I wish I could remember who said this, but I love it even if I can't correctly attribute it. Speaking on what is good about the church, she (whomever she is...) said, "Your yoga teacher won't bring you a casserole when your mom dies." She was talking about the community that is at the heart of who the church is. Don't get me wrong, sometimes the church blows it. Sometimes we become gossipy and self-interested, but that happens within any organization. Yet, a church can be a very valuable gift when you need someone to be in your corner.
I've been interested to see this unfold as I've become public with my journey of losing weight. I was kind of nervous about being so open, but especially as a leader. I wondered if people would frown when I let them know that I would be making time for the gym and that it was a priority. I wondered how many I would upset when I hit the point of no longer eating at church dinners. (Which has actually been a gift-- now I'm free to talk and listen and make eye contact, knowing that I'll eat my 200 carefully measured calories at home.) I made a game plan for defending myself, saying that if I wasn't healthy, then I couldn't be a healthy pastor for them. But I've never needed to defend myself. No one questions it when I go to the gym mid afternoon if I have an evening meeting. Aside from curiousity, no one seems to mind my lack of food consumption at meals.
And more than not needing to defend myself, I've actually found myself on the receiving end of lots of support. I have an elder who calls me "Slim." ( I tell him that his elder status is not in question and that he doesn't need brownie points, but we both know he gets them!) I had a lady who used to work for weight watchers offer to make some low calorie things just for me so I wouldn't feel left out. And when I told another lady that I had some questions as to whether I needed to see a doctor to rule out some medical issues, she not only gave me a recommendation, but is faithfully following up with me every time she sees me to make sure that I do it. Someone once told me that "a real friend is one who loves you into being accountable for the intentions you set for yourself."
But maybe that's more than friendship. Maybe that's Koinonia. Koinonia is the greek word that loosely means "fellowship" or "common life." But in classical Greek, it also means partner or companion. The idea denotes a unity of purpose in some ways. In other words, because my health matters to me, it matters to them. They see themselves as partners in what I would have described as a completely individual journey. Maybe that's why Weight Watchers is so popular-- because anyone who has ever done this knows that it's easier to have a community. I'm grateful for the ways my congregation teaches me about Koinonia-- and for the ways they love me enough to help me love myself.