This is a first in a series of confessions from me. I pray my own wrestling brings hope and health to you.
So late last month, I penned a prayer to the Lord about my frustration with my weight. You can read it here:
Although I eat well and exercise fairly consistently the scale does not move. Of course I know a lot of this has to do with mid life and the changes that inevitably come. But I can’t tell you how frustrating it is (or maybe you know?) to try-try-try only to face failure every time I step on the scale.
I have searched the Scriptures about this. I know my body is a temple of the Lord and it deserves nourishment and respect. I understand that my time on earth is short, and that I must steward the health God has given me in order to fulfill my calling for the kingdom of God. That’s why I eat as close to nature as I can, and I move my body consistently.
But I’m also disturbed at the overemphasis of weight in our culture. I can’t find Scripture about that. If anything, I see Scriptures like this and I wonder if food has become an idol to me, to others?
“If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these [regulations] refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.”
I’m a good little rule follower. Tell me to intermittent fast, and I will. Tell me to avoid carbs, I’m your girl. Tell me to treat whole food groups as if they are Satan himself? Gotcha. But all this has done for me is cause bondage. The freedom God has hard-won for me leaves the moment I submit myself to these human-made rules.
Not to mention, this is an argument of privilege. Because I live in a prosperous zip code, I have the option to choose. I don’t live in a food desert. If I believe that a specific diet is optimal for me, then what does that mean for others who can’t afford it?
The other issue is that by focusing solely on diet, I concern myself with things that may not matter in the kingdom. Jesus said, “But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of approval” (John 6:27). If I am expending energy on this, I don’t have the proper energy to spend it for the kingsom.
I’m coming to a place of health–albeit slowly. I am listening to my body and desperately trying to speak life over it. For far too long, I have berated it, made fun of it, wished it were different, lamented its shape. And all this while I’ve been healthy. In September I climbed a 14,000+ foot mountain! I can run several miles. I’m in good shape.
What does it mean to honor Jesus with our bodies? It means taking care of them, yes, but it also means learning contentment in today–even when you’re not where you want to be. It means silencing that inner bully (and that is not an easy thing to do). It means treating your body as you would a dear friend’s. You wouldn’t shame your friend, would you? You wouldn’t make fun of their shape, right? Well, then, why do that to yourself?
I have been enslaved to food rules off and on for many years. I still struggle with them, and, to be honest, I only see freedom from a distance. So I’m writing this blog post in hopes to start a discussion, and to tell you how very, very human I am.
Here’s the irony of that prayer I prayed at the end of October. Right afterward, I went to step on my scale, only to realize it needed batteries. No problem! But after I added the batteries, the scale malfunctioned and told me I weighed 112 pounds. (I am five foot eight; I can assure you I don’t weigh 112!)
I laughed. Then recalibrated only to find I’d gained three pounds and now weighed 115. In that moment, I sensed God’s laughter alongside me. Weight is a number on the scale. It does not measure our faithfulness. It cannot endow us with worth or worthlessness. We give it that power.
True freedom involves the discipline of taking care of ourselves married to contentment with the outcomes. The Good Lord has blessed us with food in order to celebrate (feast), sustain our daily lives, and fuel our work for him. When we deify or demonize food, our obsession either way turns into idolatry.
Lore Wilbert offers a beautiful perspective here, if you’d like to further explore these ideas.
Let’s continue to talk about this. Let’s dig into the Scriptures, remembering that God doesn’t see as we see, and his requirements of us often differ wildly than the expectations our culture fastens onto us.