know things are different and the way we are doing things isn’t working. We realize we need what only Jesus can do for us and we surrender to his grace and accept him as Savior.
Best day ever!
If we are truly committed, we set forth on this lifelong journey of faith and begin exercising our spiritual muscles by praying, serving, giving and loving others. We even begin to change our diets, eating and drinking in the truths of Scripture, maybe even having a daily devotional time or going to a regular Bible study. Whatever means we choose, we are growing and changing and it is glorious.
Then something happens or maybe nothing happens – both can be equally deceptive.
Regardless, we find little justifications for why we are not as engaged with Jesus and His church and we slowly begin to slip. The subtleness of it all is why we miss the slow decline. Then one day we wake up and find our selves so far away from our Savior, not quite knowing how we got so far off course or how to get back.
The problem with getting back on track with Jesus is the enemy. He wields many awful tools to keep us from returning, but the most powerful – shame. It’s what kept me from making eye contact with the dressing room attendant. If I felt like that over a pair of pants, how much harder is it for someone who’s backed away from Jesus to show up at church? Or if they’ve still been showing up, going through the motions, admit it to their friends?
Listen, shame is a bully and a liar and has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. It will still try to speak loudly, but our God’s voice is louder. He’s always right there, expectantly waiting for us to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.”
That morning in the closet was a wake-up call for me to get back on track. Two weeks later after a lot of hard work and discipline, I found that I was so excited to fit into those “fat pants” that had been mocking me. No longer were they a symbol of failure, but of progress, as I slowly moved back towards health. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am on my way.
There’s a great thing about the human body called “muscle memory.” When you’ve been in good shape, your muscles remember and it’s easier to get back to where you were previously. The same is true for us who follow Jesus.
Our foundation is set and our eternity is sealed when we accept Christ. The hard work we’ve done to grow spiritually doesn’t just disappear in those seasons of distance; it is still there waiting to be revitalized. We just need to take a step towards Jesus. When we do, even our failures become triumphs, as he moves in close as if we’d never left.
Oh, what a Savior!
For Your Reflection…
Do you ever find yourself thinking that you’re too far from Jesus to get back? What will keep you from reaching out to him today?