Subtracting Numbers and Multiplying Words

Stories for the Journey

Note: This week, I will be sharing stories of my emotional  journey. I think we often misunderstand or neglect emotional health. God has been working on this in my life. All of these are intended to tell what happened to me, not to tell you what to do. They are anecdotes NOT advice. You have your own journey and have to do your own research. Feel free to share your stories in the comments or in an email. I would love to read them! 

“Do you really think you should be eating that? You’re fat enough already.” I looked from the disgust in my fifth grade classmate’s eyes to the small handful of grapes in my hand. I shrugged off his words with a raise of my shoulders, but it has taken years to shrug  off the words etched on my heart.

“You’re fat. You’re ugly. Everyone is thinking it. Most are  just too nice to say it.”

Maybe your lyrics are different, but I imagine the tune has hummed through your brain in one way or another during your lifetime. In my 33 years of being a woman and my interactions with other women, I believe that in some way, women have felt defined negatively by numbers. Numbers on a scale, a paycheck, a dress label, or a fertility test. The number of candles on our cake or the number of college degrees we possess.

As if a number can define a creation of God. One whom He does not number but names. Names as His own. Yes, He claims me as His. And you. It’s as if He smiles and says, “I made her. She is mine. And I’m willing to show her how much I love and want her by the Ultimate Sacrifice.”

If you are a Christian, you know that. At least on a mental level. I knew it. But when faced with escalating numbers on a scale and other flesh-and-blood creations who looked different, it paralyzed me and left me with thoughts that maybe one particular creation was just flawed.

We make so much of life about numbers. What is your weight? How old are you? What’s your net worth? How many children do you have? And the number on the label of your dress?

And society sets the only acceptable number that you had better fall into or else. You have to fall within the guidelines of your BMI or else. You are only valuable if you are old enough or young enough. You will never make it in life without this income level. You’d better not  have too many children or else. Or else what? That remains largely undefined.

God’s Word addresses health, but have you noticed there are no weight requirements in its Holy Pages? God used Abraham at 100 and Josiah at 9 and Jesus began touching hearts at His Birth. He used rich Magi and well-to-do Job as well as a widow putting in her last two mites and a group of lower class fishermen. He used women with a houseful of children and women with no children.

Numbers are not important to God.

Yet I struggle. How do I evaluate myself without a number? How do I know how I’m doing, really?

Slowly, I’m letting go of numbers and embracing words. My birthday is coming up, and I’m getting older. I’m putting a slash through that looming number and remembering these words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I still step on the scale from time to time. But, I remember the words, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” And I put a big slash through Satan’s whisper “You will always be fat” and replacing it with “I will always take strides toward health.”

Income numbers? “God is my Provider.” My work merits nothing. His work is everything.

Like many women, I have a collection of diet books on my shelf. I’ve slowly weeded out all but the ones written from God’s perspective. As I look over my shelf, however, I see three left that are not written by Christian women. They nod to health, but they are more concerned with their desirability to men than their standing before the Almighty God.

When I look at their bios, their pictures look really good. At least, they fit all the world’s ideals for being fit, beautiful and attractive to men. But when I read their stories, I see women with multiple divorces, a variety of non-committed partners and deviant lifestyles that suggest their goal of attracting men was not realized with the perfect body after all.

Do I want to be healthy for the sake of God’s work and for strength to care for my family and the purpose to which God has called me? Of course. God doesn’t call us to a life of laziness and obesity from improper stewardship of our bodies.

But now instead of jumping on the scale every morning, I jump on my trampoline or my treadmill.

Instead of counting calories, I count the nutritious God-created foods in my diet.

Instead of measuring hours of productivity and dollars of income, I measure my days in the afternoon coffee break with my husband, cooking dinner with my 4-year-old’s assistance, tea and Bible study time with my tween daughter or a game of Checkers with one of my other boys.

My clothes have a range of sizes on them. I know I’ll never see a size 2. But the robe of righteousness? It’s a one size fits all. And it is the perfect accessory to a life well lived. 

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