I have a love/hate relationship with Weight Watchers. I love how I lost nearly 40 pounds in 1997, just before going to seminary. I hate how I have gained the weight back and now pay Weight Watchers again, struggling to figure out how to lose it once more.
I love the meetings when I have lost weight and have something to celebrate. I hate the meetings when the person weighing me says, "Are you sure you are tracking everything you are eating?"
And yet, there is something powerful about these meetings - about people coming together because they want to lose weight. Yesterday, I watched in awe as one success after another was celebrated. Hands kept on clapping as one woman shared how she was moving more, another person shared how she lost 1.6 pounds, yet another woman said she was on vacation but only gained .5 pounds. People clapped loudly, cheering each other on. And every time there was a celebration, the leader said, "Let's share the love," getting the crowd to clap louder.
We then got to the place in the meeting where the leader asked people to share different struggles. The first person to open her mouth shared how her husband had lost his job on Friday. The whole room let out an audible, "oh no." She continued to share how when she got home, she first wanted a cigarette, but instead of returning to this bad habit she ate all of the chocolate she could find. No one scolded her for eating chocolate. Instead, one person said, "I'm a recruiter. Please give me your husband's resume." Another person said, "I completely understand." Still another said, "I would have probably ordered an entire pizza." One expression of empathy was shared after another. It was powerful.
I like to think that the church, at its best, offers this kind of community. I like to think that our churches are places where we can share every good thing happening in our lives and be cheered on by others in the congregation. I like to think that our churches are places where we can express our struggles and our disappointments and our failures and have people be with us - helping us to rise above it and move forward.
I love what I experienced at Weight Watchers yesterday. But I love the church even more - the time on Sundays when we ask, "How is it that we can pray for you this week? Where is it that you need to experience God? And what are you thankful for?" This is the church at its best.