Monday, January 2, 2012

Weight Watching

Like many of us, my new year’s resolution for 2012 (and every year prior) is to lose weight. I’ve been eyeing the bathroom scale for several months now and have yet to work up the courage to step on it. I’m afraid it will project my weight out the window and onto the sky for all the world to see – with giant flashing numbers surrounded by a rotating ring of all the cookies and cupcakes that I’ve eaten to get there…(actually, that would be kind of cool).

Truthfully, the weight I’ve resolved to lose this year has nothing to do with the number on the scale. There is weight that we all carry around that can’t be shed with a low carb diet and a treadmill. It’s the weight that we carry in our hearts and minds. This is weight that accumulates over time and we often don’t even realize that we’re carrying it until we finally set it down and feel how light we’ve become without it.

Here is just some of the weight that I’d like to lose this year:

The weight of regret.
We’ve all had roads that we wished we'd taken, or we've said and done things that we regret. Sometimes we have the opportunity to make restitution or to make things right…and sometimes we don’t.  Either way, carrying around the regret of our missed opportunities and past mistakes has a way of tainting our present and our future. Regrets keep us from taking chances in life (“What if I screw up again?), and keep us from being as open and loving as we’re called to be (“She hasn’t forgiven me, so why should I forgive her?”). Regrets hang on our shoulders like 50 lb potato sacks and keep us from loving and moving freely through life. Lord, help me to let it go.

The weight of guilt.
If we’ve done or said something that caused pain to another and we haven’t owned up to it then guilt is our weight of choice.  Denial and fear of reprisal is the two-headed dragon that has us hiding behind this one. Guilt is a heavy weight to carry, but we fear that admitting the role we played in generating it, and the consequences that will result from our coming clean, will knock us flat on our backs. In reality, the guilt that we carry often outweighs any punishment, imagined or real. And the relief we feel after admitting our guilt allows us to take on the weight of the consequences, however long they may last.  Guilt eats away at us from the inside out. Lord, help me to let it go.

The weight of self-expectation.
This is one for the perfectionists among us (we know who we are). I’m just going to state the obvious here: We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to say and do stupid and hurtful things, we’re going to run out of time, energy, and patience, and we’re going to set goals in life that we’re not going to reach no matter how hard we try, how many hours we work, or how “gifted” we think we are. It’s good to set the bar high in life. It keeps us from settling for less and for being less than God has called us to be. But if our self-expectations are too great they tend to feel like weights tied around our ankles. No matter how high we jump, we still feel like we’ve never left the ground. Lord, help me to let it go.

The weight of our expectations of others.
Once again, let’s state the obvious: We can’t control the behavior, thoughts, or beliefs of others. If we expect people to behave and think just as we do we’re setting ourselves up for a let down nearly every time.  This applies to friends and adversaries alike. We may want our friends to be more open and giving of themselves and to offer us unwavering support without judgment. We may want our adversaries to see things from our perspective and to stop throwing up roadblocks in front of us. We may want both to view and understand the world in the same way that we do. But it would be a pretty boring world if we didn’t have these differences chafing between us.  We’d never have to stretch ourselves to understand the viewpoint of another. Expectations get in the way of that stretching…their sheer weight keeps us from moving from our own position, and keeps us from seeing others and ourselves in a more enlightening way.  Lord, help me to let it go.

The weight of excuses.
What is it that you want to do in your life and what is keeping you from doing it? Excuses have a way of keeping us small. “I’m too old. I'm too young. I’m too busy. I’m not good enough. I don’t have enough money. It’s too hard. It will take too much time. I can’t because…(fill in your excuse here).”
Excuses arise out of our fears. We’re afraid that we’ll fail, we’re afraid that others will judge us, we’re afraid that we’re not worthy enough to have or do whatever it is our heart is calling us to embrace. If you have a goal, a dream, a desire to make even the smallest change in your life, holding on to these excuses is like dragging a boulder up a mountain. Lord, help me to let it go.

We’ve all got baggage weighing us down.
We’re all carrying around the weight of regret, guilt, expectations, and excuses, and at any given moment in time we’re juggling any combination of all of the above - and the truth is, we’re never going to completely let go of any of these weights. Life is all about learning to let go of some and learning to live with those that we can’t seem to release from our grip.
But there is so much that we can let go of...once we find the courage to try. 
Shedding these weights takes a lot of intentional inner work; work that hopefully will not be done alone but in community – with the love and support of family and friends, and the grace and mercy of our loving Creator.

I will get on that scale in the bathroom (eventually) and I’ll limit my cookie intake and get back in my routine of running, walking, and cycling. But I’m sure most of us realize that whatever resolution we’ve made this year – to quit smoking, to volunteer more, to work on our relationship(s), to be better people – all rely on our willingness to drop some of the inner weight that we’ve been carrying around, in some cases for far too long. We need to make ourselves lighter, or we'll never be able to see how high we can fly.

Blessings to all of my friends, family, and blogosphere readers in 2012!
May it be a fruitful and life changing journey for us all.