This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breakthrough Moment!

I had been working with the HOMFIT guys 3 times a week for about 3 weeks.  I was very conscious about how I was carrying myself.  I knew now how my posture was supposed to be.  I started getting comments again about how good I looked and I could see some changes in my body.  My face started clearing up.

At the same time, I felt really conspicuous.  I was almost uneasy with myself and I felt like I needed to hide.

I did talk with my trainers about it.  Just looking for some direction to figure out if this was a physical/emotional thing larger people deal with or if it was a Jesaca is a serious mental case sort of thing!  Trying to describe it outside of my head was difficult.  It felt silly to try to put language to what I was feeling.  One of them was able to put his finger on a perfect description.  He said, “Are you feeling a little vulnerable-maybe fear based?”  That was exactly it!  So, what was going on?  I didn’t want this to get in my way!

Now, I don't want to discount the time of year it was.

Four years previous, on October 15th, I left my husband of 10 years.  That time was both the most stressful and most freeing of my life.  It was stressful because I didn’t know how he’d react to the girls and I leaving, if he’d come after us-I felt like I was always checking behind me.  Freeing because, as days ticked by, it was a surreal experience to feel the relief of freedom rushing into my emotional lungs.  I had not realized just how strangled I’d felt. I also grieved my lack of control to provide “home” for my girls. How would I provide for us? I could not make him get the help he needed. Two months after I left he killed himself.  The funeral was about a week and a half before Christmas.  I remember very vividly the conversation I had with my parents just a day or 2 before the funeral.

I had been expressing my grief-filled guilt. I had left. What if there was something, anything else I could have done. They explained to me that the detectives on the scene had pulled them aside after they had interviewed me.  “Folks,” they told my parents, “You’ve got one lucky girl over there.  We’ve seen this before.  She was wise to leave when she did.  You could very well be preparing to bury 4 today.”  They went on to explain what they had found and how calculating he had been, what his profile revealed about what he was capable of.

I don’t want that chapter of my life to drive me.  While I continue to deal with all of this and my life is so beautiful now, I never dismiss the part it might play in my reactions to any number of things when that time of year comes around! 

I talked, laughed and cried actually, with a girlfriend about what was going on with my thoughts and emotions.  I was honest.  Brutally.  Pouring out all the stuff I was feeling and feared and concerned about.  What if people thought I was working so hard just to attract a man-I’m not!  (She assured me she didn’t and no one else would)  However, I was feeling more attractive, that made me feel stupid and awkward-I didn’t know where to put that emotional stuff!  And for pete’s sake, what if someone was attracted to me?!  What would I do with that?  The thought both enthralled and terrified me!  The financial news was difficult to hear every day.  My husband had been obsessed with the markets and that brought all of the icky feelings back up. I confessed I was really distressed that if my own financial situation became desperate (and it’s not!) I would end up counting on a man for the sake of some imagined security.  "Well," she assured me, “while you may have moments that you feel desperate, you are not a desperate person.”  She reminded me what time of year it was too and that I was very likely tired because I’d been working so hard.  She reminded me of how far I've come.  She was an incredible listener and a great comforter, but I still didn’t have the answers I needed about the emotional turmoil going on inside me.

Then it happened, the self-sabotage fiend struck again.  I found myself madly ripping through my kitchen cupboards about to eat everything I didn’t want to eat.  I was reaching for a box of crackers all the while knowing I wasn’t hungry at all. It wasn't the first time in my life I’d wrestled with this. It seemed to happen each time I'd lose a noticeable amount of weight.

My hand didn’t make it to the box. All of the noisy clutter in my mind faded as I focused on being present instead of zoning out and asking myself why I was doing this.

I heard him clearly, the silver tongued serpent who continues to come against me.  “You know how to be a fat girl.  That’s safe, just be a fat girl, you don’t know how to be anything else...” 

What?!!  Did I seriously believe that?  I know in my head that’s not true!  I rebuked the monster with the scripture that poured from my spirit violently, “It is in God that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28), not in being a fat girl!  He loves and desires the real me.  The real me isn’t ‘fat girl’!” You should have seen my daughters come running as I stood in my kitchen loudly rebuking the unseen enemy.

Then I asked the Lord to give me wisdom and ammunition to fight in this specific area of my life.  When did I first believe these lies and why had I continued to believe them? How would I live and walk out the Truth?

The answers came just days later.

I was running, of course.  I was turning over in my mind what had happened in the kitchen.  I was petitioning God to equip me.  He was the one that told me He wanted me to be stronger in the first place!

I thought back as far as I could remember and moments from my past just started rushing up at me.

As I was growing up my parents were adamant that we not be vain. Spending more than 5 minutes in front of the mirror was frowned upon. Any thought or attention given to self was shameful. I developed more quickly than the other girls and always had a larger frame than they did. Looking back I know I was a healthy size, but I felt huge. When we went through the bags of clothes that people passed on to us, there was rarely something that would fit me. It seemed I was bigger than everyone. I wasn’t allowed to continue to be involved in sports as I got older because the uniforms were too revealing. We were supposed to look like girls and behave like girls and dress like girls (we wore a lot of skirts), but we weren't to pay much attention to or take delight in all of the outward things about being "girly". That just added to my self-consciousness. I got the message that feeling or being attractive would hurt me somehow.

After high school I moved out on my own and was on the road to figuring out who I was when I met my future husband. I thought that being married would be a safe place and I wouldn’t have to worry about how I felt about myself.  Someone would accept me and that would be that. I didn’t examine very closely what qualities I might find desirable in a man. Perhaps I felt that was placing too much emphasis on myself.  If someone chose me I felt I should be grateful. I chose to believe the lie that someone else could tell me who I was-that I could find my identity in him. By the time we married I was about 20 lbs overweight. As the years went by my weight just crept up and up.  From the beginning my husband didn’t have a healthy interest in touching me (I now know this wasn’t my problem) and this further compounded my shame-based body image. He was very controlling. In a twisted way, my weight was the one thing he couldn’t control. That just added complexity to my image issues. At one time, during my marriage, when I had lost a substantial amount of weight, I was forced to fend off the unwanted advances of a man I worked with and endure his threats after I turned him in. I unconsciously bought the lie that my size was protecting me.

I added layers of fat while trying to numb and hide myself. To not feel the hurt, rejection, and condemnation of others and the punishing reality of my own choices.

Food didn't just provide comfort, it provided escape. Escape from facing all of the things around me that I had no control over and escape from facing the battle I would endure to change the things I could. "Just leave it alone" the enemy whispered repeatedly, "what you have is about as good as it's going to get anyway." And I had believed him. I had protected myself by escaping from authentic, vibrant LIVING!
All that time I was fighting for an understanding of who I am and whose I am.

I now understand that the posture of living (like a fat girl) I had grown to believe protected me from being hurt or dealing with my own confusion was an illusion!  The emotional wrestling I was doing now was because I wasn't sure how to frame my attitude about my body and the changes in it and how it makes me different.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

People say it's the inside that counts, but we discount the fact that the inside changes when the outside does!! I was completely unprepared and ill-equipped for the battle within!

The Truth is still working on seeping into all the areas of my life.  I have accepted the grace and freedom to run with abandon toward who God has long been calling me to be. That’s what has brought me to where I am now. Is it o.k. for me to feel more confident? Is it o.k for me to enjoy who I’m becoming?  Is it o.k. for me to feel my own strength and enjoy it?  Is it o.k. to run and enjoy how it makes me feel? Is it o.k. to curl my hair and wear make-up and pay attention to what I wear? What will I do if I’m attracted to someone or they are attracted to me?

And if I ask those questions, I have to find somewhere in my emotional framework to put the answers!

Just as weighty resistance is building strength in my body, resistance against the way I used to think continues to build a strong foundation for a healthy exercise of the emotions I’m experiencing now. I understand that it will take concentration on form too. I can’t just place the emotions where they’re most comfortable, unfortunately, because the lies have been providing the answers to my questions all these years and have disguised my path to real living. Fortunately, I have help! There are several others in my life to walk, run and climb with me. Not only that, I can take these questions about myself to the One who made me and trust my heart with Him. He can transform my mind in this area with His truth, the same way He has in other areas. At moments I may feel awkward and exposed, but I want the abundant life He has for me badly enough to risk that. I’m pressing toward the mark.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. I Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT

And I am not just shadowboxing!!

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