“When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.” Psalm 94:19 CSB
I’m in the process of writing a paper on Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. He was an amazing man, his heart for the Lord knew no bounds. The stories of how he shared Christ’s love with children truly touch the heart strings. He also has taught me something about discipline. I’ve always thought I was disciplined, but compared to Mister Rogers, I’ve got a long way to go. Grateful God doesn’t play the comparison game, and neither should we. But I do love when God reveals areas to me where I need work, like He did yesterday.
Mister Rogers weighed 143 pounds all of his life. Every morning he would get up and swim, then he would weigh himself to make sure the scale said 143. In order to maintain his weight he didn’t drink or smoke, he never ate meat, he went to be early and rose early, always getting 8 hours of sleep. Believe it or not, he didn’t even watch television. He was diligent about remaining 143 pounds for this one simple reason. 143 spelled “I love you” in Mister Rogers mind. This is how he explains his thinking: “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three. ‘I love you.’ Isn’t that wonderful?” Weighing 143 pounds is how Mister Rogers kept his mind focused on the love of God, for him and for others.
The definition of discipline could be explained in 143 pounds. Mister Rogers was a man who had his eyes focused so clearly on God, he couldn’t see much else. He didn’t live an elaborate life. The infamous sweaters he wore on his show were made by his mother. He always took afternoon naps. He knew clearly what his purpose was here on earth, he believed deeply that we are all God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27). When he was dying he read Matthew 25 often, he would ask his wife, “Am I a sheep?” He was fearful he hadn’t done enough for God in his time here on earth. Yet 16 years after his death, Fred Rogers Production has four children’s show developed from Mister Rogers neighborhood that are still going strong, still sharing the love of Christ. Fred Rogers turned down lucrative financial deals from advertisers because he refused to market to children. He wanted to keep his message pure and relevant. He wasn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues of divorce, assination, or racial tensions. He did it all with love.
Mister Rogers was a man who knew how to be happy with what he had. He knew how to keep his eyes focused on Jesus. Day after day, he sought to live for the Lord and do the right thing. And each day, he kept his focus by starting out his day on the scale, weighing 143 pounds. Managing his weight was his way of telling the world, “I love you.” If we want to learn to be happy with what we have, we can learn a lot from Mister Rogers. As he always said, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!”