A recent study suggested that those who were trying to reach a healthier goal of some sort tended to indulge more. Those who fill their carts with kale and cucumbers (and snap pictures to post on social media) will likely also grab a few bottles of wine or a tub of ice cream as well. Why? Because we crave balance. And the more extreme we are in one direction, we will be so in the other. However, those who simply decided to live a healthy lifestyle had more success. I think there’s a spiritual application there. As Christians, we’re often told that we need to get better and do better. We’re shown perfection as our standard, in much the same way dieters are shown airbrushed muscle-bound men, and leggy Photoshopped blondes, and we struggle to reach the unreachable.
There’s only so much struggle a mind can take before it needs rest. A hard day’s work or a deep conversation will need to be balanced with a nice nap or a quiet evening alone. For the moralistic Christian, those breaks aren’t things like enjoying a good book or prayerfully meditating, they’re deep indulgence in that which we have very tediously been trying to avoid. Because our goal is impossible perfection, our failures often involve bottoming out.
A Big Difference
When you’re trying to live morally, all you tend to care about is how your actions make you feel and how they appear to others. You want to get your God-card stamped so you can feel good about your religiosity. Whereas if your faith is less of something akin to a quarterly earnings report and more of a move toward changing who you are, you’ll become more and more concerned with others and how to love them.
Because a Christian lifestyle isn’t about doing, it’s about being.
When I see someone who used to be generally unhealthy suddenly bragging about their newfound healthy ways, I’m a) very happy for them, but b)also a little worried for them. While a little pride isn’t the problem, truth doesn’t tend to have to convince everyone it’s true. It just exists truthfully. I feel the same way about morality. If you’re always trying to convince me how moral you are and passive-aggressively attempting to make me feel guilty for not being in the same place, I wonder who it is you’re trying to convince. What is it that you’re afraid of?
A Life of Quiet Love
The kindest followers of Christ, the people who have had the most impact on me, have been the quietest about their successes and the most humbly honest about their failures. Their left hand doesn’t know that their right hand gave. They are far more concerned with finding an angle to love their enemies than they are with trying to fix or shame them. They are, in short, living love, not trying to be perfect.
Jesus, in his infinite wisdom and love, gave us that perfection through his sacrifice on the cross so that we, in our infinite sinful indulgence, could be redeemed and, by his Spirit, be more like him, without fear that we won’t be enough. Because he was enough in our place.