photo by Charles Edward Case

A number of years ago, I remember reading an article in Sojourners Magazine written by a woman who had experienced a lifetime of struggle with her weight. She described all of it: the calorie counting, the cycling through every institutional dieting program available, the cardio and resistance workouts, her feelings of shame when she was not at her “ideal weight” and her fear that any good news (as she defined it) from the scale at her morning weigh-in would only be temporary.

This writer revealed how great it felt to be in good shape. She enjoyed in the praise that people spontaneously offered her when she got down to certain sizes. But through it all, she came to recognize that in both times of health and in times of weight gain she had become utterly, completely obsessive about food. And while I don’t recall many of the details of the article, I do remember her description of praying to God to help her stay on a diet, strengthen her to work out, keep her steadfast in willpower and commitment.

Until one day, revelation. In a moment of life-changing insight, she realized that she was praying to God to sustain her in serving her other God! Her focus had been on an idolatrous relationship with body image. God—actual God—had become ancillary in her devotion. And while this realization did not transform her behavior instantaneously, it did refocus her energies in a more life affirming way.

Yesterday we remembered July 4th; a perfect time to reflect on the focus of our own thoughts, behaviors and prayers. Are there any areas of our lives in which we are asking God’s assistance in our worship of something else? Do we have expectations for human institutions and relationships that are unrealistic, and therefore doomed to disappoint? Our care for ourselves, our connection to others and our commitment to the structures in which we invest are essential elements in faithful living. And all are byproducts of faith hope and love; of prayerful, humble dedication to the One from whom all such blessings flow.