Over the past month, the two major crutches of my recent life have suddenly been thrust out from under me, and I have found myself standing uncomfortably alone. Truly, the removal of these crutches are really an occasion for celebration but, I must admit, you my blog readers are more oft to see the reflections that follow my celebrations. This is one of those more often than not instances (which is not to say I have not done my share of celebrating).
The first crutch to kick the bucket list was GAPS. I thoroughly enjoyed being on it, and it genuinely helped make me well. In fact, if I could come up with an excuse to stay on the diet, believe me, I would; but the fact is that my body has kicked into all high functioning gears, and I am ready to get on with improved health. There is simply no means left to justify my staying on the diet.
Now, if you know me well, you might understand why my fledgling legs feel a wee bit woozy. After all, three years of this plus two years of this could well nigh turn anyone's suddenly-free food life into a roller coaster ride without the rollers coaster rails. It could feel like free fall. Restrictions were my safety net for not getting fat, not losing discipline, not growing up into a hoodlum, and not doing a host of similar silly "not"ables. But this crutch has been duly kicked.
The second crutch to meet its forkless fork in the road was college. Although I "graduated" in April and finished classes in July (neither of which markers I saw fit to blog about ~ cue facesmack), it was only in recent weeks that all that bothersome paperwork filled itself out. Again, although definitely a huge cause for merrymaking, this development has left this girl rather weak in the knees. You see, college was something to do, or, more importantly, something I could tell others I do. Just as it seems that every good woman is on some diet plan, it seems that every good girl is on money-producing or credit-crunching schedule, and it ought to be some sort of program that can, in a very few seconds, satisfactorily answer the ever-vague but ever-present "What are you up to?" question. College used to be my smart-sounding, accredited answer, but, alas, that crutch has sailed...or floated ~ you get the drift.
So this is me sorting through my crutchless existence and vindicating Real Life instead.
First, on Real Life: it has been short-changed for "stuff." Instead of measuring our days by the life we live, we ~ or at least I ~ tend to measure our days by the things we do, the places we go, the lists we cross, the trophies we gain, the money we earn.... In short, the stuff we accomplish. Again, at least for me, life is so much more easily viewed in what I did and what I can say I do. But giving up college has rather smacked me in the face with this sorry reality. Now there is nothing particular for me to tell that others I do, and it is up to my personal integrity in Christ to make sure I am doing something worthwhile, even if that something is not expressible in a twenty-second sound bite. As I was fumbling through all these thoughts in my head, my ever wise brother mentioned that I needed to learn something: Real, Rich Life is not composed of crossed off lists of stuff, but the simple things God does through us with others as we grow into better vessels of His grace. "And, Jenn, most of the times the things God will call you to do as a wife, mother, daughter, sister will be things nobody sees." How true! And how humbling. Keeping a house clean, sharing warm meals, having the time and sanity to offer someone love, counselling a brother (and, obviously, being counselled by him), helping out a friend ~ these are the stuff of Real Life, so often neglected because never worth the telling.
Living Real Life does not have to involve a high-paying job or a ministry ready to go on the back of a book cover or even attaining perfect health. Living Real Life simply involves living, and living well (see 1 Peter 1:3-9, below).
Now I am not saying we should not work and be lazy and just take in "life" as "life" sweeps us along. Proverbs 21 is quite clear in that respect: "The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves..." (verses 25-26). But are our works the sum total of our lives, or is His Life the reason for our working? Basically, are we living by grace? If Real Life is passing me by as an offering on the altar of "stuff," then mayhaps I am not.
It was so easy to rely on my crutches of stuff ~ college and diet restrictions (although very good and beneficial things in their own right)~ as an alternative to grace, as insurance against my provenly unsteady gait. But, the problem is, crutches are for cripples.
And Christians are anything but crippled. We do not need a Crutch because we have Christ, the Christ who is our life and our righteousness. Remember Proverbs 21? The rest of verse 26 offers the contrast, "but the righteous gives and does not hold back." Even better, this righteous giving finds its foundation in verse 21. "Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour." Whoever pursues righteousness (and we know may only find righteousness in Christ) will find life, Real Life. It's all about grace.
Here's to grace, then, which has the lovely quality of being portable, flexible, innovative, and always applicable. So whether you are working an intense job, rendering the kitchen deliciously fragrant, or reading that classic you've always wanted to eat in one sitting, Christ's grace, as a Christian, ought to go before you.
For this is the stuff of a gracious, hopeful, crutchless Life:"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."~1 Peter 1:3-9