"Results not typical." I heard those words at the end of my first meeting at Weight Watchers. I prayed they weren't true. I wanted to have the results of others, and I wanted to diet only one more time, after a lifetime of diets and clothing sizes.
It took about 18 months to lose 60 pounds. It's taken much longer to lose old ways of thinking. Somewhere in this last year, though, as my goal weight came into view, God began using my Saturday morning trips to the scale for his own purposes. He's sneaky that way.
It started at a particularly lively meeting last spring. It had been a good week for many of us—you could tell by the chatter as we waited to weigh in, by the confidence we showed as we peeled off our outer layers of clothing. The room, a classroom at a local church, was filled with sunlight from a wall of windows, and life was just happening everywhere.
Our enthusiastic leader had shared, we'd shared, and together we all shifted our weight loss compasses back to our goals. Now we were at the favorite part of the meeting—celebrations. A pound. Three pounds. Half a pound. I sat surrounded by cheers and clapping and generous handouts of the currency of Weight Watchers—the bravo sticker—when this God-breathed thought came to me with a smile: only at Weight Watchers did people get so excited about loss. This was followed closely by: Why do I think weight is the only loss worth celebrating?
Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25, NIV). Sitting in that church on a Saturday morning, I wondered what would happen if I came to church on Sunday like this—ready to celebrate what I'd lost, because what I was gaining was my life. Could I even seek out loss, actively pursuing it the same way I pursued losing weight?
Viewing loss as celebration makes me think of all the ways God has given me life, even as I give him mine. I can rejoice in the loss of my attachment to things, replaced by God's sustaining power. I give up, gratefully, my right to always be right. I place on his altar my desire to avoid difficult conversations, and gain healthy relationships.
Even the things I really don't want to lose—my health, my family, my work—giving them to God yields them back to me in ways I could not achieve myself. When I accept them as gifts from God rather than items I've earned, they yield life, teeming with authenticity, punctuated with joy.
This year our family experienced a job loss, the loss of my grandmother, and a dear friend. There were days I'd say I lost my way as a parent, as all three of our children headed into their teen years. This is what I know is true: You can only celebrate loss when you choose it, chase after it. The words of Jesus bear this out for me—he's talking about us taking the initiative, actively casting aside our life. Because when we seek loss, when we choose to lose things with the same deliberation that I used to lose weight, it's cause for celebration. When it slips away unbidden, unprepared for, it's cause for mourning.
The process for losing my life is deceptively simple. Prayer. Worship. Reading the Scriptures. They set my spiritual compass back to the goal to have less of me, more of Christ. And after that comes the celebration! And these celebrations are better than any bravo sticker. I walk down the road with a sense of peace. I enter into a conversation expecting the right things from people, but not more than they can give. I can reverse the self talk that says, "I want more" to say, "I have everything I need."
When those disciplines have pride of place in my life, my desire becomes that the image people see is that holy image, not my own. The results, as they say at Weight Watchers, are not typical.
Andrea Doering is an editor for a publishing house. She lives with her husband and three teenage children in New York.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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