They have a song, Who Am I, that moves me every time I hear it. One of the verses says this:
"Who am I
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?"
This time when I heard them sing this in concert, I immediately knew that my next blog post was right there, just waiting to happen. It will be the first time I've written for this blog in a "series" so to speak. But these lines are going to tell you a big part of my story over the past 25 years while I became a big girl...and then found the REAL girl inside me and have begun to let her emerge. Some of this, you've heard before. Some will be new for you. ALL of this is what God is working out in me.
So...here we go...
Who AM I?
Well, the answer to that question, at least in part, goes back 40 years to a little 4 year old girl missing her daddy. My parents divorced when I was very, very young. I have always known that both my mother and father love me without measure. Just as I love them. But I spent much of my childhood jealous of my friends who had their mom and dad living with them together under the same roof. I wanted so badly for that to be me, and I can't remember the days when it was. I was too little to have those kinds of memories. Daddy left when I was 3...he and Mom divorced by the time I was 4.
A girl gets so much of her self-image growing up from her dad. How he sees her, how he treats her is what she begins to accept and understand about herself. If he sees her as beautiful, she thinks she is. If he shows her respect, she comes to expect it from others. Growing up without that daily influence from my father impacted me in ways I only recently have begun to understand.
You see, I have NEVER doubted for one day, one moment even, that my dad loves me. He does. He has from the moment I took my first breath, and will until the day I take my last. I'm confident of that. But while I was growing up I never saw in him a role model for the man I would one day look for as part of my life. I had no idea what it looked like for a man to respect and love a woman, except for a fantasy that I'd constructed for myself based on reading romance novels. So when things didn't work out the way I imagined they should in my relationships with boys and then men, I had no frame of reference to go to. I assumed that the fault was mine...all of it. If things weren't as wonderful as they worked out in my novels, I was sure the blame belonged to me.
And I ate away those emotions. All of them.
Macaroni and cheese tastes better than frustration feels. Any day! And so rather than allow myself to feel the frustration, confusion, hurt...I ate. A lot. And then some. To the point that by 2010, I weighed 328 pounds, had bone-on-bone arthritis in both knees, and hated the woman I saw in the mirror.
All I could see in that mirror two years ago was a BIG girl. Not a smart girl, although I am. Not a kind and caring friend, although my friends would attest that this is one of my biggest strengths. Not an accomplished professional, although I have plenty of accolades that would testify to that fact. Nope. The only thing I could see is my weight. And I hated what I saw.
And friends, some days, I still struggle with this. A big part of me still looks in the mirror and sees every flaw I possess. I have to really, really force myself to look deeper...see more than the external features I possess and pay attention to who I REALLY am...my character. And when I DO take the time to look at the outside shell of my body, I have to remind myself to be fair to me. It's not the body I want yet...but it's also not the body I had.
Most importantly, I have to learn to love myself. And yes, I said "learn"...this is by far not an automatic response for me. I have spent so much of my life having very low self-esteem and a skewed view of who I really am. But my friends have impressed upon me, and I believe, that I can only love others as much as I love myself.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40It's pretty clear. I'm never going to be able to love others until I love myself...see myself the way that God sees me and loves me. He sees who I am...what I am...and loves me anyway...despite the condition of my self-esteem...my body...my spirit. He knows me...and still loves me.
And therein lies part 2...stay tuned!