Thursday, January 26, 2012

If-Then and Food

If-Then statements are so beautifully simple. When they become nested in any more than just a few layers though, it quickly becomes significantly less beautiful to look at, but the beauty in its simplicity remains (for the most part - then of course there is good and bad coding).

I think that's how many people operate - we live by a series of if-then statements, many of which become deeply ingrained into our systems, hopefully enhancing productivity. If the homework for tomorrow is not done, then finish the homework. If the bills are due in a week, then send those payments today. If the 1-bus toward Harvard is due in 10 minutes, then start heading out in 4. Simple, efficient, beautiful.

From a health standpoint, it'd be good to know and understand what your body needs based on what it's yelling out to you. It would be nice if the if-then statements were also equally simple: for example, if I am hungry, then I should eat. If I am thirsty, then I should drink water. But sometimes, as I've learned, if I am hungry, then I should drink water. Not so straightforward anymore - there's another nest inwards in the if-then statements. There is also if I am tired, then I should sleep, which is sometimes actually if I am tired, then I should drink water, at other times if I am tired, then I should eat, and still at other times if I am tired, then I should ingest some caffeine. Confusing? Probably also not the best way to think about things.

Now onto cravings. I used to think this would be simple too - if I crave lasagna, then by golly I'm going to eat lasagna, and replace lasagna with hot dogs, pickles, apple juice, whatever. I guess it makes sense, but I've only recently learned that those cravings are usually not the best thing to go by (surprise-surprise). For example, if I crave MSG like mad, then I should actually eat fish. If I crave chips, I should try eating kale. If I crave tea, I should eat some chicken. Well, that's all a bit confusing. Why can't they be more straight-forward? If I crave a burger, then can I just have a burger? I love burgers.

The scientific explanation, as far as I understand, is that our bodies will often lack a specific nutrient. When we lack that particular mineral, our bodies naturally start to crave things that will provide us with that mineral - another one of the ways that we are so beautifully crafted. However, we've also developed not-good-for-you foods that also provide us with brief satisfaction and temporary relief of those cravings, while not actually meeting those true needs instead. Thus, your body might be screaming to you for iron, and while you would be very well served by eating some leafy greens or meats, you've instead developed a taste for gnawing on ice (true story, many times over).

I think this also extends to our spiritual lives. If I am in need of spiritual food, then I should eat spiritual food. It's simple, but it becomes so incredibly complicated when we start to replace that need with other things. We develop and attach ourselves to many many things that provide us with brief satisfaction, with temporary relief of what we really need. One example in the list is this: If you crave burned food, you actually need carbon, and you should thus be eating fresh fruit. How simple, ironic, and sadly true. We need to fill ourselves with life-giving fresh fruit, but we instead push that aside to stuff ourselves with burned junk. And we love it, even as it kills us.

Those "burned foods" can be good things like love, friendship, acceptance, success -- even great things like opportunities for service, growth, and humility... but those things easily expand, and they easily come to completely replace what we truly need. We warp our if-then statements, fixate them onto other points, and stubbornly hold to that which will not satisfy.

Lord, have mercy... change my heart and mind, and let me desire You where I have filled myself with other things, no matter how lovely and wonderful those things may be...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In our weakness

A few months ago, my dad spoke about Samson - about how as a man of faith he was made strong in his weakness, and how through suffering we can experience God. Hebrews 11 has always been both interesting and confusing to me. None of the people brought up in the passage led sinless lives -- far from it, and of course not unexpected. (After all, who can say that they've lived a sinless life? Only one holds that right.) But of course I didn't understand that. I used to think, "hey wait a minute that's not fair, I know that person did this and that other person did that, they're not people of faith!" ......HAH!! How ridiculously judgmental. How foolishly arrogant. How utterly, shamefully, and pathetically did I miss the point. (And still do, so easily.)

Faith does not come alone, and good works are the fruit, the evidence of faith. BUT those men and women's actions alone didn't earn them a rank in Paul's writings, nor did their actions disqualify them from faith. Faith, and all that comes with it, is from God and God alone... and ours is a God who, though He is the Holiest of Holies who will not tolerate sin in any form and holds the absolute right and authority to destroy us with no hesitation... had His own Son carry our sin in our stead, and offers us life everlasting in return. Redemption, grace instead of punishment, life instead of destruction. (What in the world did I know of fairness?) What could possibly be more unfair? Ours is a God who blesses and curses, who heals and breaks, who grows and destroys, who gives and takes away. This is a God under whom we rightly ought to live in fear and trembling, and by His fathomless grace gives us hope, forgiveness, a new identity as beloved sons and daughters.

Samson was the promised son, granted divine strength, power, and blessings far beyond his family name. And he was arrogant. He took his gifts for granted and fastened those blessings to himself as part of a self-constructed identity -- and he didn't realize that the Lord had left him when he told Delilah of his secret, having totally forgotten who granted him that gift in the first place. After months in the Philistine jail, Samson was physically weak, literally blind, and publicly humiliated... but he was also changed. No longer did he believe that he could do it all, but I think we can see he recognized the true source of all that he had. He called out to the Lord, crying out in desperation for God to remember him just once more... Though we do not know the exact state of his heart and thoughts all those months later, we can know that he truly lived to be the man of faith as Paul wrote of him in Hebrews all those years later.

How often do I look to a self-constructed identity, based upon the things I think I've accomplished and the things I think I have? I think that I can do it all, while in truth apart from God's grace I can do nothing. And I think with deep undertones of arrogance, while so oft forgetting the source of everything I have been given. All that I have accomplished and all that I have is only through Him and Him alone.. I can rightfully take no credit... And though my penchant for overscheduling and overloading is a pattern that I've noticed over and over in my life, it wasn't until recently that I finally realized, wow, this is not just a "personality thing". It's not something for which I can simply point to my ambitiousness and leave at that, nor try to explain is due to my wide-spread interests, or even say is the fault of poor time management or "poor stewardship". No matter how true or untrue each of these may be, they are only a mere outward layer. The core of the matter is that it's yet another idol, another deeply lodged sin and a whoring of the heart after other gods. It's a meaningless pride in "my own" abilities, nurtured, indulged, and manifested, and it'd be pointless to try and sugar coat that. Like Samson, I so easily forgot what the true source of my strength is..

From one view, it would be so easy to just try and patch this all up with a simple formula, with a little "oh ok that's fine Lulu, let's just start to limit the amount of activities you take on" and "psh no worries, let's just do a re-vamp of your schedule". While I do think that is necessary at any rate, a silly little bandage like this does not heal. How circular and utterly meaningless. Sheer determination can only get me so far, and I realize this over and over again as I try my best and continue relying only on that. But realization is not repentance. And praise the Lord for His mercy which does lead to repentance! Even still, "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" How true Paul's words now ring - of a true hopelessness in light of himself... Yet he ends it with hope, in light of God's mercies. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

All this running about, all this doing this and doing that, it's all meaningless without a driving force and fixed vision that is firmly rooted in and fed by all that God is, and all that His Gospel means. It's all just sinking sand, a blind chasing after the wind, all meaningless ventures if there is not a constant recognition of where I come from, who I am, why I am the way I am, and where I am going. And all these selfish little "I-I-I" questions, in the end they all only lead back to who God is. There is no other answer. He says to me, Childbe still and know that I am God. Heart, soul, why are you so often not still? In the rushing of troubled waters, there is only turmoil and a hurried and rash obscuring of that which truly matters. When you are weak, there He will be shown all the more to be strong... When you are weary, there know again Who grants you rest... When you remember again how you are only a jar of clay, and how broken and withered a vessel at that, there, remember also what you are crafted and constantly remolded to carry.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen."

Look back on this later, self. Look back and remember.