With the birth of each of my five children, I added a few more pounds to my 5'2" frame. The pounds clung to my hips, thighs, stomach, and backside like barnacles to a boat. They invaded my clothes, stretching and shrinking them until the seams gave way.
To shed these pounds, I tried every diet I came across. I either ate or avoided protein, carbohydrates, fat, or sugar, depending on the latest medical "expert" recommendations. I drank every slimming shake in a can and listened to every diet guru on TV. I downed water until I sloshed in my boots, and ate sprouts until they grew out of my ears.
No matter how hard I tried to rid myself of the excess weight, the pounds I occasionally lost always found their way back to me like a boomerang. I suspected somewhere there existed a lost and found with my name and address tacked on the wall as the recipient of all wayward pounds.
I asked God to remove this weight from my body. If he wanted to, he could speed up my metabolism so I'd burn calories faster than a speeding bullet. He could add six or more inches to my height. (I'd be the right weight for a seven-foot woman!) If he chose, he could reprogram my appetite so I'd crave cardboard-tasting rice cakes, carrot sticks, and liver, instead of club sandwiches, ice cream, and brownies.
Sighing, I reined in my fantasies and decided I must need what the apostle Paul called a "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7) to keep from being conceited. If I were thin, I'd probably flaunt it. I'd mince around town on six-inch platform heels, dressed in leather micro-mini skirts and tank tops, shamelessly exposing my flat abs. Everywhere I'd go, I'd want to be noticed. No longer content with a back seat anywhere, I'd parade down the church aisle to the front row in my designer-beaded dresses and stiletto heels. I'd be an embarrassment to everyone who knew me, a middle-aged woman gussied up like a teenager. My children would wear sunglasses and trench coats when they were out with me. My husband would pretend he didn't know me. Being thin would most likely make me unfit for human company, I consoled myself.
Still, my weight tormented me. I became guilt-ridden over what seemed an obvious lack of self-control. I felt ashamed and weak. I imagined people pointing at me, saying, "She needs to get her appetite under control," or "She certainly isn't trusting God with her weight," or even, "If she'd get up from the table and suture her mouth, she'd lose a few pounds."
For fear people would see the discrepancy between my appearance and my testimony, I was afraid to tell anyone about my faith in Christ. Why would anyone listen to me? I even said, "How can God use me when I'm overweight?"
But as I sought God about my weight, he reminded me he doesn't look at my outward appearance, he looks at my heart. He loved me the way I was, completely and unconditionally. What a boost for my battered soul!
God showed me that real self-esteem doesn't come from my looks or my abilities, but from how much God, the Creator of the universe, values me. He made me in his image (Genesis 1:27), and he sent his Son Jesus to rescue me from my sin and feelings of insecurity (John 3:16-17). He wants me to have a relationship with him. He wants to speak to me, love me, use me, and change me into his likeness.
Throughout the Bible, God called the weak, the timid, and the fearful to do his work. Most of the disciples Jesus chose would never have won the Mr. Universe contest. It was comforting to learn God isn't looking only for perfect or beautiful people, and that Christ's power and strength are as available to me as they are to thinner Christians.
I finally discovered that God wants people he can transform by his power. As I allow him to change me, maybe people will see right past my plump body to Christ in me.
But God still wasn't through teaching me. He also revealed the truth about eating. My body needed and deserved good nutritious food. I began eating healthy, well-balanced meals to properly nourish the body God created for me. I began exercising. I now rise from my bed at five in the morning and walk to get my sluggish metabolism moving. I'm sure the neighbors chuckle at me walking as fast as my short legs will allow me. From spring to fall, I swim laps in our backyard pool. Fortunately no one sees me churning my way across the pool as if I'm trying out for an Olympics intended for the non-graceful.
I'm working on my weight and have lost a modest amount. I haven't arrived yet, but my focus has changed. Looking good is no longer my motive. I now desire to please God by being healthy and wise.
Audrey Barcus, a freelance writer, lives in Arizona with her husband and five children.
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