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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Broken Scale and a Revelation Part 2

It's been a while since I've written about this...I've wanted to update this journey of mine for a while. This felt like the right time.
I wrote "A Broken Scale and a Revelation" in 2007. I still have not stepped on a scale, two years later! I'm tempted sometimes when I'm at the gym and no one I know is looking, but I remember what weighing used to do to me. And I'm not going back. Never!
So much freedom and victory has slowly grown into my life. If I, for a minute, were to think and walk in the flesh, and not in the Spirit, I could slip back into old ways of thinking...allowing my mind to be a battlefield, where I constantly fought, and always felt defeated. But I know what it means to re-train our minds, to "no longer conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds." (Hebrews 12:2) There is freedom in Christ! Aren't you glad?!

I have received some very edifying e-mails lately on this topic, and I wanted to share them with you. First, I know I'm not alone in this struggle with body image. You know who you are. You know the things you say about you, whether outloud or in your head. You know how it monopolizes your thinking, and makes you a little less than rational. You know how it makes you think constantly about you, and keeps you from thinking about God and others. That kind of kills the first and second commandment. Not a good thing.
Here are some startling statistics from our church's resident superwoman and fitness instructor, Rachel. (She has started a fitness class for us ladies at the church, and is encouraging women in right thinking, holiness, incorporating scripture memory and prayer, and just plain kicking my tail twice a week. I love that girl.)

* 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat (YES, you read that right)
* 81% of TEN year old girls say their greatest fear is being fat
* Almost all mannequins that we see in stores today are too thin to bear CHILDREN
* EVERY single magazine that you pick up at the store and read the person on the cover has been airbrushed for that shot...EVERY single one.
* 67% of women age 15-64 have AVOIDED social settings at least once this MONTH because of how they feel about their body
* Over 10 million females suffer from some form of an eating disorder currently....that is more women than who currently have breast cancer
* EVERYDAY 80% of women express verbally to others a comment about changing their outward appearance/body. (that is only the verbal comments not the negative self thoughts).

That's a load of negative thinking, and it's a full-time job to think that stuff in your head, 24/7. Exhausting.

Let's just admit it. We are deceived, ladies. We are following the father of lies when we allow ourselves to think this way. Where is the victory? Where is the freedom? How small have we made the God of the universe in our life? How is God getting the glory?
Whether we are thin, too thin, or overweight, this all comes down to what is going on in our hearts. I had to admit two years ago, it was downright yucky. I was exercising regularly, and I wanted to think that my motives were for good health, but that was a lie and I knew it. My motives were 100% weight control. My contentment rested on a number on the scale and a clothes size. Honestly, when those things weren't satisfactory to me, I was ruined. I was grumpy. I was totally disghusted with myself.
I was deceived, and I was allowing the enemy a foothold in my life, and in my daughter's future.
I had to get honest about my motives. They were wrong.
My exercise was not wrong, but my motives were gross, and that's what matters to God.
So should I stop exercising because it tempts me to sin?
No! That's what we call throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (English expressions are so bizarre. I swear, the rest of the world must think we're crazy.)
No, my exercise needed to be for the right reasons.
Being a good steward of our body, called the temple of the Holy Spirit in scripture, can bring Him glory.
THAT needed to be my heart.
So if I couldn't go to the gym because my kids were sick for a week, or we had too much school work, I needed to not throw a little tantrum, saying "Fine! I'll just be fat!"
(Did I just admit that on the internet? So fun.)
Something that helped me, beside just plain, old accountability, and re-training my mind through prayer and scripture, which I'll talk about below, was setting fitness goals instead of weight goals.
Training for races has been perfect for me! I started with a 5K, then worked my way up to where I am today. When I'm training, I don't even think about weight. I know I'm giving my all and pushing myself. I've learned so much about endurance! God has spoken to me clearly during my runs. I talked a lot on this blog last year as I trained for my half marathon, and it was definitely a spiritual experience for me!
Need a race to train for! Ha! I've got one for you...
www.runforcompassion.com 5K/10K Yes!

Back to motives...
Here is a little motive checklist I got from my friend Ashley, who got this from the book "Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood". (I haven't read it yet, but I may ask for this for Mother's Day! It sounds amazing!)

1. Do I spend more time each day caring for my personal appearance than I do in Bible study, prayer & worship?
2. Do I spend excessive money on clothes, hair, and makeup, or is it an amount that is God-honoring?
3. Do I want to lose weight to "feel better about myself" or do I desire to be self-disciplined for the glory of God?
4. Am I on a quest for thinness to impress others, or do I seek to cultivate eating habits that honor God?
5. Do I exercise to try to create or maintain a good figure, or do I exercise to strengthen my body for God's service?
6. Is there anything about my appearance that I wish I could change, or am I grateful to God for the way He created me?
7. Am I jealous of the appearance of the other girls, or am I truly glad when I observe girls who are more physically attractive than I?
8. Do I covet the wardrobe of others, or do I genuinely rejoice when other girls are able to afford and purchase new clothing?
9. When I attend an activity, do I sinfully compare myself with others, or do I ask God to show me whom to love and how to do it?
10. Do I ever dress immodestly to with the intent of drawing attention to myself, or do I always dress in a manner that pleases God?

Pleasing God and honoring God with my body had to become more important to me than anything else. These sinful thoughts had to go.
I was created by Him and for Him alone. I have no rights to my own glory or selfish desires. Who did I think I was complaining to Him constantly about his handiwork?
Whose glory was I seeking?
I had to start taking off the wrong thinking, and replacing it with right thinking.
I had to meditate on scripture constantly. I mean CONSTANTLY! Here are just a few of them.

Rom 12:3-4
3 As God's messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.

Deut 7:6
6 For you are a holy people, who belong to the LORD your God. Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.

Col 3:2-4
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

1 Peter 3:3-5
3 Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful.

What is a gentle and quiet spirit?
The best definition I've heard also came from the book Ashley shared with me, by Carolyn Mahaney, and she says this: Carolyn says, "A gental & quiet spirit, simply put, is a steadfast peace because of a steadfast trust in God. A girl who possesses a gentle & quiet spirit humbly responds to whatever God chooses for her life, regardless of the cost."

I have meditated on that so much since she sent that to me. I definitely need this book!

This has been difficult to write...to sum up...to make sense of so much. But more than anything, I want us to know that our hearts and motives are what God sees and desires, our contentment in Him is mandatory, and our deception is thick and a travesty. If you belong to Him, you are His, His masterpiece, His vessel for His glory, and we ought to emanate the beauty of the Gospel with all we have! I want that to always be my heart cry. And yours.


aggierudy3 said...

I have learned so much from reading Girl Talk (even though my daughter won't be born for another month), Feminine Appeal, and the GirlTalk blog (girltalk.blogs.com).


Laurie M said...

Thanks for not only your honesty, Jenn, but also wisdom for overcoming the struggle. I often would say to myself that it's a daily battle, but it's only a battle if I'm actually fighting for change and not resting in the sameness.

His desire is for us to be WHOLE, and that comes from Him alone.

Ana said...

Wow, Jenn! Good word! I am printing this out to share right now!

Hendrick Family said...

I love that stuff Ashley sent from Carolyn Mahaney. The Girl Talk blog is amazing.

What a battle it is! Our minds have to be constantly ready and prepared to wage war. If not, it's just so easy to be sucked in by our culture.

It's also easy to fall on either extreme, completely ignoring our hearts and how they appear before the Lord.

It's easy to say, "Forget it...I'm not working out or watching what I eat...that's vain." Then we have no self control, are prisoners to overeating and we destroy the bodies God gave us.

It's also easy to say, "I should exercise all the time and watch what I eat constantly so that I'm caring for my body," when in fact, we're just vain.

We forget that God knows our hearts, and our holiness...NOT our weight or our jean size matters to the Lord.

Somehow, God wants to teach me to care for my body and at the same time be content, and not make it an idol.

What work He has cut out for Him. Good thing He's pretty awesome.


Tricia said...

I really loved what you wrote and I had to share it!! I know that many of the women who read my blog struggle with weight and body image and this was such an eye opener for me - I knew it would be for them as well. I wanted to share the link to the post I wrote with you, because I used a lot of what you said! I named by post Girl Talk - I am not the writer that you are but I hope you like it :-) Oh - and I also put it on facebook since I know a lot of the people who would be interested in it don't always read my blog. Thank you for always writing such inspirational posts!!

bekah said...

I love that holiness and quietness and gentleness are what the Lord says is beautiful-- something that we can all have. His ways are so much better than ours.

I have to be really honest, this post really struck me because for so long, I would have told you that I cared less about my "image." There are definitely two extremes, and I know that we are to steward our bodies well to the glory of God. The Lord convicted me of this and has used so many amazing women to teach me so much. But at times, and far too often I take it to the other extreme-- vanity. While I LOVE to be outside and ride my bike and improve my endurance, I also find myself thinking of how much weight bike riding will help me lose. Or how I will look in my jeans. PRIDE. That heart is NOT beautiful.
I pray that as women we would be the front-runners and the lights living out His word that says we are chosen, loved, princesses, adopted, beautiful, trained out of his love for us, gentle, patient, etc etc. We have access to all of these beautiful, eternal qualities.
So, thank you Jenn for brining us back to the Word. And I'm thankful that He always is faithful to show us what to "put-on" in place of our sin.


I never got back to you on dyslexia stuff. I apologize. I'm leaving for Nicaragua tomorrow, but if you would like to schedule a time when I get back, PLEASE let me know if you are still interested!

Holly said...

Thanks for this post!

I know personally all about this struggle! What has set me free and is setting me free in this area is the love of God. It's one thing for me to say, "I ought to have this or that motive. I should be living for God's glory. It's right to see it this way." But honestly, I'm on a strike against the words "ought," "should," and "right." :)

I want to be motivated not out of a sense of duty, ought, should, or what is the "right" or "better" or even "godly" way to view things. (When I do this, I find myself still to be self-serving... even though I say I'm doing something "for the glory of God" it can still subtly twisted in my heart as "doing this for the glory of God so that Holly can feel like she's living right."

I want to be motivated out of being His. I want to be motivated out of my relationship with Him. I want to be motivated by His LOVE and unconditional acceptance of me. I want to run (spiritually speaking -- not like running with tennis shoes on), not to be loved by Him, but because I am loved. Not chasing the wind in front of me endlessly, but letting the wind from behind me propel me forward.

I want to know His heart for me. He is pleased with my heart even when I "want to want" His heart... even if I'm "not there" yet.

I ask Him for the grace to see myself through His eyes. I ask Him for revelation of the Father heart of God. A father does not look at his baby girl and think "Those rolls have just GOT to go!" He loves her no matter what! He still thinks she is cute because she is his. :) And to balance that, I do think discipline and healthy eating habits are important, and that it's not honoring to Him to succumb to our flesh because "God loves us anyway."

I do think all this, like you said, is a heart issue. I think even more, for me, is that it's a relationship issue. When I get obsessed about these things, I have a little chat with myself, asking "how am I with Him? Did I get my heart needs met in Him this morning, or am I looking for them somewhere else?"

Are we believing what He has said about us? Are we trusting that what He has made is so good? Trust is a relationship thing... do I trust Him that He loves, and even likes what He sees?

I think of even the desire to want to be thin and attractive for a husband. If he thinks I'm beautiful as I am, and I'm still obsessed with losing 15 more pounds, it can become more about me and less about giving. If I'm focused on how I look during sex, I'm forgetting about dying to myself and giving to him. And it can get really self-centered. If he looks at me in all my tummy pudge and says "You are beautiful to me" -- am I going to trust him? It is like a slap in the face to not believe a husband when he says you're beautiful, because he is wanting you to trust him that what he sees, he likes. :)

So when I want to imagine how God sees me, I think of a father looking at his precious baby girl, and a husband looking at his beautiful bride. :) Both are relationship things.

I was thinking the other night about how we all hear that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. I agree. I also feel like we don't get told enough that God really DOES value our outer beauty too. :) It's almost like it's not spiritual to believe that we ourselves are outwardly beautiful.

I asked some jr. high girls, "What do you think when you look in the mirror?" A girl told me the other day, "mostly negative things." :( For years, I would've had the same response. One thing I am training myself to do is to look for the glory of God in my face. He says we are made in His image! We are His glory-bearers. :) Of all the ways God could show His likeness to the world, He chose us people! Wow! So now, when I look in the mirror, I smile at myself and see the glory of God in my face. :) I think we can appreciate how He has made us to look, and not let it be a vain thing. I think, like you said, the vanity is in wanting to look good to impress others, or in comparing ourselves to others.


Thank you so much for your bravery in approaching this topic with such honesty. :)

Jennifer Bacak said...

So great Holly! Thanks for sharing!