In this season of plenty, plump turkeys abound – the kind stuffed on the table and the kind stuffed under it.
Too much gobbling robs Thanksgiving of its thanks for many. We wobble about through the holiday season, pouring recrimination upon ourselves for lack of discipline. We vow, “never again.”
Willpower and exercise help, but they run sooner or later into the wall of fat erected by our genes. There is only so much hope physiologically. Is there more spiritually?
Fred Marchant, in his poem Song of the Stomach (“Tipping Point,” Word Works, 1993), reports on memories of childhood fatness and its middle-aged reemergence:
I do not mean the organ [stomach].
I mean the flab, the spare tire, the ring
of flesh I carry with me, and do not love.
I will try to love you.
With both hands I will hold this portion of myself
before the bright morning of the world.
I will declare it my felix culpa,
my fall into the fallen,
my unruly badge of imperfection,
my doorway into the world of the shunned.
I will try not to hate you.
Moses needed his brother Aaron to speak for him, reminding him always of his personal inadequacy. Leaders need that reminder as much as they need to remember their adequacy.
Paul had a thorn in the flesh he prayed God would take from him. Instead he learned that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
A spare tire can be spiritually tiring. So also a bitter memory, a physical disability, an emotional burden, or a social scar. Any of these may be an unruly badge of imperfection. We wear it because we have to, not because we want to.
It may also become a doorway to the shunned.
The world is made up of many whose badges of imperfection leave them on the edges of social life. They are the left out: not invited to the party; no date for homecoming; no Valentine to cherish; not chosen in pick-up basketball; passed over at rush; waiting for their ship to come in.
Friendship with the shunned can teach us of grace. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. We may discover God in a new way there among the shunned.
The song the swollen stomach sings is sad and slow. The Blues can be sad and slow too. And beautiful.
Try to love it – whatever it is in you. Or at least not to hate it.