I struggle with “all-or-nothing” syndrome. I see other people working out five days a week, so I feel I need to work out that much to be good enough. I see other people eating Paleo, vegan, or healthy 5 to 7 days a week, so I feel I have to eat healthy just as often and in just the same ways for me to be good enough. I see several Bible studies happening and feel I need to have an involvement in all of them in order to learn as much as I can and not miss out. Then I hear God’s Voice telling me, “They are not you, and I don’t want you to be them”. A strong reminder that He has made each of us unique for reason, yet every single one of us in the image of Himself. None of our paths should try and mirror anyone else’s. As long as we are listening to God, we learn how to love who we are just the way we are, and we spread that same unconditional love to others…then it’s not up to us to try to run someone else’s race.
So maybe I only take a walk two days a week for an hour. So maybe I only eat healthy for about four days a week, then still pretty healthy another two, and then the last day is a full-on cheat day for me. Maybe my hips and thighs are a bit wider than they used to be, and more bountiful than a lot of the people that I know. But then again my heart has become much bigger than it ever has before, and that’s the part of my growth that I want to focus on. And that’s what I want other people to focus on…the size of my personality, the size of my heart, the size of my love, giving, and serving. So if I want others to focus on those things inside me and not on my outside appearance, why can I not seem to focus on those same things for myself?
Some of us are programmed to think we are supposed to stay looking like we did when we were 18-years-old, so that everyone will say, “Wow, look how great she still looks!” “Wow, look how tiny she still is!” “Wow, look how great she has been doing!” We want to be validated and feel we’ve “still got it”. But what is it that we had that we want to still know “we’ve got”? When I look back to my 18-year-old days and into my 20s…I didn’t have a lot of depth in knowledge, heart, soul, and priorities. So why do I want to keep myself in a time of my life where the only positives I had going were largely my physical attributes?
When we find Christ, our old selves are stripped away and we are given new selves. Ones who see, think, and live through the eyes and truths of the Lord. Not through the things of this world and what is important to modern day society. My now 40-year-old self realized the attributes I largely possess are internal qualities, and the physical has fallen by the wayside in importance. I realize that I no longer want people to notice those things or recognize those things in me, I no longer want to be validated or feel wanted because of my face, figure, or how I look in a specific outfit. I don’t even want to be known for them anymore. Perhaps that is why I have become more comfortable with my new self, instead of taking drastic measures with diet and exercise to alter back to the pre-Debbie that I was just a year ago. I would rather diet on the spiritual truths and living water of our Almighty Father and exercise my heart and my growth in knowing Jesus. That’s how I know Christ has changed (and continues to change) my heart.
Instead of being constantly focused on keeping up with others who are losing weight, eating healthier, or changing their lives in certain ways…I would rather keep some of my extra pounds and be filled with agape love that I use to serve in ministry, to take care of my children, to learn and understand God better. Do I want to be healthy? Absolutely. Do I want to eat better? Absolutely. Do I want my life to become something that I feel is so structured that I no longer enjoy it or feel that I’m living? Absolutely not. If I eat healthy sometimes, it’s okay. If I am making an effort to get some exercise in and eat better, even if it’s not as much as everyone else is doing, and I still happen to keep some of my newly-found pounds on…it’s okay.
I’m learning that my effort doesn’t have to result in the same outcome that everyone else’s does, nor be as restricted or regimented because I need to be and do what works for me and the life I have been blessed with. I’m okay, for the first time in a long time, just being me. If I lose a little weight and look a little better, great! If I don’t, I will still serve in ministry just as wholeheartedly, I will still love and take care of my kids just as deeply, I will still feel overwhelming joy in my heart for this life, and most importantly I will still love myself and grow daily in my relationship with God. It’s not my jeans size, routine, or trying to mirror someone else’s physical changes that make me a woman of God. It is not whether I am physically beautiful by the world’s standards that makes me worthy or that will draw someone else to love me. It’s the pure love in my heart for Our Savior, the gentleness they will see in my soul, and the overwhelming joy I have for life and serving that make me stand out from the crowd…and that is the beauty I want to be recognized for. So this summer I am thankful for my curvier hips, my expanded waistline, and my thicker arms and thighs…they remind me the Lord has provided for me in abundance and are a constant reminder to love myself from the inside out, letting Him shape and form me in His own way and time.