Make My Heart Believe
This post originally appeared on Compared to Who in January 2016.
For the better part of my life, my relationship with food, diet, exercise, and my body has been . . . complicated, to say the least.
I’ve been through seasons of “plans” — i.e, Hallie’s path to less jiggle – seasons of “intentionally zero plans” – i.e., Hallie says who cares and eats Tex Mex – and seasons of “EXTREME PLANS” – i.e., Hallie’s path to becoming a Tinkerbell-sized pixie (despite that I am every bit of 5’10”).
I’ve spent days, months, even years hating my body or begrudgingly accepting my body or trying very hard not to think or care about my body. I’ve tried every diet under the sun, usually followed by a decidedly-UNdiet phase.
Over my adult life, my weight has spanned a generous 90 pound range. After nearly 15 years of being conscious of (and generally wanting to change) my weight, my body, my food choices, my activity level, and my clothing size, I was certain I had considered the issues from every possible angle and employed every available technique to manage them.
I was certain that THE PROBLEM was my circumstances (weight, body, etc), and that with the right manipulation, I could fix THE PROBLEM.
It turns out that THE PROBLEM was not my circumstances (really, is it ever??).
In July 2015, for reasons mostly out of my control, I gained over 15 pounds in one month. And I lost it. My world shattered, and I went into mourning for the loss of my former smaller self. I imagined the Inside Out emotions taking turns ruling my brain and my tear ducts. I’m normally a JOY person, but quickly became a despair, anger, desperation, jealousy, and pity person (well hidden from mostly everyone, of course).
I tried time and time and time again to will myself out of this sad place. I told myself not to care about my weight so much. I wrote journal entry after journal entry about how I know in my head that God loves me as I am; that I am made in His image; that I am precious to Him; and that He is good when I weigh 145 pounds and when I weigh 175 pounds and when I weigh 200 pounds. I told myself that knowing, serving, and glorifying God is not contingent in any way on my weight, on my size, on my body. I read scripture and reminded myself daily about God’s promises – that He loves us, that He will give us every good thing, and that He is good.
But I was still sad.
I was still unexcited to see friends, particularly those I hadn’t seen in a while (at my larger size). I was lethargic and still half hoping (even if I wouldn’t admit it to myself or others) that I would wake up one day at my prior weight. In short, I was struggling to believe in my heart what I knew in my head to be true. And I had stored away, but not demolished, the idol of a thinner me in case I had the opportunity to worship it again – I wanted to make sure to remember how VERY IMPORTANT my weight is in the event that I was once again happy with my weight. There was a major disconnect between my heart and my mind, and I couldn’t reconcile them no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t change the desires and the idols of my heart.
The only thing I could do was pray. (Now, looking back, I know that “only” is entirely out of place when talking about prayer.) Immediately after my weight gain, I prayed for weight loss, that my clothes would fit, that I would have more self discipline with food and energy for exercise. I prayed that God would change my circumstances to fit my vision of my best self. But not only did my circumstances not change immediately, my heart was still sad, and was still fixated on what I thought would make me happy – weight loss.
Eventually, after arguing and negotiating with God and some serious conviction, my prayers started to change shape. I started praying that God would change my heart to accept, and even rejoice in, the circumstances (body) He had placed me in. I prayed that my heart would want more than anything – more than weight loss – to know, serve, and glorify God. I prayed that God would remove my obsession with weight loss and replace it with a healthy, but casual, interest in what I eat, how I exercise, and what I look like.
And you know what? He answered that prayer. He changed and is still changing my heart. I can feel the shift in my thinking, my emotions, and my prayers. I am more focused on doing the work that God has set before me each day and less focused on what I will eat, what I will achieve, body-wise, and whether I have earned the right to eat certain foods. I am far, far from perfect, and I am not free of this idol. But by God’s grace, I am able to recognize when I am giving weight a place in my heart, mind, and life that it does not deserve. I am prompted to pray, at all times of the day, for God to continue to change my heart. To make more room for Him, for the calling He has for me today, and for the people He has put in my path, and to make less room for my concerns with my weight.
Heart change was and is completely out of my control. But it is completely within God’s control. God has made my heart believe what He says about me and, more importantly, what He says about himself. Every time I, in my sin, make the perfect body my idol, God is merciful to forgive my sin, and redirect my heart to Him. And the joy I find in Him is infinitely better than the moment of happiness I had when fitting into my skinny jeans.