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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Reply to Peggy

This is a repost from my health and fitness blog, Meaningful Activity. It is worth looking at by a broader audience.

I recently received a comment that goes like this:

Hi there!

This is the first time I've read your blog, along with your story and how you met your husband. I understand completely how you feel. I'm quite heavy myself, and, I am ashamed of myself. I know I should exercise and watch my weight, but now I'm so heavy I can't even exercise. I almost can't walk because my feet hurt because of all the weight put on them. So what do I do? I stay inside almost all day, except for going out in the backyard to feed the birds. I know I need to lose at least 100 pounds, but how, when I can hardly walk? I want to hide and cry. Do you ever feel like that?

Peace in Christ,

Peggy


I began to reply under her comment, but then realized it was getting too long to just be a comment. Also,
I'm in the red, at 14, I think I weigh 200 pounds here,
perhaps slightly more.
I realized this was something I should have written about before this. This is a super important topic to address and hold up for us all.

Hello Peggy (and everyone else), I'm so glad you've found my corner of the web!

No, I can't say I know exactly how you feel, though I do know how the world attaches shame to weight loss. For me, I gained the initial weight  due to my PCOS alone, and I knew that it wasn't from lack of eating well/excercise, since I gained 50 pounds in 3 months without a change to either. Actually, most of my life, no amount of effort made a dent on the scale. It wasn't until moving to India that something about the food here changed my hormones enough that the weight can come off...

That being said, as I said, I do know how the world tries to shame us. Don't listen, Peggy. One time I was reading a book, aimed towards women but not about our bodies specifically, and they had a chapter on this kind of stuff. And I went into it thinking I knew what I'd be reading... but during it I found myself having a conversation with God. Because see, I knew my PCOS caused the weight gain... but deep down I was afraid I'd caused my PCOS. I thought it was the result of sin on my part, maybe. And I talked to God about that...

And suddenly I realized that maybe God had a reason for my size. It was a huge revelation. Maybe God had a plan for my PCOS. Maybe it was part of His Will for my life all along.

I'm not saying God was saying I would always have to suffer with PCOS or weight... and indeed, I'm finally losing it. But maybe God has a purpose, Peggy, for you to be where you are today. Yes, you could surely eat healthier and exercise more, and I'm not saying you shouldn't. But tell me where "thinner is godlier" is in the Bible? That verse about the Body being God's temple has nothing to do with exercise. It's strictly talking about sexual immorality, if read in context, and is constantly misused. Peggy, you are beautiful in God's eyes and He has a plan for your life-- which may or may not include weight loss. I mean, you might be overeating and idle, but if you've made an idol out of food or are sinning in sloth, those are issues you can address with God. But don't you know that has very little to do with your worth? Don't you realize there are lazy, overeating skinny people who are just blessed with good genes? I've met them. It's crazy. But it's also part of God's plan for their life.

"Thinner is better" is a value of the world. God has called us to be in the world but not of the world. When Christians embrace thinner is better... and I've been guilty of it... we're sinning. Yes, sinning. Because "pure religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself undefiled by the world." When we define worth by waistline or weight loss, we are becoming defiled by the world.

Obviously, I have a health and fitness blog. I'm not saying embracing weight loss or calorie counting or weight lifting or whatever is a sin by itself. But Peggy, Jesus is ten thousand times more important than any of that, and indeed even more. And to Jesus, you are important.

I say that again. You are important.

So I encourage you to get active. Make diet changes. All this is good.

But first make sure you're getting a good diet of time with God. Make sure you're exercising your spirit in your prayer life. These things matter.

I told you that the Bible verse is misused that says our Bodies are a temple of God when Christians say that means we sin by being fat. But our bodies, fat or thin, short or tall, healthy or withering away are stones in the temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwells within. Respect Him by respecting your body, but realize your worth comes not from how you look, but from Who lies within you. This is what the "earthen vessels" verse is about.

And what does the Bible really say about our bodies, our actual bodies we're sitting in now?

It says they are merely tents, and God is preparing mansions for us. Tents are easily buffeted and torn and leak. Poles can collapse, they can be uncomfortable and miserable.

Sound familiar?

But Jesus is preparing a mansion for you. Now, indeed, I think that it is loving to take care of your tent, and not despise it, since God gave it to you. I mean, I'd rather have a tent than be homeless, wouldn't you? Tents are good.

But do you think Stephen and Peter and Paul and all the other martyrs were not loving Jesus when they allowed someone to stone or beat or hang or burn or crucify their tents?

Of course not! They were showing great, enormous love and faith by saying we are more than these tents and we believe that Jesus will rescue us and set us into our eternal dwellings.

So this idolatry that taking extreme care to always tend your tent means worshipping the Holy Spirit is unBiblical and ridiculous. Don't fall for it. After all Jesus said it's better to tear out your eye and enter the kingdom than to go to hell, right? Don't you think He would rather have you fat and in the kingdom than thin and committing idolatry at the altar of the gods of fitness?

Peggy, your body is precious and fearfully made. And I'm sorry it hurts to walk. I have plantar fasciitis and can imagine. And I do understand how "unmotivated" feels. And I have felt shame before, though not to the extent you're expressing. But remember, you can start. And hey, you said you need to lose at least 100 pounds... 128 is the goal I've set for myself, though I have less than 100 to go now. So I do get the enormity of losing that much.

But just focus on healthy right now, dear. Just more activity, cutting out some of the easier to trim less healthy food to start with. Yet focus more on your spiritual health. We all have to do that. I lose touch a lot actually. I'll be exercising like a madwoman but barely touching my Bible... and then I have to return to Jesus and confess that my priorities got screwed up. Balance is my weakness, in all areas of my life.

Even if I was 500 pounds, if I was worshipping Jesus and following His plan for me, I would be beautiful and righteous.

But even if I was 115 pounds and a super model, if I put worldly ambition above Him, I'd be like that proverb: Beauty in a woman without wisdom is like a gold ring in a pig's snout.

I'm not saying you're idolizing anything, Peggy, though examine your heart of course. But I do see that you're letting the opinion of those who are idolizing the perfect figure to determine whether or not you're going out.

Seek the Lord, Peggy. Let Him be your shield. And if He says go out, go out. If people say cruel things, but you're walking in obedience to God, let them not be barbs of shame, but your crown of thorns. Let them be beautiful for God, as proof you're crucifying yourself and suffering alongside Christ.

Maybe your weight is the result of sloth and gluttony and it will bring Him glory for you to repent of it and lose the weight. Or maybe your weight is the "thorn in your flesh" that God will never remove but teach you that His grace is sufficient. Or maybe your weight is even the cross you're carrying, beautiful to God as your crucify your Self which desires something very different. Maybe God's using your life as a tool to part the righteous from the unrighteous by seeing who treats you differently based only on the outward appearance, and not seeking Him to look within. Maybe your weight has never, ever been about you, but about God and the people He's bringing you in contact with...

I don't know. But He does, and He does have a plan.

And I know this. He loves you, Peggy. He loves you.

I love you too. I hope this was encouraging to you, or maybe someone else out there.

Thank you so much for commenting.

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Thanks so much for comments, they delight me! Please keep your comments civil and while I read every comment, I reserve the right to delete ones that are especially negative. Thanks!

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