There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1
There it was, PROOF! – a ‘poochy’ in a photo we asked someone to snap of us at the peak. I was horrified to SEE it. Two days earlier I had realized the evidence of what I had been reluctant to admit, I had gained a few pounds over the past few months. I could feel it and see it in the mirror, but now here it was in living color, digitally for the world to see!
The self-recriminations had set in 60 hours earlier and I had been battling them armed with God’s truth SOME of the time. At other points, my brain buzzed in the high RPM range, figuring out what I was going to do to lose the 5 pounds.
What also bothered me was I thought I had put the Weight and Body Image Battle behind me, having even declared VS Day – Victory over the Scales Day on 5 Dec 2015. That day marked a turning point when I symbolically moved the scales off the throne of my heart to make room for Jesus as supreme treasure and pleasure.
But by the full force of this self-recriminating skirmish, all I had done was substitute a different but equally deadly joy-sucking idol for that morning metric measurer, the bathroom scales. What was this new enemy? – the concept of leanness as my supreme good.
After the hike, I took my journal outside on the deck to see if I could get to the bottom of this seeming forever struggle. And God was faithful to spark some gut-wrenching insights into the sin underneath this internal drama.
Here are the questions I wrote down:
- Why does having a ‘poochy’ bother me more than my sin of idolatry and scorn against a Holy God?
- Why is ‘leanness’ my ultimate and mostly elusive good?
The first question brought immediate remorse over my topsy-turvy value system. The scales were just the outward and visible manifestation of my inward and wicked heart as represented by ‘the leanness idol’. Abandoning my quest to maintain a certain weight didn’t take away what I still valued most in life.
The second question led to digging beneath the visible layers in my heart. By continuing to ask WHY, I tried to reach the bedrock of what drives me.
- Why do I value leanness? Because I most admire those women who are lean and fit
- Why do I admire those kinds of women? Because they are free of self-loathing.
- Why would NOT being ‘perfectly’ lean bring self-loathing? Because in myself, I can’t stand the feeling of a roll of fat or pudginess or tight rings or clothes. They make me mad and I feel stuck and depressed. And all that negative emotion pushes me inward into a seemingly self-perpetuating prison. I do all this to myself!
And then a question that directed healing light to that dark place in my heart.
- What is the opposite of all that yuck I just described? Contentment with myself. When content, I find it natural to forget about myself and focus on God and others. Balled up in myself distracts and distorts the destination of my energy.
- So if I seek a more lasting and better contentment and inner peace, what would God rather me choose as a source? Why pleasing Him by being satisfied in Him, of course! The answer was clear as day.
Just at the moment that the Holy Spirit enabled me to ponder this pleasant place of happy and restful contentment, He called to mind Paul’s words about having LEARNED to be content in all seasons. Hmmm. If Paul could learn, through practice, then so could I!
A bit energized I started to reason biblically:
- If God is FOR me, who can be against me? (not even Maria’s self-criticisms count or SHOULD be able to pierce my peace)
- If I have been declared ‘just’ by God (as a gift, through the mechanism of grace, and secured by Jesus’ redeeming payment with His life – Romans 3:24), then I already possess a permanent unshakeable peace with God.
- When I beat myself up for having gained 5 pounds, I am participating in condemnation – Satan’s hideous and soul-eating handiwork. He is the Accuser par excellence. Agreeing with Satan mocks Jesus’ extravagant gift to me.
I was almost at the point of echoing my ‘Uncle Paul’s despair-filled cry, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” – Romans 7:24. At that very moment, I think a whimsical but life-giving picture came to me. I imagined Jesus looking at me with a twinkle in His eye and saying:
Maria has a poochy and I LOVE her poochy!
What a startling but gentling image. Is it really so far out of the realm of divine possibility? After all, it was my husband who used to say with tender and happy love about our cat Calvin, Calvin has a poochy! And Calvin was his favorite cat!
If it’s TRUE that there is nothing I can do to make Jesus love me more or less than He already does, then why not THIS scenario of Holy Joy in one for whom He died?
I think the healing took root at that point, Saturday afternoon, on our deck in the sun, journal and pen in my hands.
Almost with embarrassed hesitation I shared these new insights with my husband. I felt that unless I articulated them out loud to another person, then I might slink back into the dark, dreary cave where I have beat myself up for far too long. But there it was, in the light of day, publicly proclaimed for the person most dear to me and uttered out loud ALSO in case that the devil, himself, might be lurking. And I, too, heard this new ‘fact’. Maybe it was more important for ME to hear those words spoken out loud, witnessed by my husband and the Holy Spirit.
So I’ve been saying to myself several times a day, ‘I have a poochy and Jesus loves my poochy!’