I just recently realized that some people view our family as a bit obsessed with fitness and
health. What caused this realization? I guess the fact that someone said it. I have to admit that obsessed people annoy me so I worried for a moment and tried to evaluate the validity of their opinion. I decided fairly quickly that I didn’t agree but, almost as quickly, that we (humans) are an odd lot. I mean, why would someone care if I was obsessed with healthy living and would that be a bad thing? (It would be if I shoved that obsession down people’s throats, but I really don’t think that’s the case.) Sure, if working out takes more of your time than serving God, taking care of your responsibilities, spending time with your family or building friendships with people I would have to agree that you’re working out too much. If it’s the thing that you think about most often during the day and the measure by which you judge the success of your life, then you might want to consider reevaluating things. But staying active and eating healthy foods shouldn’t be the exception. It should really be the rule.
But….our culture has made that pretty difficult. Consider the fact that just 60 years ago people lived much more active lives. People didn’t spend their free time watching TV or going to the theater. They went fishing, walking the neighborhood, hiking or camping. They would garden, have people over for home-cooked dinners and throw a baseball in the front yard. Kids would stay out till dark playing hide and seek or Red Rover Red Rover. If you were hungry, you cooked a meal – which took time – and if you needed a snack, you grabbed a baked sweet potato or an apple. Candy was relegated to Halloween and desserts were rich and satisfying and only enjoyed after all the veggies had been eaten. (And that included more than iceberg lettuce or green beans.) People didn’t go out to eat much and (here’s the biggy) fast food chains were almost nonexistent. But, people weren’t considered radical or obsessed with their health. They were normal. Let’s also not forget that the rate of obesity, heart-attacks, high blood pressure and cancer were drastically lower as were most other health issues.
Emotional problems are much more common today as well. Psychology Today reports that “the average kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.” We have too much information, too little rest, too many chemicals in our food and are too busy to cook healthy meals that we can eat with our family. (Don’t even get me started on the amount of time our kids spend having fun with their parents as opposed to how much time they, or their parents, spend on the computer or the TV.) I’m honestly not trying to cast stones. We struggle with keeping a balance in all these areas, but maybe that’s why we are considered obsessed. We’ve learned that you can’t fight the tide of culture by just hoping you won’t drown. You have to purposefully swim against the tide and do things differently. It takes effort and time. One month we do well in one area and totally fail in another but our goal is to keep making choices that will enable us to live healthy lives. Our motivation isn’t to look good in a pair of jeans. It’s to feel good. To be around for our family as long as possible. To accomplish the things God has called us to do.
When my husband goes to Columbia next month to train pastors, many of whom don’t own a Bible and haven’t even had the most basic Sunday School education, he will need to be fit enough to travel up the Amazon, sleep in a hot room, speak in a crowded and humid building and stand up for long periods of time. When my daughter and I went to Haiti last year we had to lift 5 gallon paint buckets, ride in a bumpy truck, paint houses all day and walk for hours. It was great! When my girls have children, I want to be around so they can call me if they have a question or if they need encouragement. When the elderly woman down the street fell a few years ago, I was grateful that I was able to help her up, walk her back into the house and tend to her injuries. When a friend of mine was so dehydrated that she could barely walk, I was grateful that I could support her enough to get her to the hospital.
Let’s be clear, I know that you can do God’s work even when you are physically suffering. I have a dear friend that can barely walk, but she brings joy to everyone she knows. My mother-in-law suffered from cancer for many months but not a person left her room without feeling loved. I also realize some people have chronic health issues that are discouraging and painful. Some people can’t exercise and most can’t afford to eat grass-fed beef or fresh fruits and veggies. But, I bet all of us can make a few changes that would benefit our health. Frankly, most of us would have more money if we bought fruits and veggies and stopped going to fast food restaurants everyday. I would take a guess that we have at least 30 minutes of TV or Computer time that we could give up in order to go for a walk or run. Maybe even do some sit-ups or push ups during commercials. Some may call that extreme or obsessive – but how often do you hear anyone accused of being obsessed for watching TV 3 hours a day; or for going through a drive-thru 4 or 5 times a week; or for drinking nothing but caffeine or sugary drinks during the day? Never – because we judge obsession based on what is the norm. The norm (at least for Americans) isn’t something we should want to aspire to. You’re worth more than that. You’re worth some sweat and a bit of discomfort in order to lower your risk of a multitude of diseases. You’re worth suffering through withdrawals from diet sodas or from excessive carbs in order to have the energy that comes from eating more protein and veggies.
So, I’ll gladly be considered obsessive if there’s the slightest chance it will keep my family from future suffering. I’ll be honored if I can encourage people to live life with more of a purpose. It will be my pleasure to sit around our table with people I love eating a meal (that I will probably burn) and having a conversation about stuff that matters to them. And, if I’m lucky enough to get to the mountains this year, I’ll hike as far as my legs will take me, stand in awe of the view and ask God to help me use every breath He gives me to bring glory to Him alone. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.