Body Image

I’m turning 55 this year, and my body shows it.  I’m definitely in shape – round is a shape, right?!

I’m apple-shaped – the worst design for heart health, with all the weight around the middle part of my body. As far as I know, my heart is strong, but this place of carrying pounds is not recommended by health experts.

I like my face and neck, and I like my legs. It’s the mid-section that causes me grief, from boobs to butt!

Of course, I can’t really complain about it, because I’m not doing anything about it.  I’m still eating frozen pizza once a week, still daily eating dark chocolate pieces (healthy, right?!), and drinking wine. I have increased my vegetable intake, which is healthy. And I readily reach for fruit, but those of course have sugars in them, which is probably why I prefer them to veggies.

I do want to walk more – my goal is 3x/week, or more if I get my headphones on and listen to podcasts. I want to be ready, endurance-wise, for a trip to Europe in the Fall. But I’m not going to the gym; I’m not even doing my stretching exercises anymore, which I had done nightly for many weeks, faithfully.  Funny how quickly I can get out of a habit.

So, age 55. At what point do I accept my body? Not to say that I give up walking, but at what stage – or age – do I say that I am okay with how I look?

I’ve recently found a website with clothes that compliment me, and I’ve purchased several things from them which flatter my body. But I weigh more now than I ever have, and while my weight isn’t increasing, it’s not going down either. How do I look in the mirror and say I’m okay with what I see?

God looks at the inner part of me (“…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b, NLT), which is definitely growing in closeness to Him. He sees my heart, which is full of love for Him, and gratitude for His gifts of eternal life, for the Holy Spirit, for His Word, for His faithfulness to me.

So while God wants me to take care of my body (Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your bodyI Cor. 6:19-20, NLT), He’s not angry with me about my body shape. He loves me just the way I am.

Now, to love myself – and my body – the same way that God does.

 

 

Again?

Yesterday, I took the PHQ-9, which is the short questionnaire that doctors and psych docs give to determine if depression is present. I scored a 6, which means mild.

I’ve felt it for a little over a week. The downward pull towards feeling flat. So far, it’s just been moments each day, not all day every day. It’s actually depression if the symptoms are over the course of two weeks. So maybe I overestimated and my score is less than 6. But even 4 indicates mild depression. And the fact that I took the quiz in the first place is a red flag to me that I’m concerned about my mental health. I’m noticing that something is “off.”

In church this morning, I was wondering “Why?” I’m doing all the right things. I’ve been replacing negative thoughts with God’s truth. I know I’m deeply loved. I’m using my blue-light lamp. I’m writing daily in my gratitude journal. I’m in God’s Word every morning. I’m trying to make healthy food choices, mostly. So what caused this change? Why would it come back?

Maybe it’s that time of year – mid-winter. Even in VA, with warmer weather and more sunshine than in the Midwest, it’s still clearly winter, with all the naked trees and cold winds.

I just read an article that says that January 24th is the hardest day of the year. That’s right around the time I admitted to my husband and best friend that I was struggling.

My first psych doc told me that February is a very hard mental health month. Maybe I’m anticipating that. February has traditionally been a tough month for me. So maybe it’s “mental muscle memory.”

But for whatever reason, I’m fighting depression again. It’s not bad, not yet anyway. I promise not to wait too long, to call my psych doc if it continues. But he’ll just up one of my meds, which I don’t want to do!

I see a new therapist in two days, a Christian counselor. Maybe he’ll be able to help.

In the meantime, I’ll be honest with my husband about how I’m feeling. I’ll keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing to fight it off. I’ll work up the courage to ask others to pray for me, combatting my own feelings of stigma and failure that I didn’t keep it away. I’ll remind myself that I didn’t fail – it’s just something I have to deal with, my cross to bear.

“This, too, shall pass.”

Satan is the Accuser

I was struggling this morning with lots of negative self talk. I was blaming myself and my earlier depression for one of my children’s current situation.

I kept telling myself that it wasn’t true. I prayed about it, asking God to replace what I knew were lies with His truth. That I am beloved, a child of the King. That “...there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭8:1‬, NLT. And I know I belong to Christ Jesus. So where was this condemnation coming from?

My feelings wouldn’t catch up to this verse, and I began crying. I couldn’t internalize God’s truths and reconcile them with my feelings. And my feelings were so negative – full of guilt and shame. And self-blame.

Until I heard the word “accused.” I was being accused. And right then, I recognized the source of the lies. Satan gave himself away by accusing me. Because I recalled immediately that he is known as the Accuser in the Bible (Revelation 12:10).

These were lies from the devil. Besides Accuser, Jesus called him “the father of lies.” John 8:44, NLT. He was lying to me, blaming me, accusing me. Telling me that it was my fault that my child has made these choices.

But that’s not how God speaks to His children, and I am a child of God. He speaks to me with love, with tenderness. Even if He’s disciplining, He does so with gentleness.

So these harsh words couldn’t be from God. They had to be from the devil. And I will not agree with the devil!

I admit, this may be an ongoing battle for me, to recognize the lies of the devil, to distinguish his accusations from my own thoughts. Such is the nature of depressive thinking. It’s in my head, so it feels like it’s my own thoughts, that it originated with me. Depression lies.

I pray that God will give me the discernment to recognize the enemy’s voice, and replace it quickly with words of love from my Heavenly Father.

Depression and Answered Prayer

I’ve struggled with depression for over ten years. I think I’ve had more than a dozen different depressive episodes, some much worse than others. In my hopeful moments, I begged God to not waste my pain, to allow me to use it to help others. But mostly, I couldn’t see anything good in my suffering.

For those of us who struggle with mental health, it’s very isolating. There’s still so much stigma surrounding mental illness: people don’t understand it. How could I be a Christian, let alone a leader and Bible Study teacher, and still be tormented by these feelings of uselessness and hopelessness? What kind of witness was I to my friends and coworkers? A failure! I felt very alone, even at church.

I didn’t want church friends to know – I didn’t want to be judged as sinful. I didn’t want work friends to know – I didn’t want to be judged as weak. But as the illness progressed, it became more and more obvious that I was unable to do my jobs. Others had to start picking up the pieces I dropped. Not to mention the days I didn’t have the strength to go to work or Bible Study at all, so I’d call in “sick.” I always felt horrible, knowing they would have to scramble to cover my responsibilities as well as their own. But I couldn’t help it. I was unable to leave the security of my bed and the safety of my home. I couldn’t face glaring lights, traffic, or people.

I didn’t know how God was going to redeem this, make anything good come from my pain. And as I got deeper into the illness, it became harder and harder to hide from the people around me.

So I thought God might work through awareness, as my friends saw me struggle. Perhaps I could give them a glimpse, an understanding, of what depression is and does. Maybe that was how God would use my pain for others’ benefit. Maybe, by being ill and unable to hide it, I could reduce stigma. “See? It can happen to anyone!”

In the darkest times, though, I didn’t care if others understood, or what God might do with my struggles. I was simply trying to survive, to hang on through another day of excruciating mental pain and feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, with physical manifestations of weariness, head and body aches and stomach pain. I dreaded going to bed because it just meant another day of the same tomorrow. Unless perhaps I wouldn’t wake up…the thought was appealing. I begged God for the Second Coming – the only way in which I could see my pain ending. That or death, which I was too afraid to try, though I thought of it often.

Depression is that way, trying to get me to think that no one understands, no one cares, and it will never end. In the very darkest times, I even wondered where God was, and felt like He’d abandoned me in my dark cave of negative self-worth.

But God had not abandoned me. Jesus was right by my side, and He wasn’t tapping His foot and telling me to “hurry up and get better.” He was sitting alongside me in my pain, comforting me and reminding me that He loves me so much. He was crucified for me, and for the pain of depression. He had died on the cross to give me eternal Hope. And as I sl-ow-ly emerged from the darkness of depression, God gave me the opportunity to serve Him with my illness.

Fresh Hope is a peer-led support group for people with a mental health challenge – and their loved ones. Just this week, I was part of a team which started a Fresh Hope Group at our church. The organization is about creating a community where we learn to live a rich, faith-filled life, in spite of having a mental health challenge. It’s for anyone who struggles with mental illness – depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar, PTSD, schizo-affective disorder – and for anyone who loves someone who is hurting in this way.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28, NLT.  He’s doing that for me through this Fresh Hope Ministry – working all my pain from depression for my good and for others.  In Fresh Hope, we’ll encourage each other, and comfort one another with the same comfort we’ve received from God (see II Corinthians 1:3-4).

I have suffered, and therefore have the privilege of understanding. Of having gone through the valley of the shadow of death, and emerging on the other side. I can relate to the hurting who come to the group. God is using my illness to help others. And further healing me in the process.

Gray Areas, and Loving like Christ

  • Yield…
  • One Way…
  • No cell phones…
  • Wait your turn…
  • Thou shall not kill…
  • Stand in a straight line…
  • Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only…

All kinds of rules, directions, restrictions, limitations. Some are really clear. Some as defined by societal laws. And God’s Word gives clear boundaries on many things, but there are gray areas, too.

What do we do about these unclear places?

I think this is where love comes in. Respecting the other person. Putting them first, before self.

There are many laws in God’s Word, where He says “Do” and “Do not.” Where the verse reads, “This is God’s will.” Those are pretty clear!

And Christ came to fulfill all of those. Not just what the Old Testament verse says, but the meaning behind the verse – where “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭NIV‬

And in the Sermon on the Mount, where He says, “But I tell you,…” and raises the bar on the original law, calling for a deeper attitude of obedience, a heart-change.

In some ways, it’s easier to just follow the written rules. When we know what the rules are, we simply obey, and expect everybody else to do so, too. That’s what makes the four-way stop signs work!

But if we live only by rules, including our own version of the rules, without regard to respecting the other person, we run the risk of becoming legalistic and judgemental.

The problem comes when the rules are not clear. When societal norms go against God’s Word, then it’s critical to remember that God’s Word is Truth. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. But what about those places where truth is not clear? Where God’s Word doesn’t say definitively?

Honoring God and honoring fellow man.

It’s about respect. Respect for the other person, as an individual created in God’s image and deeply loved by Him.

That’s when we chose to live as Christ lived, and to love as Christ loved. Respecting the person. Loving them. Praying for wisdom. And letting God be the judge.

Casting Crowns: Jesus, Friend of Sinners: https://youtu.be/BY6VAy9y_iQ