I want to talk about something really hard today. Its one of the rawest parts of my being, my history, my short life. I want to talk to you about a captivating lie I believed about myself. This might be hard for some to read, and you might feel uncomfortable, but I hope its only because the Holy Spirit is getting ahold of your own heart to free you of the burden you’ve carried all this time.
I was 14 years old when a boy my age compared his skinny legs to mine and told me mine were fat. At this time in my life, my heart, mind, soul, and feelings were completely caught off guard by this disproportionate criticism. I was so unprepared; so weak in my self-confidence I instantly held onto this degrading lie and believed it. My body was now something I needed to be ashamed of. It was imperfect, flabby and ugly. So what did I do but begin to obsess over the girl who looked back at me in the mirror? With scale as my judge, and food my worst enemy, my lifestyle of abuse began.
Becoming a Slave to the Lie
Femininity, curves, and softness began to feel like a joke, and I was the naive fool who’d been played. I didn’t want my curves anymore. What I wanted to look like…I don’t know what I wanted to look like, but I didn’t want to look like a short, barely trim girl anymore. So I began to slowly, imperceptibly ween myself of all snacks and ate tiny little bird portions for my meals. My parents eventually noticed, so did the girls, but I just shrugged it off and said I just wasn’t hungry, even though I was actually starving.
This is also the time when I started exercising heavily. We had a stationary bike in our basement, which all of a sudden meant our movie nights turned into my five-mile race nights. I hated sweating. I hated being so out of breath! But I hated my “fat” body more, so I pushed and pushed and pushed. Youtube exercise videos were already a thing at that point, and once I learned how to do calisthenics on my own, I faced down the fat girl in the mirror every night and eventually worked it all off.
Now, there is nothing wrong with eating food in moderation, and there is nothing wrong with eating only the healthiest (low carb/fat) of foods. But we need a balanced diet in order to thrive, which means we all need to eat healthy fats and carbs to feed our brains and keep our blood sugar levels steady. Exercise is a wonderful thing, too! God created us to move and take joy in movement! But when we push ourselves to move when we’re starving, it’s a total recipe for disaster.
A Humbling Consequence
I ran myself into a point of exhaustion several times. I became the crankiest girl in the family, and my mood swings were unpredictable. But it didn’t matter. I had to get my weight down to the magical number. Once I got there, I was left with more muscle tone than I’d ever had in my life and no fat to speak of. Was I happy? Could I now smile back in pride at the lean girl in the mirror, and go to bed at ease each night? No, I continued to obsess and plummet deeper into this abusive lifestyle. It wasn’t until my cycle completely stopped that I began to question my motives.
I think self-confidence (love and acceptance of our bodies) is a personal lesson we women all have to learn on our own. And sometimes it means making huge mistakes before we learn the lesson.
After a couple months of this magical-number-on-the-scale thing and no cycle, I started to get a little nervous about how my body was responding to my abusive choices. I decided to do some research. It was pretty simple. When the female body is underweight, it thinks it is in great danger (think of third-world women who suffer through famines) and stops cycling to preserve the energies of the body. What? So I couldn’t be as lean and “strong” as a teenage boy without consequences? But what was I supposed to do with the other girl, the fat one? What was I supposed to do with the lie that had captivated me so?
The One Who Sees and Hears Everything
Broken and humbled, I dropped hints here and there to my parents and sisters about what was going on. They already knew a little bit. I had become so small it was evident something was wrong. Despite the fact that even my own intuition recognized the damage I had done, my heart was not with my head. Everything inside me still wanted to hang on to the body I had. It was safe, after all. There was no fat to be mocked or criticized. How could I ask myself to go back to the fat girl? Still, I knew I had to give in somewhere or suffer worse consequences.
God hears the most imperceptible of thoughts. Not long after this half-hearted resolution, He began to show me the truth in all its beauty. He brought a little book into my life, written by a girl who had had an eating/exercising “disorder” just like me. There were other testimonies in the book by other girls who made it clear I wasn’t the only one abusing my body. I was shocked.
But even after the book, I couldn’t stand the idea of “losing control” of my body. I still couldn’t trust that God had made me be a certain weight that was heavier and rounder than the little me I’d turned into and still be “perfect.”
What God Calls Beautiful
To say it was a long, difficult journey out of my eating/exercising “disorder” is an understatement. It took more than 5 years. God let me abuse my body off and on for five years before I realized what I believed about myself came from that tiny little lie. The day is hard to pin down now, there’ve been so many broken days over the past couple of years. But one of them marked the day I confronted this captivating lie and killed it through the powerful work the Holy Spirit did in me.
He showed me the vast, consuming love of the Father. He showed me that what man calls foolish and shameful, God calls wise, wonderful and beautiful. With His piercing light, He showed me that the beautiful body He gave me was a gift, and it was the only one like it. What better thing could I do than keep it well with a thankful, joyful heart?
That spirit of thankfulness took me through my lifetime, and I saw for the first time the beauty of what my body was capable of. It had the ability to gain weight and change dramatically when I have babies, grow wrinkled, and maybe even lumpy when I’m an old lady. But through it all, I could keep it strong and well for God’s purposes.
I am merely a steward of the fine house that I now view as the perfect expression of this mind, soul, spirit, and emotions God made to be Jessica.
Men can destroy through words, but God has the power to redeem us with His rich love. His love is more captivating to us than any lie on this earth, and that is the glory God holds over the Enemy. He will always win, always redeem, always transform those He loves and calls His own.
I stand here today, renewed, redeemed, healthy, strong and full of vibrancy. I finally broke free from the destructive lie and walk each day captivated by the lovely tenderness of my Father in Heaven. Food is a savory gift I get to enjoy each day. It no longer poses a threat to me. Same with exercise and movement! They are awesome gifts I practice with joy and gladness instead of guilt and fear. This is how all of life should be! We should all be worshipping the Lord with our lives EVERY DAY, with thankfulness in our hearts.
No Longer Ashamed
If you are sitting here today, reading this and relating in some way, then you’re here for a reason. He’s calling softly, imperceptibly, for to you to stop believing the lies spoken over you or in you. He wants you to claim your birthright of freedom in His great love. And dear friend, He loves you so much!
When you are done here, I want you to do something for me. Find a place to be still, where you can hear the Spirit’s soft voice grow loud in your ears. Open up your heart to Him and everything it holds. Let Him see you as you are and let Him wipe the stains from your soul. Stop hiding the lies. He knows they’re there. Don’t be ashamed because He’s not ashamed of you. Give Him the captivating lies, and prepare to be captivated by His wondrous, radiant love.
May your heart, mind, soul, and feelings be renewed with a spirit of joy! May you find freedom as you walk away from every lie you ever believed, leaving them safely at the foot of the Cross.
God bless you, my friend.