I have spent my entire life hating myself.
Nothing I ever did was good enough. I wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough. I wouldn’t and couldn’t cut myself some slack. My Type A, compulsive, perfectionist personality only heightened these issues.
In middle school I was overweight, presumably because of some slight depression after moving to Bemidji and leaving behind friends in our old town. By freshman year of high school I just couldn’t stand myself anymore. I wore lots of makeup to hide my face and baggy clothes to disguise the extra weight.
I vividly remember one summer when my girlfriends and I went to summer camp for a two week stay. The first week we volunteered in the kitchen so the second week we could be campers for free. One night, the worst thing ever happened. I lost my eyeliner pencil. I carried it with me everywhere because I always wanted to be able to touch up my makeup. Heaven forbid I wipe away any of the eyeliner off my eye because then people may be able to see me and notice how ugly I truly was…and how fat. I spent the next half hour nervously and desperately searching the entire camp ground for my makeup. When I found it in the chapel, I sat down for a minute to breathe and calm down. That’s when I realized I just couldn’t stay at camp anymore. It was just too stressful. I went home early at the end of the week and spent the rest of the summer in my room depressed.
That fall I entered high school and it was the worst year ever. Recently I showed Josh my freshman school picture and the only thing he noticed (instead of the excessive makeup and hair with far too much hairspray) was my obvious sorrow. I had a slight smile on my face but it definitely didn’t reach my eyes.
The next summer I finally got the courage to do something about my self-hatred. I did the only thing I knew to do. I exercised excessively and ate as little as possible. I hid this as much as possible from my parents, never letting them see what I did (or did not) eat. By my sophomore year I had dropped a decent 30 pounds until I was a size 4/5 (in junior sizes). I never felt better. I still didn’t like myself, but for the first time in my life the boys were actually looking at me in appreciation. Even the girls came up to me to tell me how wonderful I looked.
So my nightly routine became homework, exercise, homework, exercise. I would weigh myself in the morning and the evening. If I had gained more than 2-3 pounds during the day I would spend a good half an hour running up and down the stairs and doing sit ups until the scale told me something different.
Through college and my young adult life I always had serious weight issues to deal with. I would gain or lose 20 pounds so quickly that I wouldn’t even notice it. Having two boys surely didn’t help my problems with my weight, either. I associated my beauty, much of my identity, and my lovability to my weight and body image.
Then, I met Jesus.
Now, I’ve been a follower of Jesus for almost my entire life. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, I attended Bible camps in the summer and even went to a Christian college. Absolutely none of that did anything to help me actually meet the real and true Jesus Christ.
That is, until I started going to a certain church with a certain pastor who showed me the real Jesus (Greg Boyd and Woodland Hills). Suddenly, my spiritual paradigm shifted. The earth moved. Up was down and black was white.
The entire “getting to know you” period of my relationship with Jesus was not typical by human standards. First, I started to learn things. Wonderful things. I found healing from depression and anxiety and began to realize how much God loved the world.
But that love didn’t extend to me. Not yet.
Then one horrible, terrible night I hated myself more than I ever thought possible. I cried to Josh about how horrendously loathsome and evil I truly was at the core. I looked inside myself and found ugly darkness, a sea of sin and detestable thoughts and behaviors.
I hated myself and wondered how God’s love could possibly be extended to me.
Then, it happened. I learned about something called “imaginative prayer”. I started to visualize Jesus and talk to him as if he were present in the room with me. For a while he was my Daddy, then a friend, even a brother. And slowly but surely I found what Jesus was trying to tell me all along.
Nothing I will ever do will make me good enough.
And I know what some of you are thinking, “Yeah, we’ve heard this all before. We are evil sinners and Jesus covers our sin with his sacrifice and then we are made good enough for God’s presence.”
If that’s what you were thinking, then you are wrong. So very wrong.
Jesus showed me that I could never work to be good enough because I was ALREADY HOLY AND PERFECT! Nothing I could ever do on this earth would make me more wonderful, more lovable, because Jesus had already done that for me. I am God’s wonderful creation and he loves me JUST AS I AM.
When I realized how much Jesus loved me, even on my worst day when I am angry with the kids, snide with Josh, and rude to people on Facebook, JESUS LOVES ME. Ardently, truly, and without condition.
Once I learned this truth, all of a sudden a huge weight began to fall off my back. Suddenly, I didn’t have to beat myself up anymore and criticize everything I did wrong.
Suddenly I was just OK being who I was, never needing to worry about doing the right thing.
Not that I wanted to be angry, rude, and mean for the rest of my life. It’s just that the freedom of knowing that God loves me opened me up to be able to bask in that love and let that love permeate my entire being. Instead of trying harder to be better, I could just let his love shower over me so much that it simply started to flow out of me.
After a long two year process of all off the above, this past week I finally conquered something truly and utterly amazing.
I looked at myself, inside and out, and was able to say without pause and without condition, “I love who I am. I’m pretty amazing.”
For those of you who have experienced any of this or know me, this is a HUGE victory.
So, now the question is, what do I do next?
I’m gonna spread the love, baby. Spread.The.Love.