Transition yields transformation.
For years, the warrior conformed himself to a certain standard, been pounded into the mold. Now, with fewer constraints, he is free to make himself into that which he desires. Many plan for years prior to retirement, creating a vision of themselves and then reshaping themselves into that image.
Often it’s vocationally driven. Some commit to a particular profession and conform to a new standard. I have a couple of friends on Wall Street, suits and all. Some enter law enforcement and adopt their quasi-military standards. Small business. Industry. Coaching. Teaching. Private sector.
Whatever the field of endeavor, interestingly their first order of business is often to grow out their facial hair or all of their hair, fostering a distinct homeless vibe. Testing the possible, I reckon.
For 26, nearly 27 years, I conformed to the image that the Army demanded of me, begrudgingly. Upon retirement, I entered full-time ministry, as I had prayed about for years.
And what did I become?
I became fat.
This was my transformation.
Is that appropriate for a pastor? Easy!
Ever since this kid pushed me in homeroom in 7th grade, I wanted to be big.
A naturally wiry kid, I wrestled the 98 pound weight class in 9th grade and didn’t have to cut weight. So I stopped wrestling, started lifting, and ate everything I could get my hands on. Everything. Shakes were my thing, peanut butter shakes, with ice cream, and five raw eggs, and a scoop of protein powder, two scoops.
I recall a 22 taco binge once.
Amino Acids. Weight gainer. Creatine.
I didn’t try juice because of cowardice, not any moral convictions. I was afraid I might get caught, but my efforts worked. In three years, I doubled my body weight, in a good way, and earned a starting position on the football team as a reward for my labors.
And I never got pushed in home room anymore.
I believe I’ve handled the transition pretty well thus far…or am handling it, rather. You’ll have to ask my wife to be sure.
From the army to the pastorate of a small church, I went from structure and rigidity to having absolute flexibility in my life. I possess near complete autonomy with few external demands. I help homeschool my sons, minister to my congregation, write a bit, get a lift in when able.
I’ve definitely felt a little lost at times as I’ve written about previously, but seem to be coming out of that as I’ve reshaped my priorities. Rather, the Lord has been doing a work in me, conforming my desires to His.
We even successfully negotiated housebreaking a new puppy with no meltdown from me. A few close calls, but no meltdown.
I’ve always had a pretty big appetite, tempered by a modicum of necessary self discipline, but since retirement, I’ve noticed an unusual condition.
I eat every single thing I get my hands on. Everything!
An entire large pizza. No problem. Chips and salsa until I’m on the cusp of yacking. Sure, I’ll eat a salad, but I’ll chase it later with an entire can of Pringles. An extra sandwich at Chik Fil-a. French fries and did I mention pizza. I actually eat, inhale really, a double Bacon King from BK and then go home and eat dinner. Two chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks. Not one. Two.
Cheat day after cheat day.
My generous daughter left two candy bars on my desk the other day. Without hesitation, I destroyed them both in less than a minute.
I can’t explain it. I’m not sure why, but my gluttony seems to know no bounds.
I’ve never been a runner.
In fact, I hate running, distance that is. Doesn’t contribute to my objective. Detracts even.
The only thing I hated more than running were scranny Army officers who made me run. While serving in the division, our commanding general was one of these runners (I say as I spit onto the floor and wipe my mouth unceremoniously!). He weighed about a buck thirty soaking wet and could run till the cows come home and took great pride in taking his officers out for a leisurely jog at a nightmarish pace.
Run for your job, literally.
Nearly vomiting, white foam forming at the corners of my mouth, stumbling, gaggling—I always managed to keep up, barely. I used to fantasize about locking this man in a sweet rear-naked choke or lining him up on the deadlift bar, seeing how much gumption he possessed when confronted with his own weakness.
But standards are standards. Requirements are requirements.
And so I ran, some, and I maintained a bit of discipline in my food consumption, as I must. Had to make body fat standards—I never even sniffed the height-weight standards—and had to score reasonably well on the APFT.
Much as the common grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ restrains sin, so the Army actively restrained my gluttony, though I wasn’t even aware of it. I should’ve seen it coming, especially since…
God gave me a precursor.
After my second knee surgery, I finally relented to a permanent profile. Run at your own distance and pace which, for me, meant never.
“Train me like an aging defensive tackle,” I directed my strength coach. If it was within a 10 meter radius, I wanted to be able to close with and destroy it as rapidly as possible. Outside 10 meters, I’d concede for another day. My body began to respond accordingly and I began to look…like an aging defensive tackle.
If I thought the Bod Pod was devilish, the trainers’ new electrical impedance device was an absolute nightmare.
Whereas the Bod Pod utilized air displacement to let you know just how much blubber you were carrying around, this new device actually ran a current through you and could tell exactly where your blubber was located on your body.
There’s nothing like being confronted with cold, hard data.
Here’s your percentage.
Do the math.
Realize you are carrying around the equivalent of a 4 year old child’s worth of lard…and the majority of it resides in your gut.
“It takes mass to move mass,” Mike, the head strength coach, tried to console me. After a bit more cajoling, he talked me off the ledge and I headed back to the weight pile. Still gotta get a lift in.
The Dream: Fat no More
25 pounds…not good pounds.
The collusion of gluttony and idolatry—my worship of physical strength—inflamed by the absence of restraint yielded the expected result. All of this masked the prideful heart deep beneath my newest layer of blubber.
I confided about my struggle to some brothers, ex-military themselves. Seems this isn’t unique to me. Change wrought this unexpected development. My vigilance, focused elsewhere, failed to anticipate something so simple, but so unsurprising.
Though if this is the extent of the struggle, I’ll count myself blessed. My wife likes me big. My kids don’t really care. A hefty Baptist pastor seems appropriate. As long as I can maintain physical domination of my sons, or the appearance thereof, then we’ll call it success. I have a few years to that regard.
Yet, Monday will be six months exactly. Perhaps it’s time to get tighten up the shot group…but not till Monday. My daughter made cheesecake tonight.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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