Isn’t the idea of Grace so beautiful to hear about? But I have a question: Is it really practical? Does the way of Grace really help us in practical terms or is it a flimsy lifeless theory that fails us within the everyday trials of living in this world? I have had several opportunities to put this to the test. I am someone who is not content with pretty words, but need to see that there is something real within what I believe. If there isn’t, I simply cannot embrace it. I’ve had my share of struggles in life since becoming a Christian that I have had to face and deal with. Here is one of my more recent ones:
I’ve had a 20-pound weight issue for some time. Several years. During this time, I got married, started traveling each month, meeting people and eating in their homes and in restaurants across the country. It’s been fun, it’s been celebratory and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. But I didn’t like when I started noticing that I was eating everything rather than saying no to what I didn’t need. It was like I was wanting to take in and savor every single morsel…whether I needed it or not. Not a great idea.
Now, let me tell you, I do know how to lose 20 pounds and I do know how to eat healthily. But primarily it has been when it’s just me or when I have complete control over preparing my meals. Somehow adding a husband to the mix, traveling, and having experienced the flow of grace sort of messed up my reliance on my “controlled systems.” Honestly, food plans, work out videos and even fasting can be very good for anyone wanting to lose weight. But it was the motivation BEHIND my choice to use these tools that didn’t seem to fit anymore with my life.
Of course I prayed. I asked my husband to pray. That God would show me how to address this issue with Grace. My husband would assure me of God’s care and concern even for this area of my life. He loved how I looked, but understood my wish to fit into my clothes and look and feel my best. He was very supportive and was sure all would be okay.
It looked like it wasn’t working.
Every two or three months, I would have a mini come-apart where I would feel desperate that “this grace thing wasn’t working for me” in this area of my life. Yet, every time I would freak out, I would remember having said the exact same thing for several other issues in my life and that God had always come through. So I would get through my momentary frustration and return to peace and keep walking forward.
Yet nothing changed.
It’s not that I did nothing. I did take actions, but every time the feeling of CONTROL came into play, I would stop. In walking in the flow of GRACE, control feels so out of place. Even when facing difficult situations, grace and peace is more my normal these days and anything else feels ill-fitting. And I quickly want to throw it off.
There were a few scriptures that the Lord spoke to me numerous times during this season. One was “Therefore do not worry saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?'” (Matthew 6:31) For me it was a reminder not to let myself become obsessed with food choices and controlling my diet. This was not the life He had for me. My life couldn’t be consumed with worry over what I was or wasn’t eating.
Another was “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:28) Although this scripture is written in context with marriage, what spoke to me so strongly is that I was to love my body as Christ loves his church. Christ loved his church so much that He gave his own life for us. He wanted for us to have freedom and hope and enjoyment. We couldn’t get there by fleshly control. Honestly, at times, I did feel repulsed by the way my body was looking. How was I to cherish it with a love that Jesus has for me? The only answer I could come up with was that it had to come from Him. Not from me. I did not have it.
I knew that my weight issue was more than physical. It was how I was looking at things and what I was thinking in response to this issue. Every time I felt that I was a failure in this area, I would remind myself to cherish my body and not worry about what foods were in front of me. He was with me.
No change in my weight.
One day, after one of my several come-aparts, I sat down and wrote a heartfelt letter to the Lord. I told him that I was finding it difficult to keep trusting Him with my weight. I told Him that trusting that GRACE could overcome this issue felt counter-intuitive and frankly, irresponsible. I knew there were consequences to making poor choices with food and I knew that if I went back on my old food plan, things would eventually change. It wouldn’t be fun for my husband, and it would be a bit awkward as we traveled, but I knew I could do it. Lastly, I asked Him if He just wanted me to relax and be happy with my weight as it was, get new clothes and just be done with it. I didn’t want to have unrealistic expectations for this “approaching-50” body. I just wanted His best, whatever it was.
I asked Him what He would suggest.
He told me it was a new season for me, that I was learning to love, not control. He told me there was no benefit to shame or condemnation. There is another way…a creative win-win way through this. He said, “You and I are one. I will not be obsessed about body image. I will not wrestle with the flesh. I will automatically let go of every ounce of flesh not needed. The natural world must bend to the spiritual realm. You have everything you need. You are free. And because of my love, you are empowered. We will walk this out together. It will be natural and it will be fun. Trust me.”
I wish I could say that was end of it. But truthfully I had one more come-apart. After that, something happened. I cannot pinpoint when or how it happened. I just noticed that I was saying no to food I didn’t need. I was planning meals when I could and eating less when I was with others. It wasn’t structured. I wasn’t depriving myself. I was making good choices. And there was a natural flow to it. It felt good. Simply put, God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. GRACE! Beautiful, wonderful, miraculous grace. I lost five pounds. Then two more. Then three. The weight was shedding.
The natural was bending to the spiritual.
So, what’s the moral of the story? I’m growing. There was a time in my life where I was surrounded by a loving community of people who (for the most part) all ate according to a healthy food plan. They supported me, taught me how to eat healthy, what a portion size looks like, etc. That 6-year season was invaluable to me and I loved being a part of that community. Today I have loving friends who support me in whatever way the Lord is leading me. The Lord and I are one and I can be in a community of healthy believers, I can be in a community of people learning to be healthy, and I can be around unhealthy people who haven’t yet learned to love and value themselves. I can travel. I can celebrate and enjoy life with my husband. I am at home wherever I go. My strength is in the Lord.
I share my story in the hopes of being an encouragement. Even to just one person. As usual, there is no formula to offer. Because everyone walks their own path, really all I can do is point you to your own relationship with God. He cares about your eating. He cares about your health. You do not need to handle it yourself. In fact, many times you simply can’t. If you are young in Grace and can’t seem to find a flow, do what you can, but keep choosing to rely on Him. You will grow into your own unforced rhythms with the Lord. All I know is that GRACE always works. Perhaps not in my time. Perhaps my particular mind needs renewed consistently for extended periods of time. But I do know CONTROL is not where it’s at for me. Now that I’ve tasted this wide open expanse of peace and grace, I have no desire to return to the old ways of controlling the flesh.