Friday, October 09, 2015

Exploring the Bike Paths of my Soul

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

4 years ago I decided to do something about my weight. Over the course of the next few years, I joined a gym, dieted and exercised regularly, and lost about 50 lbs. I gave away all my large clothes and bought a new wardrobe.

Then I got an injury.

Then 'life' happened.

I love to cook and bake, and I'm also an emotional eater. I managed to find lots of reasons to justify not going to the gym and eating another cookie. Slowly my weight crept up again. I justified the weight gain by claiming it wasn't interfering with my life. My wardrobe slowly became too tight and I had to purchase 'fat' clothes again. I knew I needed to do something, but I wasn't ready, there was always a reason why exercise and eating right would begin again next week.

This summer I was on vacation with my family in Germany and one day they decided that we would all bike around this lake. Everyone rented bikes except me. I rented an electric bike instead, I still had to pedal, but it gave me a motorized assist when I went up hills. It was fun to glide past the rest of my family, but I must confess I felt some guilt that my older brother (who used to struggle with his weight) could bike around the lake when I could not.

And so just over a month ago, I walked back in my gym and signed up for the same diet and weight loss competition that I entered 4 years ago. Last time going to the gym was all new, even the restrictions of the diet didn't bother me that much, but I didn't do much interior work around my relationship with food.

This time I've tried to do things differently. I've tried to examine why I eat the way I do. I've tried to be more contemplative about diet and exercise.....and I've been out on my bike.

In the Heights there are miles of bike paths that I have never explored. Some lead into parts of Houston that I must confess have made me a bit nervous. I've seen piles of garbage and abandoned junk, and I've watched squirrels dance across my path. I've cycled my way through construction zones under freeways, and I've encountered beautiful views of Houston that I never knew existed. I've gotten frustrated by paths that dead end into culverts that block my way home, and I've seen new bridges that I never new existed.

And I've enjoyed myself in a way I never anticipated.

I'm also trying to navigate the bike paths of my soul. Learning that just because my body is claiming that it has not had enough to eat that it isn't actually hungry, it's just complaining that it is not eating to excess like it used to. That the hungry feeling is good because it means my body is consuming stored fat. I'm learning that there is no such thing as bad food, just bad portion control, and that emotions can be felt rather than eaten. The bike trails in my soul have led me to piles of garbage and abandoned junk. Through construction zones and dead ends I'm wandering, and uncovering beauty in parts of myself where I rarely venture. I"m learning that sometimes what feels like God leaving, is in reality God leading. That hunger and fatigue are opportunities to encounter God differently. That old familiar paths and problems can be approached in new ways, and I might surprise myself in ways I never anticipated.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Waiting and Walking

The Christmas story seems to feature a lot of journeying. Mary travels to Elizabeth's house. Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem to register for the census, they go to Jerusalem to present Jesus at the Temple, They relocate to Nazareth before finally fleeing to Egypt. Wise Men journey from far off places, and then take a different route home. Shepherds journey down dangerous hillsides.....

.....and Simeon makes a short journey to the Temple Courts.

There is a lot of waiting as well. The Jews wait for their liberation from Roman occupation, God waits for the right time to send his Son. Mary waits nine months to see the face of her Savior. Simeon waits to see the Messiah.

When Simeon encounters Jesus and takes him in his arms I wonder if he is elated or disappointed. God's promise that he has waited on all these years has been fulfilled. He finally gets to see the Messiah, and yet Messiah is a baby, not yet a Warrior or a Leader. God's promise has come true for Simeon, but the promise of liberation for God's people is going to take longer.

Simeon praises God and then hands Jesus back to Mary and Joseph, and then he walks away. He leaves his expectations of how Messiah should be and journeys home....where the waiting will begin again.

Journeying and Waiting seem to some up a lot of my experiences of the spiritual life. I wait patiently, reluctantly, defiantly. Waiting encourages me to surrender control, to give up what I think I know to be open to what God has in store for me. Like Simeon, I think I know how God's promises are going to look like when they come true, and, like Simeon I have to be open to being surprised.

Journeying does the same. Sometimes the hardest part is the decision to step away from what I think I know and journey into the unknown. There are so many things that I used to believe with absolute certainty that now I just shrug and admit 'I don't know'. Travel broadens the mind. Pilgrimage broadens the heart. Stepping deeper into the heart of God is a journey into the unknown, into uncertainty and mystery.

Journeying and Waiting seems to have been themes in my life since Thanksgiving. I haven't left Houston, but God's Spirit has invited me to wait in places that I wanted to run from kicking and streaming. People I love have patiently listened, encouraged me, and held my hand as I have journeyed into some dark places, and like Simeon in the temple, the end result of the journey is so different from what I would have imagined.

Are you in a season of Waiting our Journeying right now? 
Are you a willing or reluctant participant in that season? 
How can you step more fully into that season?