On being a thin, successful woman.
Apparently around 45% of people make losing weight a New Year’s resolution. (I’m guessing around 45% of people also break that resolution within a week?) Another popular resolution involves career success.
Because January is a great time to press the reset button.
And maybe we’re right to set goals like lose weight or get a promotion. Maybe we should be thin, and successful.
We live in a fat, flourishing world that needs to be thinned out some. Like how you would thin out a veggie patch to make space for everything to grow. Like how little Mary Lennox instinctively cleared tangles of grass so that the daffodil shoots could reach for the light, in The Secret Garden.
Wayne Muller writes,
Thinning is … making space for life. We plant so many seeds, and they seem so small, so benign, they take up hardly any space at all. But everything, as it grows, needs space. Children, a home, a career, a project, a hobby, a spiritual practice, everything needs space, and everything needs time. And as each grows, each one takes from the other, until nothing grows beneath the surface, it is all foliage and greenery above ground, and no nutrition beneath. Sooner or later, it all withers from lack of nourishment.
I’m so bad at this. I need to reset, and become a much thinner wife and mom. I need to not crowd our lives with things and stuff and busy-busy all teeming for head space and heart space and leaving us confused and exhausted and unable to find the wonder and the wisdom.
Then there’s success.
For Jesus followers, this is a lifelong aspiration towards what Henri Nouwen called downward mobility.
Nouwen was once invited to the White House. Hilary Clinton had been reading some of his work on gratitude and forgiveness, and he was asked to come and provide counsel during tricky times.
While he sympathized with the Clintons’ sorrows, and while a White House invitation seemed to be a recognition of the importance of spiritual matters, he nevertheless sent his apologies… ‘I don’t want to be the court chaplain,’ he told me. ‘I am here with Adam, my disabled friend. There are others who can go to the White House. Adam needs me.’
That’s downward mobility.
And a kind of crazy classification for success? Yet success by God’s definition is a lowering – not a climbing of the ladder. Going to the White House is not always wrong, but we’re to be sure that we’re living out our gifts in a way that makes us more and more like Jesus who was certainly over-qualified to wash feet but did it anyway, with great love. Nothing is beneath us. People who really realize that are the kind of humans we all love best.
‘Love never fails,’ writes Paul. If love never fails, that means love works every time. Love is always successful. Love never leaves the heart that loves or is loved, the same. It changes us and others. Even if the shop attendant glares or grunts at your kind hello, his heart is surely better affected, even if unwittingly, than if you’d glared or grunted or simply ignored. Love is our highest success, and the success that is guaranteed to outlast every other success.
Let’s take a moment, in these first weeks of a New Year, to press reset.
Let’s not waste a chance to clear the trappings, and to love, today and in the future that beckons us to be brave.
Dalene Reyburn is a South African writer and speaker, sharing truth, courage and hope, and contributing to various online devotionals. She’s the author of four books, including Walking in Grace and Prayers for a Mom’s Heart.