Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year, Big Rocks, Big Waistline

How reassuring it was to hear Giles Fraser on 'Thought for the Day' this morning, critiquing the diet industry and talking about fatness and self-esteem. Even more reassuring to discover that, at 16 stone, he weighs in 3 1/2 stone heavier than I do. In the local Tesco corner shop, the Christmas displays have been replaced by a 'healthy eating' stand - positioned exactly where the legions of chocolate bars were sited just days ago. Don't you just love marketing? The hypocrisy is so overt that we don't even notice anymore.

Meanwhile Alex Ferguson has complained that the New Year crowd at the Man Utd. game was quiet. New Years Day? Hello? After a pretty restrained party with some friends I woke up (actually, 'woke up' is putting it too strongly) with a cold and a headache, and the last thing I'd want to have done is spent 2 hours surrounded by 75,000 people shouting at a referee. If they've been daft enough to spend £50 on a ticket, I guess they've earned the right to enjoy the game in silence. Judging by the press reports on record ambulance and police call outs over new year, sitting with a quiet hangover at a football match is the least of the sins committed in the last 72 hours.

On a more positive note, a spot-on new year sermon at St. Johns Yeovil (click here to hear the talk), based on an illustration popularised by Steven Covey, which goes something like this........

You have a bowl, and 4 other containers, one each containing rocks, pebbles, sand, and beer. Put the rocks in the bowl. Is it full?

...No, because if you pour in the pebbles, you can fit them in around the rocks, until the bowl is full...

...Except that it isn't full, you can fit in a surprising amount of sand into the spaces between the rocks and pebbles. And now it's full...

...Except that it isn't full, because you can pour in the beer, and that will fit too...

There are 2 morals to this excercise:
a) No matter how full your life is, there's always room for a beer.

b) Put the big rocks in first. If you fill the bowl with pebbles or sand first, there won't be room for the rocks. And the rocks are the things which are most important: God, relationships, health, character, calling, parenting, developing your gifts and so on. The sermon illustrated this with the story of Mary and Martha - Mary sitting at Jesus feet, because this was 'most important', compared to washing up and tidying the kitchen. Obvious really.

The other key feature of these big rocks is that they only demand our attention in a crisis. The rest of the time, our time, energy and attention will be demanded by sand and pebbles - emails, phone calls, little jobs that need doing, a TV programme, blogging something (!) etc. Unless we commit time and energy to the big rocks, they won't get any. I discover this anew every holiday. My morning workday routine includes time to pray and read the Bible. On holiday, with no routine to speak of, the prayer rarely happens.

Which is why New Years resolutions aren't enough on their own. A list of wishes is, unless you're possessed of iron will or a nagging wife/husband, pretty useless. Until the resolution becomes a plan with concrete steps - (book the gym appointment, work out which times in the week you'll go and put them in the diary) - it's not going to get us anywhere. Which is why we all end up depressed in February, because we've set ourselves up to fail at the start of the year.

It's good therefore to hear of some wisdom from American family therapists on realistic expectations of relationships. The myth of the perfect couple sets us up to fail, and this is much more damaging than being realistic, and accepting that I'm not perfect, you're not perfect, and that bad stuff will happen. The Bible already knows this (the technical term is sin), but it's a sign of where we are as a culture that when therapists notice it, it's suddenly news.

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