Dec 19, 2013

: I think I'm fat 85% of the time (& Jesus is helping me)

When I was a junior in high school, I was 5’8” and weighed 190 pounds. I’ll save you a Google search and show you my place on the BMI Scale. A few more pounds and I would’ve been in the dark orange section and everything.

I always knew I was overweight. My sisters were born skinny, and their combined waistlines equaled my upper thigh. I constantly compared myself to them and every 120-pound celebrity that gallivanted around the beach in a bikini with her Thor-like boyfriend and cute puppy. After a combination of neglected abuse and watching one too many Disney movies, I decided I would stop eating my feelings away. I stopped eating altogether, and in three months I dropped thirty pounds and three dress sizes. Going into my senior year, I felt confident for the first time in my life because everyone paid attention to me. Boys thought I was pretty, I enjoyed shopping for clothes, and the popular girls let me hang out with them. It was everything I ever wanted. I wasn’t simply accepted, but worshipped. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, but mine was packaged with self-hatred, self-love, starvation, and the occasional gag-yourself-until-you-vomit bit as a punishment for eating chocolate.

Adding to the mess, I fell in love with Jesus around the same time. As the months passed, God revealed the upside-down truth that I would not be satisfied until he was worshipped instead of me. I was competing for his throne by demanding the world’s worship and affirmation. After listening to a hundred million sermons on body image, I found that most teachings fell into one of two categories:

First, there’s the “You’re so awesome and beautiful and perfect and the Lord doesn’t find one single flaw in you because you’re a sweet daughter of the King” teaching. I’ve always been turned off by this because I’m flawed, you’re flawed, and we all know it. My body isn’t perfect. If I sit down, I can count on having a roll in my stomach. If I’ve had Baja burrito, a second one is bound to show up. Zits frequent my face. I have a birthmark shaped like a strawberry on my stomach. My thighs have cellulite. Sometimes a singular hair grows on my chin like an 89-year old British lady with boils on her face. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily hard on feel-good teaching, but it seems that, while sprinkled with hints of God, this ultimately ends with more unsatisfying self-worship.

Second, there’s the “Eating disorders are idolatry!” method. I’ve heard lots of people say things like, “You’re thinking of your body more than you think about the Lord and his supremacy and perfection! Stop thinking about yourself and take every thought captive, like NOW!” I don’t even disagree with this theology, but many times it lacks grace. While it is true that most eating disorders ironically stem from idolatry and pride, we cannot forget that all of us are hurting. It’s not a simple, “Stop being prideful and you’ll stop binging on Oreos” fix. People are (literally) killing themselves for acceptance, hope, and love. Is it pride? Sure. But we need to be gentle about it, remembering that the prideful are covered with waterfalls of grace.

The whole reason I started thinking about this is in the first place is because I dyed my hair purple last week and all sorts of self-hatred, self-obsessed feelings came rushing in. Then I thought to myself: If my security was drastically shaken by a bottle of purple dye and a pair of scissors, there’s a problem. I also realized how many thoughts I have that deal with my weight: my arms being too fat or my face looking swollen. It’s become normal for me to obsess over my body and myself. I’m startled by how fragile the foundation is on which I’ve built my self-acceptance. It’s an “incurvatus in se” foundation— turned inward on myself. In the midst of these emotions, the Lord reminded me of a parable in Matthew 7:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I want to build my identity on a foundation that cannot be moved by society, the media, or “fat days.” I want to stake my acceptance on a Rock that knows and loves based on His worth, not mine. I want to remember that there is a better way of living, generously made available by a wonderful God. I do not have to be a slave to empty self-obsession. I have been made a worshipper of Christ by the cross. I have been founded on the Rock.

Children of God, be encouraged: you do not have to be enslaved by self-obsession, pride, eating disorders, and the like. Through the power of the Spirit, you and I can turn outward and become worshippers of Christ. If you are stuck in a cycle of self-obsession, there is room for you at the cross. Turn around and run to him. He makes self-denying worshippers out of self-obsessed rebels. There is hope. Run to him.

(PS: I don’t know if you’ve ever written a blog post, but sometimes you feel confident about them and sometimes you feel like you want to vomit. I am particularly nauseated about this post because it seems scattered and sloppy. But that’s also how I feel about the subject. That being said, please be gracious with me as I struggle through a difficult area. I’m not married to anything I’ve said; I’m just in the process.)

Dec 6, 2013

: what I learned about Jesus from Santa Claus

Every year on Christmas Eve, I helped my grandfather dress up like Santa Claus in the garage so he could make a special visit to my little cousins. I stuffed a pillow in his costume for a belly, covered his cheeks with rosy blush, and pulled out the same white wig he’d been using since 1993. He made a big entrance on the outside porch, waved to the kids through the window, dropped off a few presents, and escaped just before they could get a good glimpse of his face.

I loved seeing my cousins’ eyes fill with wonder. They screamed and jumped and trampled over each other to get the presents Santa left them: “I can’t believe he visited us,” they’d say, trying to figure out how he could possibly make it to the kids in China before morning. Like clockwork, my grandfather would walk in after his conveniently timed nap, stretch out his hands and yawn, then ask what all the fuss was about.

You’ll never believe it! Santa came! He really came! You missed it!
I think I saw Rudolph on the roof, too!
He gave us presents a day early, can you believe it!

My grandfather laughed and smiled and asked a hundred questions: “What did Santa look like?” “Did you see what color eyes he had?” “Is his belly as big as everyone says it is?” Hour after hour, year after year, he listened to his grandchildren talk about Santa’s visit. His eyes were full of wonder, too—almost like something came alive in him when they talked about it with such confidence. Knowing the kids were clueless about his identity as Santa Claus, my grandfather wasn’t too concerned. He knew that one day, they’d understand. In due time, they’d be in on the big secret, too. One day, they’d be the ones stuffing pillows and helping put on fake wigs to give the next generation of children wonderstruck eyes. For now, he was satisfied with being wondered at.

It makes me think of when I first wondered about Jesus. I couldn’t make out his face, but I knew he was real. I knew it was him. I remember talking to my friends, babbling on and on about the new things I discovered: “Can you believe the cross covers it all? Like right now, he loves me as I am! Not some future version of me! Can you believe it?” I bet it brought so much delight to God, for me to be asking and believing and marveling about him. Day after day, year after year, he waved from the back porch, leaving gifts for me to rip open and enjoy. I had been wondering my whole life, really, until it clicked: He is real. Like really real. It didn’t seem to bother him that I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of his identity—that he was both the Giver and the Gift, the Wonder and the Wonderful One. He knew that one day, I’d be in on the big secret. He knew that in time, I would bear the image of Wonder, too.

Let us not lose sight of the simple enchantment of the Gospel—that God has gone to great lengths to make himself accessible. He waves at all of us from the back porch, leaving presents for us to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. Remember that he delights in your delight of him. Let your eyes be filled with wonder, knowing he is real and chose to visit you.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:3