My pastor talked about serving others yesterday. As he did, I realized how selfish I’ve been about maintaining unhealthy habits. Any of you who’ve stuck around here long enough know that finding and keeping good routines is an ongoing struggle for me. Yesterday, I was forced to confront how that affects multiple areas of my life, including how well I can serve others. When my increasingly terrible sleep schedule has repercussions on everything from little chores to blogging, it isn’t just unhealthy—it’s selfish.
Which, of course, makes me think of sports anime. After all, an athlete’s body is his or her tool. Anyone who plays a team sport has an entire team relying on them to take care of themselves. If they neglect their own health, it’s not just a matter of poor self-care.
Take Araki Ryuuichi from Area no Kishi. He eats a lot of junk food, especially when he’s not playing soccer, so he gets really overweight. When he starts playing soccer regularly again, his teammates are all over him about it. His friends don’t care about his weight just because of his health—if that was their concern, they would have pestered him about it even before he came back. Nope, it’s because he’s one of their star players, and they need him at the top of his game. He can’t be there if he eats mostly unhealthy food and is carrying about 100 extra pounds around the field. (On a side note, please don’t model your diet after the diet they put Araki on… even a Google search could probably give you healthier, less outdated ideas.)
Most sports anime characters don’t need their teammates to nag and beat them in order to give their best to the team. They’re eager to improve themselves and to contribute, even when they won’t get any glory from it. I love Nabe (Watanabe Hisashi) this season of Daiya no Ace. He’s a relatively minor character, and even though he’s a second year at Seido, he doesn’t get to play in games. At the beginning of the season, he and a few of his friends begin to wonder about their place on the team. Nabe feels he’s neither as passionate nor as skilled as many team members. Then he starts to scout for the team. The data he collects on their opponents proves very useful.
Nabe knows he probably won’t get to play first string, but the team is important to him, and he offers his all. He doesn’t slack off on sleep, eating habits, or practice. He searches for ways to support first string, even beyond the ways his captain and coaches ask. Some of his continued practice is for himself, yes. But most of all, he considers himself part of team Seido.
What about you and me? As a Christian, I’m part of team Christ. I’ve acknowledged Jesus as my King, Savior, and Teacher, and I’ve repeatedly said, “Here I am, Lord. I am yours.”
Paul says to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.” In other words, instead of offering ourselves (or our animals) dead on an altar, we’re to live out our lives in God’s service… and in the service of the church. Here’s something I have to remind myself about: If I’ve offered my body up as a sacrifice, it’s not mine anymore. It’s God’s, and he’s entrusted me with it and its capabilities.
Two verses later, Paul expands on how we can offer ourselves:
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. —Romans 12:3-8, NIV
Verse 3 goes back a little to what I’ve written about Right View of Self. “Sound judgment” means you don’t think too highly or too poorly of yourself. Instead, we get to know our gifts, and we use them. Paul taught, preached, wrote, and planted churches. I blog. We can all serve… especially if we take good care of our minds and bodies, so we can offer our best to God (if you think your “best” isn’t enough, because your mind or body is too weak, I refer you back to that last link).
One of the first examples of service to come to mind is emptying the dishwasher. Last year, I liked to do that every now and then, after all my housemates had gone to bed. No one expected me to; it was just a simple way to contribute (and procrastinate on homework). But this semester, I’ve been exhausted and just in a general cycle of tiredness and ineffective production. As a result, it’s easier if I just ignore the clean dishwasher… and many other little ways I could serve others. I haven’t even been good about journaling, so I was hard-pressed for a topic today—how can I direct my readers to think about something if I haven’t done much reflection myself.
Am I overthinking this? Emptying the dishwasher is a small thing, right? But it’s a way to honor my housemates, to put those around me first. Think about it this way: how do we treat honored guests? We don’t let them help with the dishes, for one thing. We do everything we can to make them feel at ease, and to let them know we’re glad they’re present—and glad to make them dinner or whatever else we have planned.
I don’t have a prominent role on “Team Christ.” I’m not a preacher. My weekly audience, though plenty large in my eyes, is nothing compared to a published author’s. I’m an introvert, so even in my top condition, I can only have so many caring conversations with my friends. But there are still a thousand little opportunities to serve others in my daily life. If I keep abusing my mind and body in a spiral of weariness and procrastination, how can I even notice those opportunities to honor others and honor God, let alone act on them?
This week, when I’m dilly-dallying in the kitchen at 1:00am, I’m going to try to remember that I am not my own. I am God’s. My mind and body are his tools, so I need to take better care of them. I’m not sure how this will play out. When I next have access to a sticky note, I’ll try to put it on my laptop. We’ll see where it goes from there.