In the life journey of Jordan Erickson, perhaps one lesson he’s learned is that it isn’t simply enough to ask how one should live, but to ask why.

This is one of many spiritual revelations he gleaned when he experienced a physical transformation from January 2019 to the present day, but when Erickson speaks of losing 130 pounds after years of struggle, it’s rarely in terms of physical dimensions, so much as it’s a matter of the soul, mind and body — in that order.

That is, if he talks at all. Erickson expressed reluctance to draw attention to himself, but agreed to share his story if it would shine a light on God’s transformative love, not his own personal endeavors.

“I don’t want it to be about myself, I want it to be about other people,” Erickson said. “I want it to be about making sure that other people feel empowered and feel that God is with them.”

Erickson, 27, originally hails from White Bear Lake. He settled in Iowa for a time before coming back to Minnesota to settle in the lakes area during 2017 on the way to an internship, then interim role, then his current job as director of youth ministries at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter.

It’s been something of a lifelong struggle to maintain a healthy weight, said Erickson, who topped out at 306 pounds in 2017 and pointed to a history — both his, as well as his family tree’s — of slow metabolisms, poor thyroids and bad habits that were difficult to shake. As he puts it, he’s always enjoyed the “finer things of life.” In addition, Erickson said he injured his knee previously, which made it tougher to exercise, but noted if it wasn’t an injury, another excuse would have found a way to hamper his progress.

“It doesn't matter if it's weight loss or if it's spending time reading scripture, or your hobbies or anything like that — we can always find excuses not to be intentional about working towards those things,” Erickson said. “And that was kind of where I found myself.”

The road back to better health was truly a kind of transformation, Erickson said, not only of his physical body, but of mindset and motivation. He noted he’s been driven to present himself as a good example to the roughly 150 kids under his care — and that remained a key reason for why Erickson took the steps that he did — but Erickson said the breakthrough moment came when he realized he had always tried to lose weight in order to to please others, when it had to be a journey of self-realization and service to God.

“I prayed to God and I said, ‘OK, I don't know how in the world to make this happen because every single time I try to make a concerted effort to lose weight, I fail at it,’” Erickson said. “The Holy Spirit really led me to the conclusion I'm a people pleaser. It was always, you were trying to lose weight for the sake of other people, or you are trying to lose weight for training standards. You are trying to lose weight for all of these different reasons, rather than losing weight because you want to take care of your body as a temple to the Holy Spirit.”

When he came to that understanding, he said, stumbling blocks that previously derailed his efforts to lose weight became lesser, even superficial problems to overcome. That doesn’t mean there weren't challenges or moments of weakness, he said, but they paled in comparison to what he had set out to do.

Erickson, who repeatedly noted he’s not following a “fad diet,” emphasized it was about making healthy, realistic eating choices and trying to be more active. For the first month, he tried to significantly curb his intake of junk food, but even then he was reluctant to commit to anything more drastic. In fact, he said that diligently following a strict health regimen posed its own risks as well, as it could supplant God as the focus in his life and enslave his will just like any other distraction or temptation.

When Erickson arrived in Brainerd in August 2017, he was 306 pounds. He started his journey January 2019 and, as of this week, he said he had lost 130 pounds, or 46% of his body mass, through trusting God and actively making good choices at every opportunity. As a result, he’s found every area of his life improved, and yes, that includes his physical health and energy, but also his spiritual vitality as well.

And, of course, just like any spiritual journey, Erickson’s course doesn't have a destination, but represents a lodestar which he seeks after every day.

“I'm going to just let it happen naturally. I'm going to continue because really for me it wasn't necessarily just about the weight loss, it was about creating a healthy lifestyle so that I could continue to honor God with my body and also to make sure that I can keep up with our students,” Erickson said. “We just have an incredible group of teenagers here at Lakewood and I wanted to make sure that I could live life abundantly with them.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch.