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Balance

Reflection number 2 in my “Days of Awe” preparation for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on the Jewish calendar. As humans, I think we are always pulled between two extremes: excess, and asceticism. We tend to either gobble up all we can of something (food, TV, video games, reading, sleep, sex, etc.) or decry it as evil and avoid it at all costs. Balance is tricky. How do we enjoy what God has blessed us with, without giving in to this tendency to excess? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” He goes on in following verses to use food and immorality as examples. This is apparently important, because Pail repeats the concept just a few chapters later in the same letter! 1 Corinthians 10.23: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Here he is discussing the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, and is suggesting that if you know the meat has been sacrificed, it is not a sin to eat it, but that it is likely not beneficial, so why bother?

What does this have to do with my current journey of reflection? I have been realizing that so often in America our interaction with food exemplifies the seemingly systemic lack of balance. I find myself ordering more food than I need, “because it is a better deal to pay a little extra for twice as much food!” But is it a better deal if I do not need twice as much food? I am paying extra, just to put more than I need into my body. This seems especially egregious when the food I am eating twice as much of is horrible for me!

A while ago Joy and I were watching someone on TV who claimed “I can make you thin!” We were naturally skeptical, and kept watching mostly because we thought we might enjoy spotting the flaws in his approach. We guessed that it was probably another fad diet where you were instructed to eat nothing but some “miracle food” for a month and you would “magically” lose all the weight you wanted! Actually, he talked very little about what you were supposed to eat, and a whole lot about how you eat. Here is his plan in a nutshell:

  1. When you are hungry, eat. (your body is telling you it needs food)
  2. Eat what you want. (withholding food will make you crave it)
  3. Eat consciously. (pay attention, eat slowly)
  4. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry.

While the man who was espousing this view, Paul McKenna, also uses hypnosis in some cases, which makes me somewhat skeptical, there is nothing in this that seems weird, unusual, or impossible. In fact, I think Paul would have liked this. It puts the individual in charge. There is no “unlawful” food or forcing yourself to endure hunger. Joy and I decided to try this. We stopped reading at the table and cut out the late night snack unless we legitimately were hungry. We would snack in the afternoon or morning if we were hungry, but made sure to eat slowly and stop when we were full. We were amazed how much less we ate, and did see some pounds go away. We both maintained it pretty well, even though we got a little lax with the rules at times.

Then two more children joined the family, and the whole thing seemed to go out the window. Over the last year or so, the balance and control have often gone out the window. We would keep an eye on our weight, and get back in control for a couple of days at times, but lately we have realized that the balance and control that keeps us from being mastered by food has been lacking. Time to get back in control!

If you read my last post you know that I need accountability (and I really think that we all do!) so how am I building that in? Joy and I will be keeping each other accountable, both on the way we eat, and on how we go about controlling our eating. I am all too aware that controlling our eating habits could easily become as excessive as the eating we are trying to control was. Joy and I are back on the journey to care for these temples of His Spirit that we have been entrusted with.

Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and grace to be able to rely on You and Your strength as we endeavor to live in ways that show Your power at work within us!

– Sam

Not to ruin a good story based on the facts, Paul, but Erica was a student here after I graduated, and graduated the May before I returned. Unless she happened to be in the class that I gave my interview talk to, she wouldn’t every be my student. However, I did have a semester of Hebrew as a student here, and have a Hebrew copy of the scriptures, so I have occasionally read right-to-left.
More to my colleague’s issue, I now tell my calculus students that if they turn in problem sets that are out of order, or the work is scattered around the page (even if they provide “helpful” arrows to guide me) or missing, I reserve the right to not give them credit. Also, if I cannot read their handwriting, I will presume the work is wrong and grade it accordingly. This is even more painful for them because the homework is graded by my work study, who is not usually as good as I am at making things out. I grade the exams, so they get a little more margin for error there. James, I simply include a line in my syllabus where I talk about the homework and how much it is worth warning them of this, and then “remind” them for the first assignment or two. I also tell them that they are to staple their work if it is on more than one page (I am not responsible if I lose a page of their work unless it was stapled) and that they may not turn in homework with “fringes” from their spiral notebook. Yep, I am pretty picky. 🙂
– Sam
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