So, we all have issues. Some issues are bigger than others, but let's just start out on level playing field, okay? We all have issues.
Body image issues are not a new phenomena. Women and men have been struggling to feel beautiful since the beginning of time. Heck, even Adam and Eve hid from God when they realized they were naked. These problems with how we see ourselves are as old as humanity itself.
So, I'm just going to lay it out there...I am no different. I have struggled at different times in my life with different aspects of my body: my height, my weight (under or over the "norm"), my ears, my nose, and even my big toe (oh for heaven's sake!). Most of these things I have been able to overcome as I age; I simply appreciate this body more and how wonderful it actually is. Praise God!
But breast cancer has brought even more of these struggles to the forefront. Now I'm a bald woman, with some significant scars (and even worse ones to come), and I've gained close to 15 pounds to boot. Thank you steroids for your uncanny ability to make me eat all of the things.
I know these issues are common to women in similar situations to me. In fact, it is often an under-treated part of care for women with breast cancer. (I came across this great video explaining the truth of the issue and offers help from others who are on the other side of it.)
So, here I am. Trying to navigate new waters. Bald, losing my eyebrows and lashes, growing a nice big tummy. To top it all off, if there were an award for the ability to lose your tan the fastest, I would certainly win! (This is not new, but it adds to the "sick" look I'm cultivating. Also, the picture below was several weeks ago...sadly, I have even less eye lashes now!)
Then this: yesterday a complete stranger congratulated me. On my NOT pregnant belly.
What I wanted to say was, "I'd give anything for this belly to be large because of a baby. Instead I get cancer. And in fact, I recently lost a baby, so thanks for bringing that up."
Instead, I paused. Teared up, and proceeded to mumble some words about having to take steroids. She wished me well and avoided eye contact for the rest of our cohabitance.
You see, I know what scripture says about my body. I know that God formed me and loves me, and knows all about the changes I am going through. I KNOW these things.
My head recalls great verses like 1 Samuel 16:7 (Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart), Psalm 139:14 (I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well), and Psalm 31;30 (Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised).
My heart, on the other hand, cries out for newness, for restoration, and for my 22 year old flesh to reappear. We all know the last one isn't going to happen!
So, what do I do? Where does that leave me? Knowing truth, but honestly feeling like crap.
It leaves me right where Christ wants me. In need of Him.
I can not do this on my own. My heart needs a shift and in order to do that, I need Christ. I can no more whip myself outwardly into the old me, than I can shift the inward me into something it just isn't.
Sure, I can "fake it till I make it" all day long--and I often do--but for true change to happen, I need the miraculous work of the Lord to minister to my heart. God doesn't just call us to behaviour management, he calls us to radical heart change (thank you @soulscripts for the great reminder of this). Revelation 21:5 says, "He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
Oh how I want to be made new...inside and out. While I can not control some of the things happening to my outward body, I can control how I respond to them. Yesterday I could have responded out of anger or hurt to that woman. Instead, I mustered what little grace I could and after I had removed myself from the situation, I cried out to God for help with the rest.
I have talked about posture in previous posts, and boy was it ever true for me in this situation. In the past, I have spiralled quickly downward when someone made a similar comment about my appearance. It took me about a week to recover! This time, I didn't want to despair in that way. I know my body is changing, I don't like it, but I want to like me. I want to see the me that God sees...
I prayed, sang praise, and gave thanks for the good things. I'm not completely healed, but
I am trusting God to be strong in this hurt place of mine. Sisters (and brothers), this is not easy work, nor is it quick. But it is important! And it is good.
Now what? Well,
I we can learn a few things from this experience:
1. Sometimes our heads and hearts are out of sinc.
2. God loves us, inside and out.
3. Heart change is hard work--we need the Holy Spirit's help.
4. We can position ourselves in such a way as to invite heart change.
5. NEVER EVER comment on a woman's stomach.
Jason and I in Vancouver this week. We visited Third Beach, a favourite spot from when we used to live there.