I’ve been reading Francis Chan’s book, Multiply, over at eBible.com. It’s quite interesting, but something struck me last week when I was struggling to make it through this Eat to Live journey I’ve been on. It was the chapter where he talked about the Israelites grumbling even after all that God had taken them through. I know I grumble about stuff, and have often related to their discontent behavior in my own life, but one area I’d never applied it is my quest for health and weightloss. I guess the timing of that chapter last week, and where I was on this journey aligned perfectly for me to see, more clearly, the attitude I have. The Lord revealed something to me concerning the “lure of looking back”.
Think about that for a minute. Often, when we look back on an event or season of our lives, we don’t typically view it accurately. I mean, Israel was enslaved, beaten, mistreated, and murdered in Egypt and yet they groaned to return to slavery after God freed them. Slavery was more appealing than being provided for on a journey to their promised land by the God of the universe. “Unbelievable,” we might utter… and yet, I discovered a pattern of this in my own life as well. Last week, I was looking back with fondness at the Weight Watcher’s Points program (not the “points plus”, the one before that). It seemed I could only remember the good stuff. Oh how pleasant it was to eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight. Oh how I wish I could still eat whatever I want… but wait, what was the downside? Well, I was enslaved by the program. I had to track everything I ate. If I didn’t follow it, I gained weight. That was proven when the program changed suddenly and I instantly gained weight. Feeling lost without the old program… I gained more. I longed for the comfort of that structure that still provided a way for me to “comfort eat” and feel okay about it… because hey, I was losing weight right?
But weightloss and eating what I wanted shouldn’t have been all that I cared about. Israel only remembered that they had food and shelter in Egypt, they totally dismissed that they were captives… they weren’t living as a free people. Freedom costs though. We see the slogan “Freedom isn’t Free” and we rightly think about all those patriots over the precious few years America has been in existence who gave their lives that we might live in a free nation. We rightly thank veterans who served alongside those who perished. And yet, do we see that we’re still enslaved on emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental levels? I’m not even addressing the political, greedy insanity that seems hell-bent on constantly encroaching on our rights as Americans, although an entire blog series could be dedicated to that rant. Yes, freedom costs to achieve, and it costs to maintain.
When Israel set out for the promised land, they had to leave the familiar behind. It is the familiar that we are so often hesitant to let go of. Even if the familiar isn’t good, it’s at least “familiar”. Even if it’s harmful, it’s at least reliably so. I remember being in military basic training years ago. At first, it felt so restrictive. We felt like we were imprisoned to an extent. Someone told us what to do and when to do it. If we didn’t “perform” the way we were supposed to, we were punished… and sometimes even if we didn’t mess up, the TI was mad so we paid the price for that too. In my flight, we were even told what we could and couldn’t eat, how much water to drink, when we could and couldn’t talk, how to fold our laundry, how to keep our lockers, how to make our beds, how to align our shoes, how to walk, how to dress. We were told what to study, where to go, and how to get there. Our letters from home were held hostage and delivered at the whim of our TI. We were told we could go to chapel on Sundays, but that we’d be punished if a long list of chores wasn’t complete that morning… so most weeks we didn’t go. The only thing missing was a good beating and starvation. You would think we would hate this environment, and at first, we did. And then it became “normal”, comfortable, familiar. Although we wouldn’t dare to admit it, we were scared to leave basic, because then we would be responsible for ourselves. We would have to make decisions and accept the consequences of them. We couldn’t blame the TI, our fellow Airmen, or the institution itself for stifling us, for crushing us, for our feelings of inadequacy, for our lack of motivation, for our fear. We had grown comfortable with the familiar, even though the familiar was oppressive. Obviously basic serves a purpose in the greater military picture, and similarly, God wants to use our periods of captivity to teach us valuable lessons.
However, God doesn’t want us to stay captive. He doesn’t want us to long for that captivity either. He was so serious about not longing to go back, that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. I’ve wondered if she disobeyed God out of curiosity. I mean, that would have been a pretty noisy destruction. More likely though, she looked back because she didn’t trust that God had something better in store. She longed to go back, even with certain death on the table. Like Old Testament Israel and Lot’s wife, I too have a tendency to look back… to think, “oh it was so much better when…” And then I become quite the grumbling sojourner, unable to see that God has better stuff in store.
If I hadn’t done Weight Watchers, I might not have learned that I am responsible for what I put into my mouth. I don’t have to eat mindlessly. Then, if I hadn’t been prompted to move on from Weight Watchers, I’m not sure I would have gotten on board with a plant-based diet. If I had dropped the rest of the extra weight just eating vegan, I probably would have existed on Oreos, french fries, and root beer. So I was forced to research the value of plants. I had to realize that health goes beyond a scale number. I’ve learned so much more by being pushed out of the familiar. I’ve grown by being forced to count the cost of freedom and accepting that freedom is always better, no matter that cost.
Christ died for my freedom. He set me on the path to my own promised land. I’m still a sojourner, but I’m doing a lot less grumbling.