It’s that time of year when many of us go on diets, begin exercise plans, and set new health goals. For some of us this new mindset will be the beautiful beginning of a lasting lifestyle, but for others it is rather short-lived. Or maybe you’re like me, and you haven’t even started that dieting process yet. Tomorrow is another day, right!?! I know, I know, there’s no time like the present. Arghhh.
Anyway, this is my VERY FIRST blog post (insert all the feels here: equal portions of excitement, terror, vulnerability, joy, and anticipation). My blog title was chosen because I’m passionate about living not just well or healthfully, but VIBRANTLY. Thank you for stopping by to read it, and I hope you visit again.
Recently my husband was completing an annual health survey for his medical sharing plan when he encountered this surprising question: “I apply some of my talents and time in the voluntary service of others.” The survey required him to mark 1 of the 3 multiple choice answers that indicated the extent to which the above statement described him.
You might be asking yourself why a medical sharing plan (which meets the same objectives as health insurance) would be concerned with whether its participants volunteer their time to serve others. How could serving (or not serving) possibly impact one’s health and wellness?
For that answer let’s turn our attention to two geographical bodies of water in the Middle East: The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Found in the nation of Israel, both the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee are really lakes, and surprisingly, they are both fed by the same freshwater source, the Jordan River. They both are very similar in elevation and have existed for many thousands of years. They are also both referred to multiple times in the Bible, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.
The Dead Sea is known as a “hyper” saline body of water with percentages of sodium chloride and other salty minerals that far exceed those found in the ocean. This salinity makes it completely uninhabitable for fish and other animals. Even the banks of the Dead Sea are completely barren and resemble that of a desert. There are no trees, grasses, or flowers that grow on the banks or naturally in the immediate areas surrounding it. It is quite literally dead.
On the other hand, the Sea of Galilee is a freshwater body that absolutely teems with life. Its various flora and fauna have supported a significant commercial fishery for over two thousand years now. When you view pictures of the banks of the Galilee, you see an abundance of healthy trees, green grasses, brightly-colored flowers and other various types of plant life. It’s absolutely gorgeous with splashes of green on its perimeter in stark contrast to the deep blue color of the water.
So, how is it possible that two lakes which are both fed by the same fresh water from the Jordan River could have such a vastly opposite ecology? This is the difference. The Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee from the north and then flows out the Sea of Galilee southward, continuing on as a river. This Sea has an outlet of equal measure. It receives and gives, and it lives.
The Dead Sea, however, has no outlet streams. Every single drop that flows in from the Jordan River stays put. Water flows in but not out. It receives and keeps, and it is dead.
So back to the question on my husband’s health survey. How can serving (or not serving) impact one’s health and well-being? The answer is that we, as believers, are very similar to the two seas. God himself is our source, and he has given us a generous measure of unique gifts, talents, abilities and passions. When we use what He has given us in the service of others, we find joy, purpose, energy, and excitement, an abundant life.
But when we greedily hoard our God-given gifts, talents, and abilities, telling ourselves that we will wait to use them until we have the perfect set of conditions in our lives and schedules, our days will lack luster, and we will find ourselves consumed with trivial interests that don’t bring true fulfillment.
I remember a season of my life, 9 years ago, in which I was not serving anywhere. I was in the throes of new motherhood, staying at home for the first time in my adult life with a very demanding infant. My gifts and abilities had no other outlet, and I was desperately searching for significance. When my firstborn was a little over a year old, I settled on a new fitness goal, thinking this would bring me the meaning and recognition I craved. I worked hard, using self-control and gritty determination to reach it.
I keenly remember the short-lived feeling of satisfaction that came when I achieved that goal: running and finishing my very first half marathon. It was a good goal. Fitness is important for physical health. But I also remember the vague and inexplicable feeling of disappointment that came so quickly on the heels of this achievement. “What next?”, I thought. The “high” of accomplishment only last a few days, and then I needed something else, bigger and better, to bring me that feeling again.
It would be a few more years before I began to realize that pouring into others is what would bring authentic and lasting fulfillment into my life. Proverbs 11:25 tells us, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
Have you found true fulfillment in God’s purposes for your life? Will you allow Him to stretch you to serve beyond your own capacity so that you can be refreshed in a lasting and significant way? What can you do today to become more like the Sea of Galilee, with Christ’s gifts and blessings flowing in and out, in equal measure?
Pray: Father God, I want to let you flow through me to serve others. Please open my eyes to the opportunities around me. Allow me to be stretched, so that I can be empowered by you to do things beyond my own capacity.