Nothing like talking about weight loss!
I get so tired of being fat. A few years ago, I “slimmed down” to roughly 230 pounds, and was feeling pretty good about myself. Now, that’s not skinny for a short guy, but with my frame, it wasn’t bad as I continued on. Well, for a variety of factors, which included stress and laziness, my weight went back up, topping at a whopping 261 pounds, which is to date, my heaviest. It took me awhile, but eventually I did reenter the “bulge battle.” When I did, it was like starting over. It felt like turning the key on a cold engine in an old car. It sometimes takes a while to catch, but eventually it turns over, then you throw it in gear, and you’re on your way. Presently at this time, I am 40 pounds lighter with 25 or so to go, but frankly, there are days I’m just tired of trying. I’d rather poke a hole in the “gas line”, or pull a few “wires” so I can leave the car in the driveway and stay right where I am.
Hey, I still don’t want to be fat anymore, but I have to face facts, I always will be. Now, don’t look at me like I’m giving up. I’m already re-attaching all the wires and plugging up the hole in the gas line with some “flex-seal”, but I have to acknowledge something. If all the “beautiful” people (actors, models, singers, etc…), are so uncomfortable in their own skin that they spend tons of money on plastic surgery, age-defying makeup, body sculpting procedures, and trainers as well as depend on camera tricks, airbrushing, and body doubles to continue their careers, then I have to face facts as well. Even if I were to get down to my original weight (7 lbs 5 oz seems a bit unrealistic at my age), or something that is determined by society to be normal, I’m not going to be completely happy. I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been heavy so long that its hard to shake the feeling, but in light of all the “beautiful” people in High School (jocks, cheerleaders, etc…) I remember still feeling inadequate when I looked at myself in the mirror. This picture above from almost 30 years ago, gives you an idea of how “ridiculously heavy” I was back then.
The battle is not just beating our bodies into submission, but our minds as well. Our minds process reality a little differently then what we actually see. That’s why when someone loses an enormous amount of weight, a feat to be congratulated for sure, it never seems to be enough. “Just 10 more pounds”, lasts forever in our minds. This is true with our concern over weight as well as it is with disappointments about our height, hairline, facial features, and anything else you can think of. No one is ever completely satisfied with how they look or feel. People are constantly changing hair color or texture, makeup styles, growing beards, shaving heads, and targeting specific parts of the body for improvement, or simply getting a deep rich tan, spray or otherwise. Most people just won’t be honest enough to admit how uncomfortable they really are. Heck, I could deal with being short if I had my dad’s “hair genes” or good looks, but being 5′ 11″ would be cool too. We are always going to wrestle with this nature of being disappointed in ourselves. We are tainted to try to satisfy ourselves by self-improvement, inward or outward. We hardly need anyone to tell us the bad stuff. It’s all knocking around up there in our brains.
All this reminds me first, how badly I am at segues, and second, how often I am still disappointed by how much I have to wrestle control of my body away from sin. Even more disappointed when I don’t win that struggle, or I simply hand over the controls and say, “Whatever, dude..” I don’t think I am lessening the impact of this portion of scripture by using it here:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members – Romans 7:15-23
Whatever struggles we have are there because of our sinful inclinations. Our view of everything is tainted by an ugly nature that’s a part of us that cries out, “It’s not enough! It’s never enough! You’ll never measure up!” When we feel “ugly”, we never need to do a double take, but how many times will we look in mirror when we feel or look good? We’re amazed and have to make sure we are seeing this right. Ugly? “Yeah, I’ll just stay away from mirrors today. I don’t need to see that.” If we are feeling good, looking good, exuding some weirdly satisfying confidence, we will try to find any reflective material in the area and take a peek. Some might say that’s vanity. Maybe it is. But I know when I look in a mirror and look again, it’s because I see something I don’t often see and have to check to make sure it’s still there or I wasn’t imagining it. I feel that same way when paid a “Christian compliment.” Knowing myself, beyond the either helpful words I gave or good actions in helping another, its hard for me to hear how encouraging I am from someone. I feel like I have to check and make sure he or she is talking about me.
My default state is to not look in the mirror, because I won’t like what I see. When I feel ugly and unlovable I am crying out in despair, “why do I have to look this way? Who will deliver me from this creature I am? This vain creature that returns to the warm vomit of his sin and struggles. Why do I keep seeing this fat bald guy in front of me, who can’t lose weight? Why does he have to be so short and pale? Why can’t he even grow a decent beard to cover his face?”
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24
Who? Who will rescue me, not just from the horrible cycle of self-salvation, but from feeling overwhelmed with how bad I look or feel? I recognize that even this is part of the battle that Paul speaks of. It is not just stepping from thoughts into actions, but wrestling with thoughts that weigh us down. It will be a life-time journey that I acknowledge, like Paul, will lose, and even lose badly sometimes. I need a rescue. I wish it was a once and for all thing so I didn’t have to struggle with these feelings anymore, but it’s not. It’s a continual rescue and a constant saving that I need. It’s a body of death that is still living and breathing and wrestling for control. I do have a rescuer though:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 7:25 – 8:1
Though my flesh often wrestles and sometimes succumbs, I am victorious when I can remember and lay hold of the promise that I am no longer condemned to death by this struggle, even by losing at times. I am forgiven and I am clean. God, through Christ encourages me to look in the mirror now and see the image of his Son, which I now by grace bare. I still have to do double and triple takes and wonder, is that how God really sees me? REALLY? There are days we will gaze into that mirror and still see that ugly, wretched, undeserving person staring back at us, but, if we understand this truth, that the image there, no matter what we see, is always Christ, his reputation, his work, and his perfect walk, etched into the mirror so it never goes away, we can be encouraged. We can be encouraged because we can’t see, even the worst of ourselves in that mirror, without seeing Christ’s always superimposed over it. Like a chalkboard with a list of words written on it, words like, “Condemned”, “Sinner”, “Unforgivable”, “Ugly”, “Rejected”, “Unlovable”, CHRIST is written in LARGER, BOLDER letters over them all, so that is all you see.
Those things won’t ever go away completely in this world. We’ll never lose enough weight, have enough hair, grow the best beard or have the deepest tan. We’ll always have some stretch marks and scars. Those faults will always exist, along with our struggle against measuring our lives up against some twisted worldly standards, but along side it, please know, covering over it, is Christ. The words, “it is finished”, make it difficult to see those things as clearly as we used to and that’s a good thing. Struggle, wrestle, but in the end, know you bear the gift of Christ’s life and image. That will always be enough in victories, struggles and failures.