I’m not sure exactly why, but often a song comes to mind – sometimes only a snippet – when I think about the topic words for each month’s post. July’s very apt subject is freedom, so it makes sense, doesn’t it (I’m asking for a friend) that the song that pops into my head is none other than the (ahem) hymn Me and Bobby McGee. I’ve linked it here, in case you are over 40 and know who Janis Joplin is and have an earworm because of my mention of the song.
Rabbit trail much? Kind of. Except this lyric really is the cornerstone of my post:
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
It’s in this freedom, knowing my worth is in God alone, that I can share something really personal with you. Why would I open myself up by sharing this piece of my life with you? Because: two things. First, I am wired to process my feelings and thoughts in writing. And secondly – and more importantly – if my story resonates with or helps someone else, then I believe God will be glorified.
You see, even though this is personal to me, it’s not terribly out of the ordinary. I struggle with body image and eating well. I had a very thin mother, growing up, and those who carried extra weight were looked down upon in my family, typically as lazy or stupid. Not always. There were exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, “fat” was to be avoided at all costs. I share this part of my story not to cast stones at my family of origin, but to give background. Nobody is perfect, and my family did the best they could with what they had. However, whether overt or subtle, I knew and began to internalize that being “fat” was bad and being “thin” was good. This laid the groundwork for a lot of self-doubt, especially through junior high and high school, when, let’s face it – every girl hates herself, at least a little. I began to see myself through the lens of “fat”. Why? Well, for starters, I didn’t know anything about figure types. Most of my friends had hips and tiny waists. The Lord chose to make me with neither. Instead, my body type has broad shoulders, narrow(er) hips, no defined waist, a semi-large bust, and absolutely no butt. So, back in the ‘80s, when my friends were buying size 5s, I was purchasing size 9s. Styles in those days were alllllll about the super high waist and I couldn’t wear those high waisted garments without strangling my poor rib cage. In 1984, as a sophomore in high school, I measured 5’6” and weighed 124 pounds, and in my mind, I was a big, fat pig.
Fast forward to trying on my wedding dress. No one told me that I’d be trying on a sample dress, and like sample rings, this was too small for me. I had to have the dress clipped in back in order to close it. My fragile body ego took another hit when I had to order a size 10 wedding dress. Oh, the scandal! Aside: No shade thrown to those women who are smaller. I know body image issues go both ways, but I’m sharing my personal point of view.
Right before my husband and I began “trying” What is trying, anyway? Such as silly use of the word to conceive our first child, I decided that I had gained enough weight (I was in the mid 130s) and needed to diet. I worked in a hospital, and the dietician was running a program, so I hopped on board. I lost about 12 pounds.
My weight returned to “normal” very quickly after I had my son. After having my daughter, two years later, I again returned to pre-pregnancy weight fairly quickly.
And then I was diagnosed with post-partum depression.
And a month or so later, my mom died unexpectedly.
And then? We took our little family and relocated from Colorado, our childhood home. My husband had found a job where he would have less travel, and as the kids were very young and I wanted him home, we opted for the chance to spend more time together and settled in the Seattle area, where we knew no one.
So, within two years after I gave birth to my daughter, I was flirting with the low 190s, and have gained and lost about the same ten pounds for the last 16 years. Last Christmas, I achieved a personal record for weight gain. 204 pounds. Man, no camouflaging or camera angle could hide that I was now in the obese category for my BMI. I had become all I had feared in terms of being “fat”.
Friends, I have beaten myself up repeatedly about my weight gain. I have called myself the meanest names in the book, and when I have attempted healthy eating programs (e.g. Weight Watchers) in the past, I would starve until my weigh in, crossing my fingers that I had denied myself willfully and strategically enough for the scale to go in the “right” direction, and then go to McDonald’s for breakfast. What a vicious, nasty cycle, filled with the lies of the enemy. Not worthy. Not pretty. Not enough. Not smart. Lazy. Stupid. Failure.
Sadly, it’s usually desperation, rather than wisdom which leads us to confess, repent, and cry out to Jesus. I was desperate. I cried out. And then I got busy.
“God, I am so broken by this. My lab numbers aren’t healthy. I just had a breast cancer scare, and God, I don’t want to be this out of control! I want to do all of the things you have ahead of me. I want to be active and healthy. I want to be the sexy wife for my husband of 27 years. I want to be the fun Grammy (one day), and I desperately want to feel good about the body I’m in.”
God is so faithful. My revelation, which I have had before, but haven’t LIVED, is that I am free because of Jesus. I am free to live well or to live stuck. I am free to have as much chocolate as I want. And I am also free to choose healthy foods every day. I’m free to cop an attitude when I’m tired of being sensible. And I’m free to repent of that, give thanks for the health and body that I DO have, and regroup. I’m free to choose to live under the banner of grace, rather than the yoke of lies. I have nothing to lose except that which holds me back.
My revelation, which I have had before, but haven’t LIVED, is that I am free because of Jesus. I am free to live well or to live stuck.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV
Epigraph: By God’s grace and life-giving perspective shift, I am finally down a significant amount of weight and still pursuing my spiritual and physical health. By His mercy, I am daily choosing to say no to the lies of worthlessness and lack, and yes to discipline, to framing this issue of excess weight as a hindrance, rather than a big, red X of shame on my character. I’m choosing to embrace the idea that I am an image bearer of the One who made me and loves me most. Worthy. Beautiful. Enough. Do I wish I had come to this peace and knowledge earlier so that I could have raised my kids in a more healthful manner? Oh, my, YES! But I can’t think about that. I must focus on the race before me. And I will.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12 NIV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 NIV