Giving things up does not imply loss. In fact because of what we give up, we stand to gain a great deal
This morning I could not stop thinking about this line from Joan Chittister’s book The Liturgical Year . We often think that giving things up means sacrifice, loss and decreased satisfaction in life but is that really true?
This week has in many ways been a week of loss for me. First we have committed to the $2 challenge for the week – restricting our budget in order to free up money to give to Haiti. It has meant the loss of meals eaten out and cutting out some of my favourite but expensive food – like avocados in salads and papaya for breakfast (yes I know they don’t grow in Seattle but they are a couple of my non local indulgences). Another quote from Joan Chittister is helpful here:
Self-indulgence, the preening of self for the sake of self, blocks out the cries of the rest of the world, making us deaf to anything beyond ourselves.”
Restricting my diet in this way has made me more aware of the cries of the poor and of their daily struggle to survive. I can choose to live on $2/day they have no other option.
To cap it off, last week I found out that my cholesterol is high, partly genetic but there are other factors that contribute as well. Most of my friends are stunned because they think that Tom & I eat more healthily than most but I have allowed my weight to creep up in the last couple of years so need to lose 20 lbs in the next few months. And that means giving up excuses for not getting out to exercise – like” its not fun to walk in the rain.” It also means giving up the occasional indulgence in fish and chips – unless the fish is grilled or broiled.
Even in the midst of these simple losses I stand to gain a great deal. Eating more healthily means gaining better health not just now but hopefully in the future too. We are opting for the Mediterranean diet, recommended by my cardiologist brother. According to the British Medical Journal:
Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status, as seen by a significant reduction in overall mortality (9%), mortality from cardiovascular diseases (9%), incidence of or mortality from cancer (6%), and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (13%). Read the entire article
What am I willing to give up for my faith I wonder in order to gain the “heart healthy” rewards it could hold for the future? It is a question I continue to grapple with. We live such comfortable lives and though I know that Tom and I are in the place that God wants us to be at this time, I also know that it is easy to make excuses for self indulgence rationalizing it with thoughts of “God wants to bless me”
Now I am not denying that God wants to bless us, all I question is that blessing comes in the form of self-centredness and self-satisfaction. Self centredness makes self the centre of the universe. Again in the words of Joan Chittister:
The notion that all things were made for our comfort and our control robs those around us of their own gifts. It absorbs the gifts of others; it smothers them under our own; it blinds us to both their needs and their gifts.
The greatest satisfaction of my life has come from enabling others to become more of whom God intends them to be – first through providing healthcare to the poor and the marginalized as I worked on the Mercy Ship and in refugee camps in Thailand and Africa, then through writing, advocacy and mentoring.
So what are the ongoing losses God might be asking all of us to partake of so that others can find their freedom and their giftedness? I would love to know what you think? I would also love to know what you have been willing to give up so that others can be set free and what you have gained as a result.