There was a season that reminds me now of hope, a glimpse of body freedom. A summer spent working at a camp where I slept in cabins with ten year old girls, woke up early for kitchen duty, and night after night was occupied with giggling and braiding hair. Most days I was too busy, too tired to think about my own body in any other sense than feeding it. And on a practical level, the shower house was far from my cabin, and had zero mirrors- so I not only did I not have time, but I didn’t even have the ability to look at myself.
I can’t tell you how much I weighed that summer. But I can tell you that the weight I usually carried, the burden of trying to be better, feeling as if I had to prove something with the way I looked was gone, and it was worth all my weight in gold.
For my own struggles, when I get down to the core of body image often there is an “issue” or some kind of lie I am believing. Through prayer and counsel I am able to trace it back, reveal it for the falsehood it is, and fight. I engage in the battle.
Yes, I need to deal with past hurts and ask God to heal them, and then, I need to take one step further: I have to acknowledge the self-focused nature of my internal struggle.
A few weeks ago, I had gotten into a horrible habit of looking down at my body every day, sometimes multiple times, and evaluating it. Looking and trying to decide, good or bad? Thin? Fit? Healthy? Fat? But as I laid down in bed one night, I realized that maybe it’s not about looking down and deciding anything: It’s about the need to take my eyes off of my own body, and look at something else for a beat.
I had a friend describe this to me in the context of children, especially little ones. She had multiple young kids at home and found herself spiraling downward, struggling with the day-to-day. Then finally through prayer, she felt like God woke her up.
Get your eyes off you and your situation, he said, lovingly and sternly. Look around you.
There is a fantastic book by Tim Keller that spoke to me about this years ago when I first read it, called “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.”
“Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less,” Tim wrote, “Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness.”
Not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
In Matthew 22: 36, a man approaches Jesus and asks him which commandment is the greatest. The one not to break, the one, if we only remember one, that we should cling to.
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 22:37-40
It’s an obvious argument that when I am so busy looking at myself, I am not thinking about God, or my neighbor. Looking down at my body, having this “me” mentality, constantly wondering how I look kills my ability to love God and neighbor, because as much as I think that I can, I really cannot look two places at once. People have needs and problems that as a member of the church, as a member of the body of Christ, I am called to help with- but when I am only looking at myself, I don’t see their needs and problems.
This is considered our victory lap: once we’ve fought back and put the body-shame lie in it’s place, we get to re-proclaim that our bodies were made first for the Kingdom of Heaven, and look outward once more.
I’m learning that God calls us to be a little bit forgetful, for the sake of remembering what he deems as most important.