When the voices of comparison and lies from the enemy grow loud, we have to fight for the Truth of who God is and who we are in Him. My fellow writer, Heather, shares beautifully, bravely, and vulnerably about her own struggles with her weight, self-image, and how God met her in her suffering in this piece. I’m so grateful to share her words with you today.
Here is Heather Kristine’s Freedom Story.
I’ve struggled with poor self-esteem most of my life. Every time I walked into a room I looked around and ranked myself in comparison to everyone else. My ranking was largely based on weight. Am I the fattest woman here?
After losing 135 pounds in 16 months through restrictive eating I was sure I had arrived. Now I was worthy of other people’s time and attention, right? As soon as I began to eat normal food again the weight started to pile back on. With each pound, I gained I lost a corresponding pound of confidence.
I started to hide again. I’d cancel plans and refused new invitations believing that my weight gain would be the silent undercurrent to every interaction. Even my own pastor called me out on it. “What happened, Heather? You were doing so well. How did you let the devil get a foothold again?”
Was I really doing so well? I had been restricting myself to under 1,000 calories a day. I’d lost half of my hair. my nails were falling apart. My skin was dull, dry and itchy. Worst of all, I was too tired to do anything. I always thought that once I lost the weight I would regain radiant health, climb mountains, learn ballroom dancing, find love. The only thing I gained in losing all that weight was an inflated ego. Only if I ranked myself higher than average in a room would I have the confidence to strike up conversations and get to know people.
I used to be afraid of people. Long after the bullies had graduated and moved on, I was still bullying myself with a non-stop inner monologue of disgust and condemnation. If I could be this mean to myself then other people were scarier. Why would anyone want to be friends with the likes of me? If I couldn’t even do something as simple as eating less and exercise more, what could I possibly have to offer?
Then God met me in the midst of my suffering.
I had crept out of the evening session at our women’s retreat. Overcome by self-hatred and condemnation I sought refuge in the quiet of my hotel room. Alone with my two favorite guys, Ben & Jerry. Stuffing the empty pint of “Peanut-Buttah Cookie-Core” into the garbage, I was covering my shame with wads of clean paper towel when God whispered to my heart. “Can you learn to love yourself, even if you gain all the weight back?”
I don’t know.
I tried to love myself. I really did, but I couldn’t get free of comparing myself to other women. I lost the ability to pay attention in conversations because all I could think about were all the ways I didn’t measure up. It was like I was being bullied all over again, except that the voices never stopped when the bell rang. They were always with me.
Several months later I was at another women’s conference. Everyone was standing in worship and I was cowering in my seat, fighting the urge to bolt for the doors. After one of the songs, a speaker led us in a time of confession and prayer. I turned to the two friends on either side of me and begged them to pray for me to stop comparing myself to others.
As they laid hands on me and prayed I saw myself in a hall of mirrors. Everywhere I looked was a mirror reflecting and magnifying each of my flaws. “Lord, how can I escape from this nightmare?”
Then a sermon from many years ago began to ring in my ears. The radio preacher was reading from the book of Ezekiel:
“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
Ezekiel 28: 12b-14a ESV
The preacher said that Lucifer was covered in precious stones so that he could reflect the glory of God.
The enemy of my soul is reflective!
Suddenly, the hall of mirrors took on an entirely new meaning. As soon as I thought it, I had a large rock in my hand. As each mirror shattered a new rock appeared in my hand. When they were all gone, Jesus was waiting to take my hand and lead me back into the light.
I’m still tempted to compare myself to others. But then I recognize that my eyes have wandered back to the enemy of my soul so I search for Jesus in the eyes of that other person instead. Somehow, this has brought me the freedom to show up authentically in community. I no longer resist the urge to text or call a friend because I don’t want to burden them. I’m no longer afraid to introduce myself to someone new because I’m sure I have nothing of value to offer them. I’m just looking for Jesus in everyone that I meet and I make friends along the way.
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Heather Kristine is a writer living just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Making homemade soup is her love language and she is currently training to be a spiritual director. She has one adult daughter who has flown the coop and two white rabbits. You can follow along with Heather’s beautiful words and journey on Instagram.
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Special thanks to Averie Claire (via Unsplash) for the photo that accompanies this post.