Earlier this month, I threw a book on the floor in disgust. I was reading A Jewel in His Crown by minister Priscilla Shirer, and if the title leads you to believe the book is nutty, you’re mostly right. However, the comment that initially angered me has proven far wiser in the weeks that followed than I ever imagined: “A continued struggle with weight…is a direct sign that we have not submitted ourselves completely to the Lord.” I was aghast – where did Shirer get off, suggesting my weight was tied to a lack of submission to Jesus? I am absolutely submitted to the Lord, I protested in the margin. While I am thoroughly imperfect, I live my life for the glory of God as best as I humanly, possibly can.
The short version is, turns out she’s right. I dealt extensively with my food addiction while in graduate school and was able to whip myself eventually into obedience. When I felt God was assisting the process, I took the project back over from him and willed myself the rest of the way. Then when the old habits came back during my pregnancy, I was dismayed but not shocked. I kept telling myself, “Well, this is who you are. What did you expect?”
THAT IS NOT THE VOICE OF JESUS.
I continued to let that voice serenade me after the 60 pounds had been gained during 37 weeks of pregnancy. And I continued to let that voice serenade me after my daughter was born. And I continued to let that voice serenade me until I threw down my copy of Shirer’s book when my explosive disgust let me know she was right.
It was time for another kind of throw-down.
I started exploring myself with grace and even acceptance, becoming curious about my thoughts and actions. What else had that voice said to me? I grew militant about uprooting the beliefs, rendering the voice laryngitic. In order to do that, I had to listen, but I did so with beginner’s ears, as if listening for the first time.
The voice said, “You are not free. You must please everyone else. If you don’t at least eat whatever you want, you will have no freedom at all.”
It said, “You cannot control anything in your life. You have experienced so much pain, and it just keeps coming. You should at least be able to eat for enjoyment.”
It said, “Comfort eating is merely a bad habit. If you really want to stop, willpower will be enough whenever you’re ready.”
It said, “Food will give you what you want. You’ll feel free and in control, and you’ll be happy again. The depression will recede and the stress evaporate. You’ll be able to go back to your responsibilities having at least had a little break.”
Jesus doesn’t talk like that. Which means I was listening to a voice with no authority.
But here’s the problem: a diet doesn’t silence that voice. It says all the same things and allures with new gems like, “You’ll be worth something when you lose weight.” “You’ll finally be beautiful when you lose weight.” “You’ll finally be happy when you lose weight.”
The Bible, however, doesn’t say those things either. The Bible says I reflect the glory of God (Genesis 1:27). The Bible says God crafted me (Psalm 139:13). The Bible says God has collected every tear I’ve ever cried because he has that much compassion for me (Psalm 56:8). The Bible says God dances and sings with joy over me (Zephaniah 3:17). Logically, then, I am already worth something, something deep and irrevocable and priceless. The Creator of the whole universe finds me breathtaking. I am already whole. Until these truths bloom in my heart, my life will have no real vitality.
That’s why it could not be more crucial for me as a mother to submit to Jesus the ugly voice, the impaired thinking, and all the lies about who I am. For the issue of weight is fused to the issue of self-esteem, and I cannot teach my daughter to be what I am not. I can’t instill in her a sense of self-acceptance if I haven’t accepted myself. How will she learn? Furthermore, how can I fully embrace my husband if I haven’t fully embraced myself? Will I not always question his love for me if I believe no man could ever find me desirable?
This means, then, what I need is not a diet. Not even a “lifestyle change,” every diet-hater’s favorite euphemism. No, what I need is inner righteousness, an inner power fueled by the One who created me in the first place. What I need is belief in his love and ability to transform me. It is time to put myself in the way of grace and healing. Without submitting the ugly voice to God, I will never be the emotionally, spiritually, physically healthy woman he designed me to be. And I am, by the way, designed. I am a work of art, a cathedral, a masterpiece.
Kill the ugly voice before it kills you. For you are a masterpiece, too.