I always wanted to be a hippie. I was born in the 60’s, a little too late to join in all the fun (probably that is a good thing), but I remember sighing with admiration over the twenty-somethings with their long wavy hair, their long flowing skirts, and their cute little beetles plastered with messages of peace and love. Even as a five year old, I so wanted to be THEM. I was a little kid; however, I was plotting my course THAT early in life.
So over the years since, as you might imagine, I’ve done a lot of natural, “green” hippie-like things: cloth diapered, raised and milked my own goats, made yogurt, cheese, bread, peanut butter, sprouts - you name it, I’ve made it. I put countless miles on my car driving to buy raw milk, grown fruits and vegetables, recycled and repurposed, homebirthed/waterbirthed, doula-ed (is that even a word?), practiced the family bed and natural family planning, did extended breastfeeding, used herbs medicinally, and so on and so on; you get the picture!
And I have been fairly passionate about some of these things. It’s easy to be more than a little committed to our sought-out and informed choices, whether we’ve always done it this way or we are a new convert. But I’ve seen a couple of things happen as we exuberantly skip down the path to health and wellness. One is that we become all-consumed in our quest to purge our lifestyles. We get a little obsessed. Truthfully, there is almost no end to the ways you can up the ante on yourself in the quest for being more natural, more healthy, more green.
We get confused when we go to a restaurant like Sweet Tomatoes, with it’s 45 foot long salad bar: all those lovely fresh vegetables and salads and delicious yumminess galore, I mean, it’s not greasy hamburger and fries, but oh bummer, it’s not certified organic. Can I really eat this – is it toxic – is it bad, even though it is fresh and has the appearance of health? Our minds question everything and anxiety replaces enthusiasm. This quest for purity can be exhausting and guilt-inducing, especially when we fall short of our ideals or that other sticky trap we might fall into: living up to the ideals of others we feel are more green and earthy than we are.
The second, possibly even worse development that can happen is that we might become critical, judgmental, believing that we are “The Enlightened” while the unwashed masses drive their gas guzzling SUVs down the highway, laughing about their contribution to the death of our beloved planet. Okay, maybe we don’t actually think that. But we can start to feel HOLIER THAN THOU. We learn something new; we get excited about the benefits and obvious rightness of it all. It seems so, “of course this is better.” We want to share our knowledge with everyone else so they can know it, too. But they aren’t as impressed with cloth diapers as we are. They don’t want to give birth without an epidural or nurse their children for years on end. They don’t have a problem spraying their yards with every poison available or feeding their kids Ramon noodles.
And so it happens. The division. A crack in the relationship. We might not see it or admit it. But there it is: Other-ness. Not the same-ness we hoped for. We realize suddenly that we think differently. And then doing community with our neighbor becomes hard.
How do we wrestle with all of this conflicting thought-process to find balance in our lives? How do we let other people do what we think is a “no-brainer” wrong thing and accept them for where they are?
I think the answer lies in peace and grace.
Don’t you like how tidy and neat I wrapped that up? You know as well as I do that living-it-out is where the messy, difficult, sometimes painful stumbling and skinning our knees comes in.
First, Peace. It is important to be okay with where we are in life. I don’t mean that we become complacent and give up on learning and growing. We should never stop searching for truth; truth sets us free. And it doesn’t lead us into bondage. When we start feeling bound up and anxiety-ridden and fearful, we might need to step back and see if something is becoming a fixation and we are giving it too much priority in our lives.
We have to give ourselves permission to not be perfect all the time when it comes to those things that are not of the heart. This life is not about eating and drinking, and it’s especially not about how faithfully we recycle. We want to take care of our bodies and the world God made, of course. I believe we should do the best we can with these things. But we also have to just do what is possible at the moment, while remembering that our REAL purpose is to cultivate our love for God and for others. There is no end to what we COULD be doing, but maybe not SHOULD be doing right now.
Second, Grace. Gace is unmerited favor. That means we don’t deserve it. We didn’t do anything to earn it; God just gives it to us. We accept it from God and we give it to others. We give them space to be where they are in life at the moment, realizing that they are evolving just as we are. It is easy to start feeling threatened and defensive when others don’t agree with us. But one thing I have learned is the hard way is that gentle words and example woo much more effectively than our passion turned in pride or defensiveness and anger.
Oh, how we secretly want others to be like us and we search for people who do things like we do. We can’t help it because God made us for community. We want to belong somewhere, to be like-minded, and to have others to walk the path beside us. But the community that we were made for and we thrive in is actually not dependent upon agreement on peripheral issues. Granted, it makes things a WHOLE lot easier, and we do need friends who lift us up and support us.
But when for example you go to a birthday party and all they serve is hotdogs on white buns with sodas along with cake with ice cream, can we in good conscience take part in that? I believe that if at all possible for you, then yes, we should, so as to not offend and cause greater division.
This is where both peace and grace come in. We realize that everything we eat is a total waste; there is nothing good for us in any of it. We might choose to just eat half the hotdog, drink water instead of soda, and take a small portion of cake and ice cream. We can smile and thank the host graciously – sincerely. We try to go ahead and let ourselves actually enjoy the food, knowing that it is minor in the face of something greater in play, which is loving our neighbor.
This is peace for us and grace to them. We go home and eat a huge salad and lots of fiber and water and try to move everything out as quickly as possible, take extra supplements and eat super healthy or whatever for the next couple of days to compensate for the yucky stuff. But we don’t fret over it. And when we host those friends for dinner, we prepare the most delicious healthy food we can to bless them and show a different way at the same time.
One last thing on the subject of peace: there may be seasons when we need to let go of some of our ideals – for a short time or a long while, when other pressing matters take precedence in our lives. We are not failing, we are adapting. The things that are truly important to us will find a way back into our lives when the time is right. It helps to remember that other people may be having to do this too.
What are some ways that YOU have struggled in your quest for healthy living and how did you come to terms with it? And how have you managed to give grace to others who don’t agree with you and found some sort of community with them?
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