Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lazarus, Revisited

At the conclusion of The Lazarus Experiment, I said there would be more coming from me. It’s taken a while, but here it is.

All along the forty days, one thing kept impressing itself in my head. It’s not strange that it did, because this one theme has dogged my life. It’s always been lingering around the edges, always haunting the inner life. In fact, I have proof of the longevity of this particular mind-shadow.

I’ve posted this picture around before. It’s me at seven years old, sitting atop my brand new birthday bike. But, while she was organizing our photos this summer, Linda took out the picture and looked at the back of it. In my mother’s handwriting:

Ronnie – Looking a little chubby.

Nope. Never looked at the back. Never caught that before. Explains a lot.

So lay me out on the proverbial psych couch and let us regress!

Not really. I’m not one for digging at excuses like scabs, seeing if I can make them bleed enough to build my self-pity and garner sympathy for my oozing wounds. I’m not going to blame anyone, or cast my problems out onto the relational landscape to see where they stick. It just is what it is.

A struggle with—weight, diet, exercise, health, overeating, imbalance, emotional eating, obesity—there are so many names for the thing. For as long as I can remember, this cloud has hovered over my head.

The Lazarus Experiment forced us to ask how we live life—second life. We posed the question: What kind of things would Lazarus have done differently once Jesus called him out of the tomb and the mummy wraps were pulled away? What Would Lazarus Do?

From day one of the experiment I knew this: Lazarus would not live with this cloud. He would not live a life that was not healthy. We don’t know what killed him off, but if it was anything that was within his own personal control, you’ve got to believe that on the next go-round, on the other side of the grave, on the resurrection rebound, he would not have continued on the same weary-worn path.

If Lazarus died because of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, for instance, I just can’t see him asking for a cig once the grave clothes were unwound. If he kicked off because of a venereal disease, I’m thinking he would change his wanton ways after he heard Jesus say, “Come forth!” Getting another swing at life would change your perspective, I think, and motivate life change.

Add to that the realization that Jesus did this, for you, alone, to his glory, and the will to change becomes even stronger. The idea of Lazarus falling at the feet of Jesus, worshiping him for proclaiming victory over death—YOUR DEATH—seems like the motivational equivalent of a power boost button in a car racing video game. Move over, Mario! Luigi’s coming on strong!

It just kept hitting me, over and over, that Lazarus would not have stayed obese if he’d died of a heart attack or diabetes.

Now—I also believe this: Lazarus would have lived life to the full. He would have loved and learned and labored and leisured like he never had before.  He would not give up bagels. He would eat cake and ice cream. In fact, I’ve got to believe that one of the first things he did was sit down to a steak, medium rare, and onion rings.

OK. Maybe not onion rings. Maybe asparagus instead. And that’s just my point. Lazarus would have a new awareness of how to enjoy the miraculous gift of life in every way. Including health.

So, for many reasons, now is the time.

I’ve done it before. Twenty years ago, when Linda and I and three of our four kids pulled into Royal Oak, Michigan, I had just completed six months of NutriSystem and lost nearly 100 pounds. In those two decades since, I have found all of them, and enough new ones to bring me to a new personal record.

I was 35 years old then. Now I’m 55. It’s going to be different.

Lazarus would do it with grace. He would do it with the awareness of his value to Jesus. He would do it with a joy that comes from facing into the mouth of death and hearing your name called by the giver of life. It would be—fun.

I am fully aware that all of you will have advice for me. I appreciate your help. I know that you want me to succeed. I know the secret of weight loss: take in less than you burn off. Easy as pie. OK—easy as a cucumber. But the truth is I’m not after losing, I’m after living. Health gained, not pounds lost.

I also know that now you’re all in on this. So if you see me at a potluck with a mound of calories enough for a week, you can say something. Or if you invite me to lunch, steer me away from the buffet. You can steal the cream cheese off my tray, or slap the donut out of my hands. I know you’re watching me.

But now let me turn the tables on you: If you want to live your life like you mean it, like you are purchased out of the grave by grace, what would you never do again?  How can I help you? How can I hold you to it?

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