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The Benefits of Being an Outsider
A few years ago, our family went to the beach with some friends who subsequently posted photos of our gathering on Facebook.
When I saw myself, I couldn’t believe it.
Did I really look like that?
I wasn’t fat, mind you. I had just grown a little too comfortable with myself over the past few years.
Sporadic workouts. Netflix and late night snacks. A lifestyle of hunkering over the laptop. Stress eating.
One look at that photo and something clicked in me.
I immediately stopped eating snacks after dinner. I cut back meal portions by putting only one serving of food onto my plate and eating nothing else. I never missed a workout and started drinking hot tea whenever the compulsion struck me to put anything in my mouth.
For the first few weeks, it was brutal. Every cell in my body cried out for relief. But I bore the hardship knowing full-well that I was breaking an addiction.
Six months later, I had lost 40 pounds and attained my ideal weight. I had to replace all my clothes with smaller sizes.
All because I saw a photo of myself. All because I saw my situation from the outside looking in.
We own a retreat center on the western side of Virginia.
When we purchased it, the place was filthy. Dead rats under bunk beds. Bathrooms that hadn’t been cleaned in years. Broken windows and non-working equipment.
It took us a solid year to turn things around, but now the property is sparkling. Immaculate. Squeaky clean.
The previous owners weren’t failures, just familiar.
Familiarity breeds neglect. When we get used to things, we overlook their true condition.
There’s a reason why companies tend to perform better after their founders die or retire.
The new leaders aren’t smarter. They’re outsiders. They can see every problem from the outside looking in.
A few weeks ago, I felt funny about doing something that I’d been planning for months. It was just a feeling, I told myself, so I did it anyway.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d made the wrong decision. I just didn’t know why.
Then, the other day I was reading in Genesis 15 where God tells Abraham to gather some animals for a sacrifice.
It says, *Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other...*
For some reason, Abraham cut the animals in half. The text doesn’t say God told him to do it. Maybe it was protocol. Maybe he had a feeling?
It goes on to say...
“The birds, however, he did NOT cut in half.”
Uh oh. The text makes a clear distinction between what Abraham did and didn’t do. I think there’s a good reason for that. Abraham stopped short of doing what God wanted.
Sure enough... “Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away...” turning his precious sacrifice to God into merely roadkill.
One look at that passage and something clicked in me.
I had done exactly what Abraham did: Ignored the still small voice. God was nudging me, but I had brushed it off. I went ahead and did what God didn’t want me to do.
That thing I had been working so hard on for months? Nothing came of it. All of my precious work is still lying there lifeless for the birds of prey to devour.
Reading that passage was like holding up a mirror.
Looking back, I can see now that God was trying to whisper to me, to warn me, but I charged ahead anyway because “that’s the way we do things around here.”
*Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. -James 1:23-24
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