I was a little chubby a good part of my life. Dressing room episodes usually began with hope and ended in a heap of clothes on the floor and a promise to eat better and exercise more. In my mid-twenties, everything changed. An attempt to squeeze into the largest size of misses jeans resulted in an all-out competition between me and the denim. Barely buttoning at the waist, my reflection in the mirror rivaled the best Betty Crocker “muffin top.”
I committed that day to change my life. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19, NLT) as the Bible says, and I wanted to treat it as such. I joined a fitness camp, kept a food journal, made better choices, and lost about 20 pounds. I’d never looked or felt better. But the new image I reflected didn’t match the issues raging inside. My troubled marriage I fought to save was ending. Filing for divorce was the one thing I said I would never do. Living that relationship status burned me with the mark of ultimate failure.
Before long, my habits—my food and exercise obsession—began to enslave me. I weighed every ounce of food. Logged every bite. I placed my gym visits above God, friends and family time. I packed and ate my own meals in place of family dinners and business lunches. I competed in fitness competitions, the ultimate cattle call of judging on everything temporary life has to offer.
“I can do anything it takes to stay perfectly healthy!” I thought. “I am free from being fat.”
I wanted to be free, but I was deeply controlled. Controlled by food. By a brainless box of springs that measured gravity. By a community who desired me to appear a certain way. Mastered by the extremes and not the beneficial values of God.
Consider this. Is our desire really to be free? To live as we want even if the actions aren’t beneficial? Deep down, I believe what we’re truly desiring is freedom from consequences. However, when I’ve worshiped my “right to do what I want,” I’ve become mastered by my desires and left unsatisfied.
Our choices create ripple effects. Not many people think it’s fun to hang out with someone who is too obsessed with examining every calorie and ditching them for the gym. And consequences remain in a daily battle with body image. Because at any healthy weight today, compared to a near-anorexic state, my brain works to dispel the lie that my reflection in the mirror is fat.
As we encounter the natural consequences of our choices, we often strive to achieve our ideals until our situation is so painful, so isolating, we hit rock bottom. In that place, we find we’ve been mastered by our own doing and awaken to the fact that God does not leave us, He patiently waits for our return.
Though God gives us freedom to make our own choices, we’re not free of the consequences. How can we find and live in freedom? We can begin by letting God correct our faulty thinking with truth. Then, we can turn over even the smallest daily choices to God, leading to His perfect will.