Facing our greatest weakness, together

1988 was the first time I lost 100 pounds. I’d dieted before and lost as much as 40 pounds but this was the big one; the diet to end all diets. Reaching my ideal goal weight according to a medically accepted height to weight table, took 10 months on a pre-packaged meal plan with rigorous daily exercise. Naturally, when I reached my goal weight, friends and family were thrilled and wanted to celebrate my success with a festive meal. Here and there I slipped a bit, all the while reassuring myself I could balance out the pounds gained by cutting back “next week”. But next week never came.

lightheadednessA year later, I had regained all the weight and then some. Compliments ceased and my self-esteem nose-dived. When finally I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I hoped it would be the solution to my obesity. Sadly, the pounds so easily gained with a slow metabolism, didn’t come off when I began taking Synthroid®. At least I had more energy and my frequent bouts with lightheadedness, caused by very low blood pressure and a slow heart rate, subsided. Still it saddens me that 5 or 6 doctors over as many years didn’t suspect thyroid problems in a chronically dizzy and exhausted fat man with the resting heart rate of a marathon runner.

After several more diets ended in failure, it was very difficult to ratchet up the courage to try once more. When finally I did, I chose a low carb diet since they had worked before and were easy to follow. Once more I set out to reach my goal weight, 150 pounds away. My wife dieted with me, opting instead to follow a low calorie, low fat diet. Together we lost more than 100 pounds over 8 months of dieting with regular exercise. We felt better about ourselves and were encouraged by the compliments of doctor, family, and friends.

Then without warning, I was struck down with severe abdominal pain and landed in the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a gangrenous, grape-fruit sized gallbladder. One week later I was readmitted to the hospital with jaundice. The doctor who performed an ERCP to give my leaking bile duct a chance to heal, laughed at me and snarked “destroyed your gallbladder with the Atkin’s diet, did we!?!”

My self-esteem and confidence tanked in the year following the surgeries, struggling in vain to keep the weight off while learning what I could safely eat without a gallbladder. Unceremoniously dumped back where I’d started from, I gave up. There’s just no beating my weight problem.

You may wonder whether I prayed; whether I “surrendered” it. Of course I did, a thousand times over. The only thing that came of it, is the sure knowledge that formula Christianity is powerless, just as I am powerless to change myself. So I rationalized, thinking maybe I’m just supposed to learn “my grace is sufficient for you”, forgiving yet again, every insensitive klutz who ever made a fat remark in my presence.


But then there’s the frustrated discussions with my beloved about being a “leader” with regard to diet, which made little sense to me since she is a retired home economics teacher who mostly taught foods and nutrition. She has a point; scripture does say the man is the head of the wife. I’m still the “spiritual head of the household” even if I’ve failed every time I’ve waged battle with the weight and health problem. A record of dismal failure does not let me off the hook.

Still, our frank conversation cut me to the heart. I had failed my beloved; the one person on earth I had hoped never to fail. You see, husbands are supposed to be knights in shining armor and wives, the princesses for whom we wage war and slay dragons.

But this knight is beaten and broken.

The shower is a good place for a broken knight to cry. And pray. Or in this matter, plead. I couldn’t bring myself to try again because experience has taught me the outcome of the battle even before I march out onto the field. Failure. Defeat. Humiliation. Guaranteed.

Slumped on the edge of the bed, numbly staring at the floor, I heard the Father speak. His was such a simple word of instruction that I would never have thought of it:

Share a single plate.

A host of benefits and possibilities flooded my mind. When my wife came in to prepare for bed, I was still hurting from our conversation earlier and cautiously shared the word with her. Karen received it with joy and replied “it is from the Lord”. Our very next meal she prepared on a single plate, which we ate face to face over the corner of our dining room table. It took us twice as long to eat half as much, while talking and listening to each other. Just like that, eating a meal has become an intimate and fun activity done together, with joy and laughter.

“Look at that cherry tomato; you love those” I said and rolled it across the plate to my wife. “You love radishes” she said and pushed them with her fork like a bulldozer toward my side of the plate.

On the night we finished off two single servings of leftovers, we prepared separate salad-sized plates; I had a 4 oz. brat and she had a 4 oz. steak. As we sat down to eat, the Lord said to me:

Trade plates. Feed each other.

“Yes Lord” I said while exchanging the plates and instantly, Karen understood the Lord’s instruction by the Spirit. When I cut and fed her a bite of steak, I watched and waited for her to chew and swallow, as did she for me. It proved to be a beautiful lesson in sharing, yielding, and leaving food on the plate, since it took a full 30 minutes to eat, by which time we were full. For us, leaving food on the plate is practically unheard of! Leaving food on a salad-sized plate? Never! Yet there we were, full after 30 minutes, with a few bites of food left on each of our plates.

Feeding each other also had the wonderful blessing of remembering when we were courting and enjoyed a picnic lunch at Lake Bloomington in Illinois. Surrounded by autumn gold, we reclined on a blanket beneath the cross at a church camp where Karen had attended numerous gatherings, fed each other grapes, and exchanged promises.

So how did that romantic, head-over-heels in love couple of 20 years ago, ever get to the place where we were snarfing down plates heaped with food in front of our computer monitors and the TV?

Continued in the post Cleave for the win! (link)