My friend Pam works for Back the Bible. She’s a researcher, and her primary task is to find out the most common obstacles to spiritual growth and then to offer a strategy for overcoming those obstacles. One morning, Pam and I sat across from one another at a table in the local coffee shop, and I asked Pam, “So, what did you find out? What are the obstacles?”
“Well,” Pam said. “For everyone — men and women — the top two obstacles are the same: fear and worry.”
Check, and check, I thought to myself. I’ve been trying to get out from under fear for a good part of my life. And, when someone doesn’t arrive where I think they’re supposed to be, when I think they’re supposed to be there, I automatically go to the, they-must-be-lying-in-a-ditch scenario. Worry is my go-to, when left to my own devices.
“But for women,” Pam continued, “the number three and number four obstacles to spiritual growth are criticism of others,” I nodded my head, “and food.”
I struggled to figure out how food could possibly be an obstacle to spiritual growth. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, especially when hanging onto the coattails of fear, worry, and criticism of others. Sit with it yourself, for just a minute or two, and let me know whether or not it makes sense to you, too.
We women are always counting our calories or complaining about our jeans size or categorizing in negative terms the shapes our bodies embrace. We are never satisfied, and we are experts in the conversations about calories in and calories out. Food becomes our nemesis. We limit our enjoyment of it. We section it off into “good” and “bad” based on whether or not we think it will settle on our hips. And then we wonder how she can eat a cupcake after dinner every night without ever seeming to gain an ounce. We label her metabolism good, and our own not so good. We measure ourselves against her and her. We watch our sisters as they pass us by, and we are tempted — oh, so tempted — to play a game in our heads that sounds like, “Who Wore it Better?” We rank our sisters against one another, and against ourselves, hoping we end up someplace near the top of the list. We worry when the arbitrary numbers we’ve assigned to breast and waist and hip size find us further from the top of the list than we would like. Sisters, the truth, of course, is that we fear we won’t be loved for who we are in this moment, right now.
We are fearful that our neighbors find us awkward or that the woman in line at the grocery store has taken note of our hips and found us wanting. We keep the lights off with our partners because we fear their rejection if they actually could see us in the light.
But Light is actually the cure for what ails us, isn’t it?
I’m just like the rest of us. I struggle to break the irrational logic that has set itself up in my mind. It tells me that I have to inhabit a certain type of body, a certain skin color, a certain way of moving through this world, if I’m going to be found worthy. It may be true that our culture has set a benchmark and then Photoshopped and airbrushed even that benchmark to the very most extreme reaches possible. But am I answering to culture, or to the Creator?
Here’s how to have a love affair with your body: carry the light of our Creator into your everyday intersections with our culture. When you look at yourself in the mirror, let your filter be the light of our Creator, rather than through the lens of culture. Our Creator looks at you, just as you are — lights on, makeup off, birthmarks, stretch marks, belly and breasts exactly as they are — and finds beauty, joy, and great delight.
Here’s the slippery slope culture has set up for us. It is the belief that there is a certain way we have to “be” to be worthy of love. There is a certain way we have to look to be accepted. Somehow, our minds make the mistake of believing our culture has the authority to determine our worth in this world. We hold our culture at arms length, refusing to associate or frequent or engage in conversation. We hold ourselves at arms length, too. But, when we carry the light of our Creator into our everyday intersections with our culture, all bets are off. When we press ourselves into the identity we’ve received from God, we reshape our culture and call forth the Kingdom of God — on earth, as it is in heaven. And right inside the skin we live in.
When we press into our true identity, our bodies become conduits for justice and mercy and grace and hope and unconditional love. Our bodies become powerful agents for good and for God’s Kingdom — with every step we take.
It is with our bodies that we serve our neighbor and advocate for all good things. It is with our bodies that we express passion for our partner or nourish our children or reach into the oven to retrieve the freshly baked loaf of bread. We use our bodies to reach across the table so we can hold hands as we say grace. Our bodies spread the icing on the cake and sing Happy Birthday and clap when the candles are blown out and tendrils of smoke rise to the heavens. And, with thanksgiving to our God, our bodies savor the goodness of the bread and the wine and the cupcake and the avocado.
God looked at the people God had made and said, “…very good.” We step across the thresholds of our homes with our bodies, and we carry the light of our Creator into our everyday intersections with our culture.
And it is very good.
Jody Ohlsen Collins
Deidra, I’ve been lamenting my gain of 15 pounds across the last two years and find my 60+ year old body close very, very far away from my post-baby weight of 120 pounds. That was 38 years ago, for goodness’ sake! That’s just plain unrealistic.
I would concur with your friend’s findings–I wrote a piece for JDukes Lee as a guest in January this year about the word ‘fit’–the gist of which shared my thoughts about the obsession with my weight preoccupying my mind to the point where I couldn’t think about God.
Here’s what I mean–when I focused on my (literal) flesh and fatness and tightness of clothes all the time, the emotional toll and mental energy left me no room for spiritual input or access–I was just too obsessed to be freed up for any other thoughts.
My solution–go to the Goodwill–always my go to place for clothes–and BUY CLOTHES that fit.
When I’m comfortable in my clothes, the rest of me is ‘free’–does that makes sense? ’cause I’m not so focused on how I feel. And 99% of the time when I talk about my weight gain,people say, “you look great”–another confirmation to me that it’s the enemy’s doing to keep us so focused on how we look.
Reality check–I’ll be 63 in a few weeks. This is what 63 looks like!
Great post, my beautiful friend!
A thousand amens, Deidra. We are our worst enemies in a war that we have created in our minds, with the help of our culture, and that acts like an autoimmune disease in our spirit. But God… Glory! He sets our wrong thinking right-side-up and encourages us to use what we erroneously think is defective to bring Him honor and to bring His Light to others. What a mighty God we serve, indeed! It’s all good!
I love this so much.
Jessica Faith Kantrowitz
Yes, yes, and yes. We all have the numbers in our head, the pounds we would have to lose to be “okay,” the weight we think we should be, the calories we feel we should be eating, the place we know we should stop in the bag of chips in order to just eat two servings, not eight. It takes so much of our brain-space and heart-space. I wish I could free all my sisters of this bondage. Think of all the energy we would have to change the world!
Deidra, A wonderful post. You did a good job expressing what every woman feels. Therein lies much of the problem, it’s based on feeling. As you described the better way to live – into the Creator – I thought of people I know who do this so well. And how beautiful it makes them.
I love this…. God and I have been talking along the same line… Like a saturated sponge… We drip what we have been soaking in… Oh may we all be filled to overflowing how incredibly loved we are… So filled that we drip His Love…and when squeezed His Love gushes out!!!
Haven’t we all been there, more then once too. Comparing ourselves to other women. This is a good post Deidra. Having Christ esteem is so much better then self esteem because it self will let us down, but Christ never changes what He says about us. And He says, good, blessed, saints, blessed.
“When we press into our true identity, our bodies become conduits for justice and mercy and grace and hope and unconditional love.” What a beautiful post, how I need to hear and live the freedom of these words. Thanks!
Dolly @ Soulstops.com
I appreciate you so much…and your words reminded me of this video and what an uphill battle we face re: our bodies but we have the Spirit to remind us of what is true….and wise friends like you…Thank you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTlmho_RovY
WOW. I surely needed to watch this too. Sharing.
So glad I saved this for later. So glad. Oh Em Gee. Just been doing this to myself… AGAIN. Thanks Deidra.