by Pauline Burnett
I recently read a post by a friend of mine about how she thinks God views her which caught my attention. People, women especially I think, all too often succumb to today’s cultural standards for what is considered acceptable beauty. It is outward based and does not recognize true beauty, the kind that radiates outward from within. It happens because we are so immersed in these cultural standards, that unless we are fortunate enough to have grown up in a home that emphasized character over beauty, we too become a part of that mindset.
My friend’s post had some truth in it, but it also had a number of false statements which she obviously took to be true, reinforcing how deeply our society has ingrained its thinking into our lives. As one who has been a victim of such false thinking, along with a background of obesity and eating disorders, something just did not sit right with me. I have been on a journey for many years now which not only centered around how I could lose weight, but how I could also actually like who I was. This ultimately led me to a wonderful relationship with God, loss of over 90 pounds, and a quality of life I had never known. After reading my friend’s post, I had to ask myself several questions.
How can I know and accept God’s evaluation of me?
To know and accept God’s evaluation of oneself can vary greatly on how we are raised, how we see ourselves, and how others treat us. Do our parents accept God’s love and teach us God’s love? Do we learn in school or church of God’s love or from a friend, a spouse? Do we have self esteem issues? Were we bullied or looked “down” on as children? I feared God as a child and although I married my high school sweetheart, still I did not accept that I was loved. It does not mean I was not loved, nor that I didn’t love, but I did not have God’s perspective.
I can now say I am right now as loved and worthy of esteem as I will ever be by God, but it has been a long road getting there! Because of my insecurities and wanting to be in control of something…anything…I chose to control my weight; only I couldn’t even do that! I eventually became bulimic and lost all control, any and everything I ate came out. My biggest problem was that the bible said my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How could I treat the Holy Spirit’s temple in such a deplorable way? On days when I would receive communion I couldn’t eat all day. I had been taught (falsely) to believe the host was the true body of Christ. What if the host was still in me and I purged “Christ?” Surely I would burn!
I went to my priest only to be told I didn’t have a problem, just eat. I would go to a group confession many miles from home because of my shame and because of my desire for the forgiveness my own priest didn’t give me. But it wasn’t until later when I would I fully come to understand how God viewed me.
Is not knowing the love of God sin?
This was one of the things that bothered me most about the post I read. Is sin really not knowing that God loves us?
Unless someone – a human – tells us about God’s love, how would we know? A parent, friend, teacher, counselor, whoever must tell us. It is through words spoken to us or given to us in the bible (which takes opening the bible and reading it) before we begin to understand God’s love. NO – it is not a sin to not know God loves us! It may be a sin to know of God’s love and not accept it, but I do not think it even says that in scripture.
She went on to say that repentance comes when we weep for the sin of ever having thought of ourselves as unloved. Again, I was troubled by this as well. As a child, I was afraid of God. I knew about God, but did not know Him personally, so I had grown up with misconceptions and false teachings. It wasn’t until I was in therapy for my bulimia and anorexia that I came to know and accept God loved me personally and that I could have a relationship with Him. I had to repent over the abuse I had subjected my body to – not for having thought of myself as unloved.
Repenting meant I would start following His way of thinking about who I was and with His help institute actions in order to overcome. Yes, it took time, but I did overcome! And now my gratefulness has come full circle as I am able to share my story and help others in this battle of weight loss along with helping them to know and understand God’s love for them.
Change begins on the inside.
Our culture has put such stringent requirements on women today – requirements that insist on a very particular outward appearance. If you have it, life will be wonderful we are told, and everyone will love you. Funny though – you can talk to these women and find that they struggle with the same things as those of us not-so-perfect ones do! If fact, many of them struggle even more. Fulfillment in life does not come from outward beauty. It starts from the inside, with a knowledge of God and the development of positive character traits.
And as God changes us from the inside, we become beautiful fulfilled people on the outside who can live a life rich with purpose. I have found that life. And although it took a long struggle with weight loss and eating disorders, it was well worth it in order to come to know the love of God in the process.
This is my story. If you would like to know the details of the program I used to help me overcome, please call. There are groups in Geauga County that meet regularly to help support each other in their own journey toward a satisfying and purposeful life.