Monthly Archives: April 2022

Season Three

I’m doing it again. I’m five weeks into a new lease on life, and I’m exhilarated and terrified. Did I hit rock bottom? I doubt it. I’m sure things could have gotten worse – and that’s the part that scares me. I’ve done this all before and yet here I am again. I think this time it started with Lent. Considering spiritual disciplines I could take on, I started thinking about the changes I needed to make in my life. I recognized that I was deeply unhealthy.

I don’t need to go into the details, but I looked in the mirror and hated everything I saw. Heavier than ever – way too close to 400 pounds. Aching back, tingling feet, chronic fatigue. I was cruel to myself, “You’re a piece of shit” was my multiple-times-a-day mantra. I hated things that I once loved. I leaned into terrible habits, stopping at McDonald’s between meals, eating handfuls of Oreos before bed, buying candy bars in the checkout line. I ate to experience a small dose of happiness in the midst of a world that was so full of evil, apathy, and pressure. This winter, as the world started to come out of pandemic – even as it lingers – I started to see what I had done and what I had become. I realized that I was slowly killing myself because I was convinced that the world – my church – even my family – would be better off without me. I never harmed myself, but I was destroying myself slowly. I was choosing the slow burn into oblivion.

Then I knew it had to stop. My family deserved better than a husband and father who was slowly destroying himself. Lent came and it was the catalyst I needed to make some changes. I made an appointment with my physician, fearful that I had already done irreparable physical damage as I massaged my toe that hurt for no reason. I found a therapist who seemed compatible and enjoyed our first session even though I knew she wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. We renewed our membership at the local fitness center, and I made a plan to go every day after dropping off the girls from school. I decided to join my daughter in the piano lessons that she started.

I took control. I had a plan. I found a goal – a 5K in June that I decided I wanted to run. I asked my daughter if she wanted to run it with me, and she was excited. I told my daughters that I started going to therapy. I shared with them my struggles, and told them how sad I had gotten. We cried. We hugged.

I started posting pictures of my workouts on Facebook and Instagram. I told people about the theme song I found – “Living My Best Life,” by Ben Rector. I told my girls that every time I get on the elipitcal machine, when I get to the last three minutes of my workout I start playing it and it motivates me to finish strong.

I close my eyes and lip sync “Can’t believe I’m a grown ass man, but you know what they say of best laid plans. But I’m holding on to my daughters’ hands, and I’ve got a reason to live,” and I throw my fist into the air and beat my sweaty chest and go harder. People might wonder what the heck I’m doing, but I don’t care, because “Baby I’m thriving. I’m living my best life. I wake up with the sunrise. It does not look a thing like I thought that it would. I’m getting my steps in, and I sleep with my best friend, It’s the best that has been in a long time.”

And that’s why I’m scared. I’m terrified because I’ve done this all before. This is the third time in my life that I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and hated everything I saw and felt and started to make some changes. Twice before I’ve lost 80 pounds. Twice I’ve started doing 5K runs and felt the addictive joy of trimming times off of my mile. Twice I’ve felt like I had made the kind of permanent changes that would save my life.

So now I’m in season three of the same show. I’m getting my steps in. I’m wearing my Fitbit and tracking my calories. I’m making smarter choices. I’m skipping McDonald’s. I’m choosing fruit instead of fries. I’m making protein smoothies instead of eating sleeves of cookies. I’m finding ways to get to the gym instead of finding excuses to avoid it. I feel good. I’ve lost 20 pounds. My heart rate has improved. I’m getting stronger.

This time I’ve added a few characters and twists to the show. I’m going to therapy, and feel good about having a place to articulate my depressive feelings. I’m inviting my church to participate in the 5K. I’m taking piano lessons. I love the creative outlet. I took piano lessons as a kid and always regretted quitting. I love that I’m doing it – and I love even more that I’m doing it with my daughter. It gives us this beautiful shared experience and shared sense of accomplishment, confidence, and pride.

Things are better right now than they have been a in long time, but I’ve been here before. I’m terrified that I’m going to mess it up again. I’m so scared that I’m going to do all of this work, make all of these changes, and then let it all fall apart again. I post all the selfies and soak in the likes and encouraging comments, but what happens when it stops? What happens this summer when I don’t have the built in reason to get up with my daughters and get to the gym? What happens when I go on a trip for work and there isn’t a gym at the airbnb I’m staying at? What happens if I strain my calf again (which ended season one)? What happens when I take my foot off the gas?

I want to say that this time will be different, but I don’t know that it will be. Season one was ten years ago. I wrote about my first 5K. I knew that time I was doing it for them – for my girls. Season two was four years ago, and I realize now that a lot of that was about dealing with the grief of my Mom’s death. I was doing it for her. This time feels different because I’m doing it with my girls. I’m talking to them about my mental health. We’re sharing our joy of learning piano together. We plan on doing the 5K in June together for Pride Month, which is important to us emotionally and spiritually as well.

Yet I’m still scared that I’ll fall into the same traps. Four years ago – back in season two – I said that “I don’t believe in Before and After.” Do I really believe that?

Four years ago I wrote this:

“I can be good all day, light breakfast, healthy lunch, smaller portions at dinner. Then a few hours pass and I’m cleaning up the kitchen or watching some TV and the hunger sets in. I suddenly want to EAT ALL THE FOOD. One cookie turns into a handful. And a bowl of cottage cheese. And some yogurt and granola. Suddenly all the gains I made all day are gone. I’m not alone. Losing weight is hard. According to some research, keeping it off is nearly impossible. Apparantly it is a natural reaction for your body to be more hungry after losing weight. It’s as if your body is screaming “You’re starving yourself!”

So what’s the answer? I checked out some websites, and basically the only way to maintain this lower weight is to keep doing what I’m doing. In other words, there is no before and after. There is only now and the next choice I make.”

It’s still true. I’m just really hoping that it’s a lesson I’ve finally learned. Considering how low I got this time around, I’m not sure I could survive a season four.

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Call them by name

“Abrazo de Jesus” by Felix Hernandez http://www.felixhernandezop.com/internet.php#

Scripture: John 20:11-19

11 “Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.


He called her by name, and everything changed.

Weeping, inconsolable, desperate for any information anyone could give, she was stopped in her tracks with one word. Her name.

She was unfazed by two angels standing in a tomb that she just saw was empty. When they were no help, she turned toward a gardener, and cried out, “I do not know where they have put my Lord.” She was searching frantically. She watched him suffer. She watched him die. She could still smell the scent of the oils she had poured over his feet (although this is ambiguous, there is a strong argument by Diana Butler Bass among others that claim that the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet is this same woman known as Mary Magdalene). The feet she had washed with her tears and hair were pierced in front of her. He was dead.

And now he was gone. Adding insult to shameful injury, he was gone. She must have turned her head again after asking the gardener about him because when he spoke her name the Scripture says she had to turn again to face him.

“Mary,” he said, and everything changed.

Reading between the lines, I am pretty sure that she said “Teacher!” then threw her arms around him and they embraced (Why else would he say, “Do not hold onto me,” unless she was already holding onto him?).

Why didn’t she recognize him? Was he transformed in some way? Was his resurrected form intrinsically different? Was she just too frantic to notice? Was it just too improbable to believe? Whatever reason she did not recognize him, that all changed when he called her by name. He saw her, and she saw resurrection. In that moment she experienced the new life in Christ. She was the first person to experience Easter. She was the first person to witness Resurrection, and she knew it in one beautiful moment when he recognized her first. He called her by name and new life began.

Call her by her name. Call him by his name. Is it too much to ask? She might have transformed in ways you may not recognize. He may have cut his hair shorter than you’re used to. They might use awkward pronouns that you’re not used to using. Call them by name, and you might give them new life.

Call them by name, and they might recognize love that they feared was dead. Call him by name – maybe  not the name you are used to, maybe not the name you know. Call him by the name he has chosen, not the dead name he has left behind.

Call her by name – maybe in clothes you find odd, or after treatments you do not understand. Call her by name because she has earned that much. Call her by name because Christ calls her by name. She has agonized in a prison she was born in. She has hidden for so long. She is fearful every time she claims her name. She is fearful of the strange looks, the scornful whispers, the outright violence that is done to women and men like her every day.

Call him by name.

Call her by name.

Call them by name.

That they might know that they are beloved.

Call him by name.

Call her by name.

Call them by name.

And in that moment they may know eternal life.

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