Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"fat" is not a feeling.

There's a cultural fear of being "fat". "Fat" is perceived as being lazy. Being unhealthy. Having less value of worth. People go on crazy fad diets to try to avoid the "fate of being fat". We live in a world with a "thin ideal". People spend hours excessively exercising in desperation to lose the pounds. But, in the midst of all of this, we don't find fulfillment. Life doesn't suddenly become "better" when we lose fifteen pounds. It's never enough. There's always "a little more" that needs to go. There's always "a little more" toning that needs to be done. We lose ourselves in this crazy cycle.

"I feel fat today" is a phrase commonly uttered. I mean, think about how many times you've said it in the last week. Maybe you didn't say those exact words, but maybe it went something like this:

  • "Look at my thighs!"
  • "These jeans fit too snug."
  • "I need to lose some weight"
  • "I need to start watching what I'm eating/I need to start exercising more"
The list goes on and on. But, the reality of the situation is simple and makes our statements seem quite silly- fat is not a feeling. Sure, fat might be an adjective. It might be used to describe something. But when we say things like "I feel fat", what we're really saying is "I'm sad", "I'm feeling guilty", "I'm feeling insecure". We're hiding what we're really feeling- for some more culturally acceptable statement. We stand around in circles gossiping with friends, and as soon as someone says "I'm feeling SO fat today!", we know that the rest of the group will chime in with "Of course you're not!". It's a way to get reassurance. It's a way to get attention. It's a way to get sympathy and manipulate the situation. But, it's not healthy.

When we engage in these types of behaviors- when we "fat talk"- we're more likely to be depressed. We're more likely to have a distorted body image- even if we're at a healthy weight. It's not healthy! We're not doing ourselves any favors, but we're also harming the people around us. 81% of third graders are afraid of being fat. Where do you think they get this fear from? Sure, maybe some of it comes from the media, but it also comes from internal influences- parents, friends, teachers. When our friends and family hear us constantly complaining about our body, they are more likely to start questioning their bodies. It's the common "Well, if you're fat, then I must be really overweight!" Fat talk rubs off on the people around us. It spreads the negativity.

So, maybe instead of trying to fill in conversation gaps and get attention with "I feel so fat today", we should start talking about what's really going on. Do you really feel "fat", or are you overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do? Do you really feel "fat", or are you upset about a relationship? What would happen if we started naming our feelings, started being more open about how we really felt rather than hiding behind a mask of "I just feel fat today". Fat is not a feeling. It's time we stop treating it like one. Fat is a state- it's neither good nor bad. Constant cycling through "fat talk" and dieting won't bring true joy. It won't fill up the gap. Being "thin" won't solve all of your problems. 
Engaging in destructive conversations won't really make you feel better in the end. Ephesians 4:29 says that "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Fat talk and fat shaming does not build others up- and it doesn't really benefit us either. If you're struggling with feeling overwhelmed- talk about that! Find friends that will build you up, encourage you, and not judge you. But, don't blame your feelings on "fat". It's just not helpful.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

wake up.

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

- Ephesians 5:11-16 (MSG)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

the lie of "not enough"

I feel like sometimes we like to blame Eve for all of our problems. Sometimes, I think that she's the most hated woman of the Bible. I mean, if it wasn't for her  believing that silly little lie from the serpent, we'd still be living in paradise (and we'd have no pain in childbirth. Seriously Eve, what were you thinking?). We blame this women for messing up the world. We blame her for believing the serpent. But the truth is, we do the same thing. I hate to tell you, but Satan isn't all that creative. He knows that what worked all those years ago can still mess us up big time today. All this time, we've been fed the same lie over and over again. The serpent whispers softly in our ear just like he did to Eve on that day long ago. He seductively dangles a fruit in front of our hungry eyes and lures us away from the truth. He tells us that who we are is not enough. From a young age, he whispers this into our ear. It seems so natural, so healthy...we don't recognize this fruit as dangerous or harmful. We're lured into the trap and we believe the lies.

As little girls, we believe the lie that everyone in this class is better than us. In ballet class, they're better at the pirouettes. At the playground, they're better at the monkey bars. Some other little girl's dress is prettier and more twirly than ours. At a very young age, we begin to compare our bodies and our clothes and we believe this lie that is whispered to us that we are not pretty enough.  As we grow older, these lies continue and morph and spin out of our control. In Middle School, we spend hours obsessing over how to tame our frizzy hair, how to paint on a pretty face, how to put up a facade that everyone will fall for. We spend so much time worrying about being smart enough to make the grade, athletic enough to make the team. We base our entire existence on being accepted by this invisible audience. We play a role, dancing and twirling around the stage. We try and we try, but we just end up collapsed in a heap in the middle of the stage with the spotlight shining straight on us. And there we lay. Vulnerable. Weary. Overwhelmed. The serpent whispers in our ear "Darling, you will never be enough. God is hiding something from you, you're just not good enough for him. Trust in me, I won't fail you. I won't hide the magic cure from you. Take this fruit...and eat.". And just like Eve, we fall for his trap. 

He's an awfully good manipulator. We believe his lies with all of our heart. We live a life of fad diet after fad diet. We restrict what we eat, and punish ourselves when we eat "bad foods". We run after this false ideal of perfection- if I just reach this weight, if I just can wear this pants size, if I can just get noticed by someone...I will be enough. But, the fact of the matter is...nothing you do will ever be enough. You might reach that goal weight, but the serpent will whisper in your ear "Just five more pounds". You might suddenly be able to squeeze into your "skinny day jeans", but the serpent will whisper to you "You're still not enough. See that muffin top? So unattractive". He'll plant lies into your head:

  • If you eat that, you're going to get fat. 
  • If you get fat, nobody will like you.
  • You seriously just ate that? Go throw that up. You know the drill. You don't deserve food.
  • So what if they say you're skinny? Behind your back, they're probably whispering about how ugly you are.
  • If you just get skinny, boys will like you.
  • If you just lose some weight, you'll have more friends.
LIES. All of them. This serpent that we allow to linger in our lives is a horrible friend. He's not looking out for our best interests. He's a toxic and abusive relationship that we choose to remain in. We find comfort and security in him. Even though he treats us horribly, he still sticks around. And, it's not really that bad, right? Losing a little weight isn't a horrible thing. It's not bad to work hard to achieve success in academic endeavors. We rationalize our dear friend's horrible behavior. The serpent whispers seductively in our ear, "I won't hurt you. I only want what's best for you. Trust in me." But, it is time to fire back. It is time to tell that serpent who's boss.  We need to stand up and be assertive and tell him, "Nope. Not gonna listen to you. Not gonna trust you." Will he like this? Probably not. But, that's where we can change our story and stop the lies.

In the story found in Genesis, Eve falls for the serpent's trap. She ate of the fruit and then she felt ashamed. Rather than getting up and confessing her sin, she stayed trapped in her shame and guilt. She made clothing out of fig leaves to cover up all she had done. She saw that she had been lied to,  but she didn't run away from her serpent friend. She rolled around in her shame and guilt and let it consume her. She wasn't ready to face God and say goodbye to the serpent. We can learn a lot from this. Finding free means finding freedom from these chains that have bound us, these lies that we have believed. This means that we have to acknowledge that we had a thought (such as, "I am not pretty"), and then move on from that thought. Thoughts are not fact- lots of them are lies. We need to let go of these false thoughts. They're just holding us back. 

Here's the thing: God loves you, no matter what you've done. We base our entire faith around the principle that we do not have to be enough. There's this not-so-tiny concept called grace. We celebrate the Lenten season and Easter to remember all of what Christ has done for us. If we were "enough", he wouldn't have had to come down to this crappy planet when he could have been partying it up with God in Heaven. But, he chose to die for us. While the serpent whispers in our ear, "You will never be enough", Christ tells us that it is okay for us to not be "good enough". In Romans, it says that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. But, that is why Christ died for us! It's this wonderful thing that we need to celebrate! You do not have to be enough. You don't have to live up to unrealistically high standards. You are beautiful just the way you are, because you are made in the image of God and he loves you! You don't have to live in the embrace of the serpent any longer. You can choose to walk awy from that relationship and start a new journey on the path of freedom. Freedom from the lie of "not enough". Freedom from the lie of "not pretty enough". Free from the lie of "if I just lose five more pounds." Free from the lie of "if I just make the grade, make the team". John 3:16-17 reveals this wonderful truth
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
We are free. We are free from these unrealistic, unattainable lies that have taunted us since the day that we came into this world. God didn't send his Son to condemn us. Jesus didn't come to Earth, see us in all of our brokenness and say "Ain't nobody got time for that!" and walk away. No. He came to heal. He came to restore. He came to bridge the gap so that we could be forgiven and have eternal, everlasting life! You are enough to him. Let that sink in for a moment. You. Are. Enough. For. Him. If you were the only one on this planet, he still would have chosen to come down here to save your soul. You don't have to lose five pounds to gain his acceptance. You don't have to get accepted to an Ivy League college. You don't have to be the prettiest, smartest, or most outgoing to gain his acceptance. He loves you for you, not for what you have done or what you will become. You don't have to work for it. You don't have to strive for perfection. You can be you and just love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength...and that will be enough.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

being brave and finding free.

Sadly, dear friends, I think I've outgrown the princess moniker. I remember the day that I started blogging at this sweet blog. I remember thinking long and hard about a name for this little spot on the internet. For the eighteen year old, Freshman in college..."Not Your Everyday Cinderella" seemed like a perfect name. It had just the right amount of sparkly fun. But, I think that the princess era of my life is coming to a close. I'm growing up. I'm not the same girl that I was almost four years ago

Seriously. This girl was cray-cray.
There have been many times when I contemplated changing the name of my blog, but it never seemed right at the time. It never seemed like the right time, the right name. But, three weeks ago, a name came into my head. For a moment, I thought that it was meant to be the name of a new blog. But then I realized that it belonged right here. It belongs right here in the middle of this sacred space. As much as I want to cling to my eighteen year old self, I'm learning that growing up might not be so bad after all. Growing up means new adventures. Growing up means learning what life really is...what free really means. I've been putting this post off for awhile now. I knew that changes were in store. But this little post from Annie was the straw that broke the camel's back. This small line at the end of her post was what hit me in the heart this morning: 
be brave, small soul. let Him turn you over and make you brand-new.
Be brave. Let Him make you brand new. That's what I want to be right? Brand new?  A new creation? But, this is a painful process. It kind of hurts. It hurts to be real and honest. But, secrets don't bring freedom. Secrets bring shame. Secrets bring guilt. Secrets keep us entangled. Secrets keep us in chains, in bondage.They hold us back. They keep us from living...really living! But, being open and real and honest and admitting that we have struggles? That we have strongholds that bind us? That brings freedom.

The new name of this little space on the internet is "Finding Free".The title is inspired by Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". My favorite part of the poem is the last two stanzas:
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing 
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The truth of the matter is: I feel like I'm that bird standing on the "grave of dreams" with clipped wings and tied feet. I feel like giving up some days. Sometimes the struggle to live and breathe and function seems to be too much work. That's why I entered a treatment program for eating disorders a month ago. For the last four years, in addition to keeping up this blog, I've struggled off and on with anorexia. It's easy to hide things when you feel like your whole life is a secret. It's easier to not let anyone know that you're struggling. But, over the last few months, things hit a breaking point. I wasn't able to hide my secret struggle anymore. I felt so ashamed for living this way. My secret was killing me (literally). So, I finished off a rough last semester to complete my degree, and then I entered a program to help me recover. It's been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Recovery? Is ridiculously hard. But, I'm finding free. And even though I'm not free yet, I'll sing the song of freedom from my cage, because I know that redemption is coming.

I'm learning to love and trust myself in a way that I never imagined. I'm finding what "free" really means. Life isn't just about growing up, moving out of your parents' house, getting married, buying a house, giving birth to 2.5 babies, and working at a job you hate until you can retire. Life has to be something more. There has to be a purpose for living- a passion behind what you do. I think that when you live life in this manner, it won't matter how the details work out. It won't matter what kind of house you have, when you get married, or how much money you make. It won't matter what color the walls of the foyer are painted or how many smocked dresses your precious baby girl owns. What matters is that you are FREE. Free to be the person that God created you to be. Free to travel, explore, and have adventures wherever life takes you. A life lived "free" is a life without limitations. It's not limited by false ideals of perfection. It's not limited by what other people may think. Finding free means learning to embrace life at it's fullest. It means running with the moment and enjoying what each and every moment brings....the good and the bad. It means shifting your perspective to focus on the positives of the situation, even when everything is falling apart. It means living for today, and letting tomorrow worry about tomorrow. Finding free means running in full pursuit after the coattails of the creator of the universe. It means dancing in the fields of wildflowers...even if they make you sneeze. It means fighting for life with every fiber that you've got. It means clinging to faith when you have nothing left. I may be standing on the "grave of dreams" right now, my voice may waver with a "fearful trill", but it's okay...I'm singing of freedom. As the Beatles' put it in their famed "Blackbird", 
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
I may be broken. I may be down. But I will rise. I'm finding free.