When Dad took a church in west central Louisiana, as a nine-year-old, I found Simpson was my all-time favorite place to live. When I look back on it, I remember a profusion of romantic wealth, of beauty lived and passed. The memories still linger as if they belong in the present instead of yesterday. I am blessed to have these memories still lingering at the threshold of this forgetful mind. They are truly mine alone to share, so I’ve chosen to share with you, my friends, this one moment in time when, in this quaint little town in the middle of nowhere, I was awakened to my ill thoughts of self, and rewarded by the glory of God.
Simpson was an imaginative little bump in the road. The beauty was such that one must live there for a time to appreciate summer’s dog-days, and rain beating the tin roof, with anything other than harmony. Such was the summer of 1959. I will never forget the time, or the whimsical list of characters, with whom I fell in love in that whistle-stop of a hamlet.
Once each month we made our thirty-five mile shopping trip to Alexandria, which I enjoyed, except in August when it was back-to-school time. It was a journey that made me feel sub-human. You see, I was a blessed child, chosen, by I don’t know who, to carry a lot of extra weight. It just wasn’t fair. My whole family was thin, except for me.
My brothers had their choice of really neat clothes. You know, the ones the mannequins wear to draw your attention to how totally cool they are. When it was my turn, we weaved a path to a totally different department. It was like there was a large, flashing neon sign that said, Over Here Fat Boy! Haha! I felt like lights flashed, sirens sounded, cymbals clashed and horns blared the minute I entered the “Chubby” department, to announce I was there, again. The focus was on me. There was no mannequin in this section, just neatly folded Husky clothes. Oh, how I hated that word, Husky. It was just a polite way of calling me fatso, or tub-o-lard, or even, trying to be funny, pudge-muffin. I found nothing humorous about it. Buffalo petite was not a size I was familiar with. Nevertheless, it seemed to be all I could find for this blubber-gut. Thoughts raged through my mind like a destructive curse, driving a wedge between my heart and my soul. The not so gentle reminder that I was indeed FAT, terrified the fabric of my being. After all, these jeans had their own little neon proclamation. The rear belt loops provided a place for the blazing declaration of my waist size, and therefore the behemoth amount of flesh everyone could ridicule.
Continued hurt quickly teaches that being fat implies a variety of perceived personalities: I was a slob! I loved to eat too much! I would swallow anything whole; “let Andy slurp up the crumbs on the cafeteria table,” etc. A bruised ego was a daily tribute to the magnitude of pain I suffered. The terrorizing, agonizing darts of shame flowed like an uncontrolled oil well of tears at school and at home. My personality, the real me, felt stupid and worthless, and I believed that no one liked me. I was nothing but a wasted human being, but then someone had to make the world laugh. It might as well be me. I left Sears & Roebuck humiliated, and quietly rode the miles back home to the internal din of ungodly laughter, ridicule and non-acceptance. I hated who I was. I wanted to be skinny and never again be fat. I wanted people to look at my six-pack not the one-pack hanging over my belt. Why couldn’t I be thin? Arrrg!
As I grew older I arrived at an impasse, a gridlock of sorts, that I had to solve before I entered the gates of adulthood. I began to realize that I was not the Christian I presented to everyone. I treated myself worse that the bullies. I hated myself more. I cried while I made fun of myself, squeezing my gut in front of the mirror. There was an array of other quandaries. A dilemma was born. I could either continue down the path of depression, hating what God had created, or I could do something about it. On my knees, an awakening of grace led me to an understanding of who I was. Character assassination was unimportant, compared to what I held so dearly in my heart.
Sometimes we are stupid, because we don’t listen. God laid out a plan for us before we were born (Jeremiah 29:11). Sometimes the frustrations of our world and the flesh are reflected I our outer person, especially when bullies bring it out of us.
“As one thinks in his heart, so is he.”
I came to grips with the person I was and the one God wanted me to be. It was time to develop the person that I could live with. I had to conquer the old self, retrain my thinking, and strengthen my self-respect to a level of honor and dignity that would allow me a daily growth within.
“Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
(Romans 12:2 ESV)
There is a progressive growth process in our Christian walk. It doesn’t matter if it is depression, being called a porky, having uncontrollable behavior or anything else; as long as we bully ourselves and torment our own hearts we cannot move forward out of this anguish we so readily portray as Christ like.
In this progressive growth process we begin to understand that a self-centered life could be just as dangerous as a diminished self-image. Life has to be built around someone other than ourselves. It is here that we can discover what is missing. His Word revealed that I am a visible expression of God, simply because I am His child.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God
but that he loved us and
sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”
(1 John 4:9-10 RSV)
When I am honest, I realize that it is up to me to make the right decisions in reevaluating the direction I want to go in serving God. Though I am saved by grace through faith, scripture doesn’t promise that I’ll always feel loved, only that I am loved. The more we love Christ and His Church, the more we will understand and experience His love for each of us.
It was here that I began to understand God really does love me as I am, and I learned that this life change required self-discipline. Daily communication with God reveals so much through His Word. One scripture that keeps my head high and a smile on my face is this:
“Look at what you were before God called you. Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many of you had great influence. Not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose what this world thinks is unimportant and what this world looks down on and thinks is nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world thinks is important. God did this, so that no one could boast in his presence.”
In creating a place in my heart and body for God’s dwelling, I realized two things: One, I wouldn’t want to dwell in this bacon body of mine either. And two, weight would always be an issue for me. Like anything else, when my main priority is to please God, I can’t sit idly by and watch “chunky monkey” grow. I have to work hard to keep the pounds off and satan (intentional lower case, he doesn’t deserve upper case) away from my mind. Daily communion with God through His word is essential, and prayer is the key. RC Sproul said we don’t pray simply because we are too lazy to pray. I agree. I’ve been guilty. Are you?
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If any man destroys the temple, God will destroy him,
for the temple of God is holy,
and that is what you are.”
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
In overcoming the issue of weight gain I have discovered that there is no diet that will work. The key is simply developing healthy eating habits, illuminating processed foods, sugars and carbs. Combined with exercise, this is the way to go. I don’t have to count calories or measure portions to obtain the promise of written diets. Only eat healthy foods and the pounds will leave voluntarily. All of this should leave you asking, “Can my body really be a place for God to dwell? Is this temple worthy of His Spirit? You decide.
I would like to introduce you to a very dear friend of mine in the blogosphere. She is the one who has me hooked on healthful eating and exercise. She tells of her own struggles and shares some wonderful recipes that will make your mouth salivate just looking at the pictures. Please go to her site; she can help you develop a healthy lifestyle.
This may be the beginning of your healthy walk with God, providing the holy temple He deserves and created you to be. We are His dwelling place.