Overcoming the Shame of Chronic Illness and Weight Gain
When my husband and I first met almost six years ago, I was a shapely size six who ran three miles a day and went to the gym several times a week.
I’ll plead the fifth on my current size, but let’s just say I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years and not by choice.
Last year I was dropping my daughter, Avery, off for preschool and making small talk with another mom when she noticed that I was in “workout” clothes and invited me to head over to the gym with her after drop off. I froze. I didn’t know how to explain the journey that had led me to sleeping in comfy clothes and then wearing them to preschool drop-off in order to maximize my sleeping time, or being unable to walk the full distance from my car to the classroom without resting and most certainly not being able to join new friends for spin class. So instead I just said, “I’d loved to, but I can’t.” And then I proceeded to avoid her for the remainder of the school year.
So it’s like this: Sickness has a way of jacking with our body’s appearances and abilities. For me, that’s meant a tremendous amount of weight gain among other things. For others, that might mean uncontrollable weight loss or even the physical loss of a limb.
There were times at the beginning of the weight gain that I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. I was so ashamed of what I’d become. When Ryan and I went out in public it was painful to be seen and I often found myself picking out a new, fit and more deserving wife for him.
It took time for me to forgive myself, let myself off the hook and allow God’s love to meet me where I was before I could move from that place into a space where I knew that, while being overweight might not have been my dream come true, it didn’t have to define me.
Today, I focus on fighting my fight—day by day. That means: giving this life all I’ve got, leaning into health and wholeness, pressing toward the mark. I don’t have time to get distracted or discouraged. I have to fight my fight. I have to love my kids. I have to shine my light. It is my fervent hope and prayer that as I faithfully fight my fight it will lead me to a place where that includes shedding these pounds, where running my race literally includes running some races. But today, it doesn’t.
It’s funny, I remember coming home from my first date with Ryan feeling “seen” not “checked out” but “seen.” He did not choose me as his wife solely because he was pleased by what he saw on the outside, but because he was pleased by what he saw on the inside. He saw me– a woman passionately in love with Jesus. And while she may have gained a few pounds, that woman remains, falling more in love with Jesus by the moment.
This morning we went to church and worshiped and do you know what the Lord whispered in my ear yet again? That I had never been lovelier to Him, that He had never found me more breathtakingly beautiful than He does today. He’s captivated by the woman who has let the hard ground of the last few years be reason to let her roots grow deeper still and worship all the more. And after all, whose approval is it that I’m chasing?
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
Is there any higher compliment than knowing you are adored by a holy God? In light of that, what can a few pounds possibly mean?
Let’s steward our bodies well, yes. But when circumstances come that are out of our control and the reflection in the mirror isn’t quite what we’d hope for, let’s take the mirror to Jesus and there find love and celebration like we’ve never known. Let’s allow HIS words to define us, shall we?