Spiritual Weight Loss

February 15, 2022

Ever looked in the mirror and decided you didn’t like what you see and wonder ‘how did this happen?’  

Me, too.  

Trust me. I know about these things… 

I don’t eat tons of junk food like ‘some folks,’ but something’s going on…I don’t look like I use to…..

It’s time to identify the problem. Only then can I come up with a plan, live into the plan, and watch healthy transformation take literal shape in front of the mirror!  

So…what is the problem….

Well…sad but true, I am a potato chip aficionado. 

Not just any chips will do; my guilty pleasure is those kettle fried chips that have folded over on themselves in the frying! You can have all the flat chips, but the folded over ones are mine! Besides, what’s a few chips? They can’t matter THAT much! The mirror would disagree!

Bottom line: a healthy self-image requires a healthy lifestyle – and that means less potato chips and more fruits and veggies. (I know…potatoes are veggies but chips definitely aren’t!

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All of this reminds me of Lent.

When the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday (March 2 this year), we stand in front of the spiritual mirror, so to speak, as we pray one of the great confessional prayers of the church:  

we have sinned against you (God)

 in thought, word, and deed,

 by what we have done, 

and by what we have left undone.

And the spiritual image we see reflected back at us, may not be pretty. How did this happen? Perhaps we begin to rationalize: “what on earth have I done that’s bad enough to fit this prayer? After all:

  • I’m not an axe murderer. 
  • I haven’t stolen…at least nothing more than perhaps a pen or ream of paper from work. 
  •  I don’t lie; white lies don’t count, do they?  I mean, I’m an amateur if you look at the news.
  • I don’t gossip…. bless her/his little heart.  

I don’t DO ‘those things,’ so what do I have to confess? Still, if my stuff isn’t that big of a deal, why do I feel so weighed down?

Perhaps spiritual rationalization of my ‘little sins’ (it’s just one potato chip) have been building a little at a time until the spiritual image I see is nothing like what God intended when I was created. ow did this happen?

Most often it’s the insidious things we don’t even notice about ourselves that are the problem. 

  • Things that are all about me never about you.  
  • Things that work to keep me relevant in the world even if it marginalizes others.
  • Things that raise me up even if it means ‘kicking others to the curb.’ 
  • Things that work to make me a super star talented in so many ways even if it means ignoring the One Who gave me the gifts and graces to begin with.

If I am brave enough to look in the spiritual mirror and evaluate my image – I reflect myself – and not God. 

I have put on the pounds of self (there is a reason for the weighty expression ‘full of myself”); so saturated with self, I have little room left for the lifegiving, transformative presence of God.  

It’s time for a spiritual weight loss lifestyle change!

I recall the words of John the Baptist:

He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease. ‘(John 3:30)

John the Baptist led a spiritual weight loss program and I’m not talking about his weird diet of locust and wild honey.  

John had a huge following. He was the spiritual super star of his time in the area around Jerusalem; people flocked to listen to him and be baptized in the Jordan. 

It would have been so easy for John to feast on his own popularity and become full of himself, but the man was spiritually fit and trim.

The above quote from John 3 was John’s response to his followers’ anxiety over that upstart, Jesus, seemed to be a religious competitor.  John was there first! That guy Jesus needed to get in line!  

John looked in the spiritual mirror and got his disciples back on the spiritual weight loss track.

John was not the Way to reconciliation with God. God’s intention for John was that he prepare the Way for – make the people ready – to receive the Way which is Christ. (Mark 1:1-8)

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Spiritual weight loss is an emptying of self which begins once we realize who and Whose we are and that our lives aren’t about us but about Christ living in and through us.  (Galatians 2:19b-20)

Such commitment to spiritual weight loss doesn’t imply a lifelong diet of self-deprecation and condemnation – that’s just swarmy and gross and not of God.

We are precious to God and are to love ourselves because God loves us.  BUT we are to equally love and value all others because God loves them as well.

The gifts God has given us are not just for our own benefit, but for the good of all. 

God is the One to receive the credit (the glory) when our giftedness makes a difference in the world. 

In the unsettled times in which we live, we tend to carry a lot of weight which we think will help us survive in a dog-eat-dog world: the weight of relevance at all cost: the weighty need to remain competitive, in charge, in the spotlight no matter what; the clingy weight of false humility that hooks others into assuring us we are awesome (not spiritually overweight at all!).  

Carrying all that weight is exhausting! We know the problem. Now what’s the plan?

Christ recognized this spiritual weight problem and offered a plan as in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Christ came to lift the spiritual weight of ‘self’ from us and help us get spiritually healthy.  

But first we have recognize our weight problem.

For each of us it’s a different problem – but nothing we can’t conquer if we remember we aren’t in this alone. We have God with us always – and others whom God sends to help us on the Way.

Just a thought of encouragement: Ever wonder what God sees when the Holy One looks at you? God sees:

  • A beloved child God felt was worth coming to earth and dying for.  
  • A treasured child with a God-given purpose.  
  • A precious child blessed by God to be a blessing to others. 

This is how God sees each of us even with all the excess weight we carry. 

The season of Lent is an intentional time set apart to address our situation, and begin the process of reclaiming our spiritual health and returning to ‘the image of God we were created to be.

He must increase – we must decrease.  

Lent is coming.

Ready for some weight loss? Me, too!

And to God be the glory!  AMEN

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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