I look in the mirror, who is this woman looking back at me, where have the wrinkles come from, when I am brave I look in a full length mirror, a few years ago I put a huge amount of energy into loosing weight, and I did, I lost 3 stone. Now I have put weight on again, a couple of years of battling illness and mental health issues have taken their toll. I am tempted to judge myself, how could I have let myself go again, why do I stress eat, why don’t I have the energy to get out every day, why don’t I eat more healthily?
Alongside the voice of condemnation in my head I also hear another quieter voice, it whispers this; you have been through a hard time, physically and emotionally, and let’s face it spiritually and mentally too. You found the pandemic really isolating, sending hours on your own, and mostly when you could you did get out and walk. You have tried to eat healthily, but finding comfort in comfort food when all else seems difficult is not a crime, so don’t beat yourself up. Come on, you spent a couple of weeks plus in hospital, you haven’t been well. Dare I remind you you aren’t well yet, that’s why you take a tablet every morning, why you are trying to eat well so your gallbladder doesn’t flare up. Oh and while I am at it, every morning you do your Tai-Chi rotation, and sometimes you manage and evening rotation too.
Of course the voice of condemnation tends to be louder, more insistent and demanding, reminding me that to be acceptable I mustn’t be overweight, I should try harder.
But, why do I need to be slim to be acceptable? Why do we continually congratulate people for loosing weight and criticise those who struggle? This has been a struggle for me all my life, as a child I was called chubby, when I look at photos I wasn’t not really, I wasn’t stick thin, but I was definitely fit, I swam every day, and I was a good swimmer, at the age of 10 I was swimming 100 lengths in training sessions. But, I thought I was fat, it is what I was told. I carried that into my teenage years, I wasn’t fat at all then, but I was tall, too tall in my mind, and I have big bones, yes big bones are a thing, I felt conspicuous, too much, taking up too much space! Women are meant to be dainty, well that’s what I thought, and of course that was echoed in the awful teen magazines that I loved so much!
In recent years I don’t mind being tall, though it is still difficult to buy trousers and jeans etc, but that notion of being too much still hangs over me, and the weight issue follows me. I know I can diet again, but right now I don’t have the energy, and that’s not me being lazy, it is a statement of fact.
Alongside all of the physical stuff runs the mental health stuff, and of course they overlap because we are interconnected beings, but it all begins to fall down when I place the crazy demands and values onto God, expecting to be judged, to be criticised, to be … well honestly I don’t know what I expect. I am always telling people that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, I remind myself that this body has carried 6 children, even 2 at once! That I am still a good swimmer, that I have climbed many peaks over the last few years, and that the fact that I heal if I cut myself, and heal from diseases and even operations is remarkable, I am a wonder, we all are. I remind myself that this mind, this soul has suffered many challenges and griefs, and is almost always in a process of healing and reconciliation , and I reflect that maybe that is what the journey of discipleship is all about. Paul points to this work as a ministry in 2 Corinthians 5:
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God.
What if we could look at ourselves then and see what God sees, not being bothered about wrinkles of the numbers on a scale, but see something remarkable and wonderful, someone with huge potential still to be fulfilled, no matter how old we are. What if we made it our task to affirm others for their God given, God created unique amazingness! A conversation yesterday alerted me to this, why do we concentrate so much on sin, on judging, not only ourselves but others, why is the grace of God apparently withheld until people fit in. Of course we are not able to withhold the grace of God, but sometimes our ways of living and being convey that message. Today I am challenged, because while I rarely , I say rarely, because I have my own prejudices, treat others in that way, I am quite likely to treat myself in that way, and that is not healthy for me in mind, body or spirit.
Perhaps I need a new God-filtered mirror, a mirror that enables me to see myself differently, to forgive and love myself in a healing way, I am pretty convinced that this would make my message more authentic, how can I say that all are included, and I will be when I have healed a bit more, got fitter, lost weight, sorted out my prayer life and or my bank balance…
The of course there are things I don’t need to be healed from, my conversation yesterday took an expected- yes expected, not unexpected turn at one point, when the phrase “but we are all sinners” was used, I’ve heard that so many times, it often runs alongside “love the sinner hate the sin”, but we were talking about sexuality, and particularly the inclusion of LGBTQI people. It wasn’t malicious, it was in many senses a slip pf the tongue because were were on the same page in our interaction. But. here’s the thing, my sexuality nor your sexuality is not a sin, it is who I am in Christ as much as the rest of me is in Christ. The God-filtered mirror is very clear about that!
I suspect that discipleship is an ongoing ministry of reconciliation, reconciliation with God includes reconciliation with one another and ourselves, and it can be a rocky, twisty path, but definitely one worth following. The best bit is, we do not walk alone.