My family tree is diseased. Like every family tree in humanity, my family tree is diseased by sin.
Sins take many forms and the overarching consequence of sin, which is death, besets us in various ways. Death has visited my family quite frequently in the form of cancer. Thankfully, due to God’s grace in His provision for advances in medicine, most recent cancer diagnoses in my family have not resulted in death, at least among the nonsmokers. Nevertheless, the battle to overcome cancer can be a journey to the depths of suffering that, at times, make death appear as a welcomed friend.
Besides cancer, another obvious plight on my family is obesity. I have never spoken or written about it because, frankly, I didn’t have the courage. I was afraid I’d eventually be condemning myself. I was afraid I would offend people I love. And I was afraid to highlight a struggle that is impossible to hide when I struggle with many things I’m all too thankful to be able to hide.
So, why would I write about it now? I am beginning to see brothers and sisters liberated because there are those among us who have enough love and courage to address the issue and enough love and courage to come alongside those who struggle with overeating, unhealthy lifestyles, and a general disregard for their bodily temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Since Scripture teaches us to steward our bodies to honor God, ignoring our physical health is a matter of disobedience. We must have the courage to admit that and lovingly address it.
For me, a healthy lifestyle has been a lifetime in the making. Blessed with a high metabolism and beset by the sin of vanity, I “kept the weight off” until I hit 40. By the time I was 44, the scales were a good 20 pounds above what the doctor recommended. I’ve always been physically active and exercised—most months of the year. Nevertheless, after 40, exercise was no longer getting it done. So, coming alongside my wife at her request, I began a modified version of the diet set forth in Rick Warren’s book, “The Daniel Plan.” I modified the plan because my attention span is short. A simple, “Don’t eat processed foods, sugar, or dairy,” worked well for me once I figured out what that left on the menu. I’m not a legalist but, unless it’s Saturday, I stick closely to the plan.
In addition to weight loss, I experienced energy gain. And, unexpectedly, the ever-present pain of a bum knee (a church league softball injury) and degenerating vertebrae in my lower back (from picking up too many bales of hay without using my legs) significantly diminished. I was virtually pain-free for the first time in many years.
I’m not providing this personal information because I think you need to know me better. I’m providing it because I have experienced the benefit of a healthier lifestyle, and I want others to do the same. Several of our staff members at the Kentucky Baptist Convention have taken huge strides in healthier eating, weight loss and exercise. When that happens, energy levels rise, work production increases, health care costs diminish, life becomes more enjoyable, we set better examples for those whom we lead in ministry, we enhance our credibility, and, most importantly, we honor God with our bodies.
If you, like most Kentuckians, struggle with obesity, let me encourage you to make a new commitment to “lay aside every weight,” literally and figuratively, and strive to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). God will be honored.
Paul Chitwood is the Executive Director-Treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.