God has been good to me. Through every doubt, through every hardship, through infertility, through the challenges of adoption, general parenthood, teaching---- through joy, through loss---God has shown up. God has been there. In personal, loving, ways that display His kindness and His goodness.
Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
I have read this in the Bible---but I also know this to be true from my own experiences. I went through a period in my life when I ran as far as I could from God. I was actively trying to mold Him into something I could easily accept---and if I was not able to do that---if He couldn't be what I thought He should be----then I really didn't want anything to do with Him. And He showed up. And showed me kindness, grace. When you hit a place in your mind where there is obviously nothing good in you---where every thought seems to be resentful and hateful towards yourself and even towards others---and then something Good touches you, stands by your bedside and holds your hand and calls you Beloved--you know that Goodness didn't come from inside you---it came from something outside of you.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
And you realize that the God who made the universe has given everything He could ever give---sacrificed and suffered on your behalf-- in order to reconcile with you--a sinner--a person in active rebellion from His love. There is no greater love story. There is no greater rest. There is no greater peace. There is nothing more humbling. There is nothing more beautiful. And there is no true happiness outside of this knowledge and acceptance of the gift extended to you.
Throughout the year of 2017---I began to be convicted about the way that I was using food as a way to make myself feel better--and even the way I was using my extra weight as a kind of strange protection. I would eat too much or sit too long---and God would whisper---you don't really have to do this. I'm right here. You can't fill the void you're trying to fill with anything but Me anyhow...I would sit under preaching at church about idols---about turning to things other than God for things that only God can give. I watched my health decline. I took more medicine to control blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. I listened to the doctors warn me that my extra weight--which I had learned to lean more and more on for protection---was killing me. I knew I needed to change. But I've tried to change before---I have changed before---superficially--- with short term weight loss. I would always turn back to food eventually. And turn back to the weight. I was afraid to try. For a long time, I was afraid to even pray for God to help me turn away from this sin---because I feared that it was so much a part of me---that I could never really let it go.
Less scary than actually starting the process of loosening the control of food/inactivity on my life---was praying about it. And sometime in 2017---I did start praying. At first, just during the church services when I would feel convicted about the idols I was maintaining in spite of the love God had shown me. Then I started walking sometimes at night. I'd bring my Kindle with me, walk slowly, and read my Bible. And pray. And ask God to help turn me away from excess---and turn me more towards Him. I would read my Bible and the explanations that went with it---and there were times I was just struck with the wonder--- that I have been set free--I don't have to be enslaved to food or greed or anything else. I'm free --I'm accepted completely because of the love and sacrifice of my savior--- Christ Jesus, I'm loved, completely. I'm no less loved because I'm overweight----but I don't have to be overweight---and I can change. I can break free from this---not of my own strength---but through the strength of the God who loves me. I listened to a sermon once by Tim Keller---where he talked about these moments where sometimes you feel as though God has just lifted you up on His shoulders. He compared it to the feeling a child has who has been lifted up into his father's arms feels----the child is no more or less loved by his father whether he's in his father's arms or not---but the child feels the father's love more acutely when he is in the father's arms. We are no more or less loved by God regardless of our feelings---but there were times that it just felt as if I'd been lifted into my heavenly Father's arms. It was sweet---and it restored my soul in a way I hadn't thought possible.
So around August---I started the work. Counting the calories---keeping them below the number allotted in order to lose weight. Walking 3x a week for 20 minutes....walking every day.....walking further and longer because it became joyful---and because I looked forward to it. I often read my Bible as I walked. I prayed. I asked others to pray for me. Many of my friends and peers encouraged me. I started running---just a little---just to see if I could. Began the c25k program----and somehow---against all of my expectations--- that became joyful as well. Running and asking God to carry me one step further today than I went yesterday felt like a new kind of worship---a new kind of relationship building activity between me and God. I ran past the Christmas lights in my neighborhood, I ran under the hawk swooping over my favorite trail, over the imprints of the leaves on my path, and on the bridges over water that sparkled as the sun reflected off of it. And there was a deep peace in this---one that I cannot adequately describe---one that I am so grateful for. I started a little strength training a couple days a week because I wanted to be strong enough to run further. And I started swimming laps at the local gym----because I can't run every day without risking injury----and that too---just pushing slowly across the water---asking for the strength for one more stroke---one more lap---it is a kind of healing---a kind of replenishing.
The calorie counting, the exercise---it's good and it's helpful---and it had to be done in order for me to change. I've lost 56 pounds---and my dr dropped one of my blood pressure medicines with plans to drop more. I am not finished--I need to lose another 40 pounds or so. But I am not obsessed with the number on the scale--or the size of my pants--or how quickly I can take this weight off. Not anymore. The important change was the one that came before----the one that came through God reaching out to me----through prayer and dependence, through practicing faith that God really can turn me away from a sin that I have long been enslaved to.
There is a danger here of turning even exercise or calorie counting into an idol---there is a danger here of falling into the thought pattern: I did this on my own. So I write this in part to tell myself---remember. Remember who gave you this gift. All good things---come from above. And this season in my life of feeling good and healthy and loved----it's a blessing. And it isn't anything I did---it is something that was given to me. There will be other seasons---there will be seasons of sickness---or sadness--or loss. There may be seasons when the weight comes back. Whatever happens---I'm still loved by God. I may falter---He will not. My love for Him may waver---His love for me will be steadfast. And this is what I want to remember always---and I want to live my life out of the infinite wellspring of His loving kindness.
So what I'm praying for myself this year is this: "Teach me to be a Godly woman. And create in me a spirit of gratitude and service."
Thanks be to God for the blessings He has given me. And happy new year.