So there’s this boy…
I know what you’re thinking. “Spare me. Is this some mushy love story about falling in love and living happily ever after?” Well, not hardly. Let me save you the trouble, there’s no happy ending. Not yet anyways. And as much as I’d like to say I’ve figured this one out, let me stick with what I know, the lessons I’ve learned through trying.
Almost nine years ago, I started as a freshman in college. I have severe anxiety when I think about that being nine years ago. One of the first social activities of my college experience crossed my path with that of a guy I would later call one of my dearest friends. After a year, I was in and believed with every ounce of my being that it was only a matter of time before we would end up together. What I have learned through this relationship, the dependence on God it has all but forced out of me, would astound you. As I think back on it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This relationship has pulled me through many lessons, one of which is a plaguing issue for women all over the planet. Body image.
Up until then I had been comfortably unhappy with the way that I looked. I didn’t like it, but I knew how to live with it. I knew it wasn’t all that great, that I didn’t have a lot going for me in the looks department, but I knew how to be the overweight, freakishly tall, mediocre to average looking girl. I didn’t know how to be the petite and pretty girl anyways, so I lived with the hatred of my lot, believing it was unchangeable.
Enter the boy.
Let me preface with this: I have every reason to believe that my interpretation of the standards held by said boy were warped by my own insecurity. My pain and turmoil was self-imposed, I am fairly certain of it. However, somewhere along the way, I decided that he would never be interested in a girl like me unless I looked a certain way, and that way was anything but the way I looked. I wanted something, the affection of another person, and I was bound and determined to get it.
My first move was a brutal attack on my exterior. I took a liking to all things clothes, jewelry, accessories, you name it. Maybe I could hide the parts of me that weren’t great, trick him with a killer sense of fashion. Fortunately, this was easy for my artsy and creative side to embrace. Even past this boy, I began to crave the compliments from others and hate the days I didn’t get them. I still love fashion, clothes and trends, but it took a long time to rein it in to a God-glorifying interest. But for all intents and purposes, this absolutely did not work.
My next stop was the gym. I guess I thought all guys automatically found attractive any girl that went to the gym, not to mention the fact that it was sure to help my less than ideal BMI. I even took a women’s weight training class to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I took my roller coaster of emotions out on the nearest piece of cardio equipment I could find, but never found solace, and the immediate changes were minimal.
Finally, I unleashed the internal battle of altering what I put in my body. I tried multiple times to stop eating all together but each time, I convinced myself I was a lost cause anyways. This inevitably led to binging. Which gave me the idea that maybe what I needed was to self-medicate, to help my system flush it all out. Praise the Lord he led me to a confession that curbed my downward spiral.
I was desperate to be good enough but nothing was working. I had to give up on the hope of winning this boy’s love and attention. I waived the white flag and I surrendered.
In all these things, my motive was absolutely, without a doubt, the approval of man. Of one silly boy. Paul tells us in Galatians 1:10 that, as believers, we can not seek man’s approval and call ourselves servants of God. Devoted servants seek the approval of their master, not another good looking hired hand. Does that not reveal a heart devoted to someone or something else entirely? And then by definition, we become servants of that. I knew my heart’s devotion, my hope, was misplaced. And Proverbs says, hope deferred makes the heart sick. And sick it absolutely was.
It took a lot of time for God to chisel out in me the desire to look a certain way for the sake of others. But what stuck with me was the desire to know, could I be healthy and feel good about myself, about the way that I looked? And how did I get there? It has only been in the last few years that I have sought after a healthy lifestyle for the sake of serving God, stewarding my physical body well, and attempting to break a generational pattern of sin that exists in my family regarding emotional eating. My motive sometimes strays, but I fight for God to be the center of my efforts. It is continual learning, to find and maintain the balance between bondage and freedom. And to know, what practices lead to which. For me, there is no sustainability in rigid rules. This is a nose dive straight into bondage, eventual failure, and backlash. But with the right heart motive, I can learn to do this right, with freedom and enjoyment.
I have absolutely learned to rest in the fact that I was created in the image of God, with intent and specificity. Nine years later, I can tell you this journey has drug me into the heart of God, praising Him for his grace in the moments that I have concerned myself with the affection of another, idolized that affection, and curbed a relentless pursuit of my Savior’s. It looks like I will probably never be with this guy, and that is okay. God gives and he takes for his glory. I pray this lesson, and the countless others, glorify Him, making it all worth it.