Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest one of all? Certainly not me with that new fat roll.
Uuugh….How did I gain a few pounds in early November? Usually, I go into the holidays in great shape because it is still mountain biking season in southwest Colorado. I am typically still getting in at least a few rides per week, affording me some extra leniency on how much food I am consuming. Somehow, I gained a few pounds before the holidays even kicked off this year though. The mirror, the scale, and my jeans confirm this truth.
And “Great, now I can’t have any pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving” is all my head can think. Afterall, pumpkin pie is the problem, right? It is evil, just like the Halloween candy that I am certain kicked off this weight gain as we left October.
I have struggled with my weight my whole life. I literally was one of those kids who couldn’t just eat whatever they wanted and magically burn it up as most others seemed to be able to do. And truthfully, this is my most ridiculous chain. It is the one that I know is completely unreasonable, and yet still causes me pain and lack of freedom.
Even now, nearing forty, I cannot seem to let go of both the desire to meet the standard of beauty our culture prescribes, and the longing to be able to eat whatever I want. It depends on the day I seem to be having, which one I desire more. And there is more shame and guilt with this chain than any other one that I have. Shame for knowing in my head that those models that shout the standard are photo-shopped while my heart still wants to look like them. And guilt, for when I do eat that piece of candy or pumpkin pie and know that I really did not need it and it really did not make me feel better as I secretly hoped it would.
Worse even than my own self-contempt, this shame and guilt cause me to snap at the ones who buy ice cream and leave it in plain sight in the freezer, as though it is their fault that I cannot help but indulge in a spoonful each time my eyes land on it. And, the guilt that has me choose a bike ride over family time, because heaven forbid I don’t burn off those extra calories I shoved in my face yesterday, even when I would rather be with my family. Oh yes, this is a chain that binds me from freedom far too often still.
But maybe pumpkin pie, even doused with just a bit too much whip cream, is not evil. And maybe, the Halloween candy that I am blaming for this sudden new roll is not evil either, though my head wants to make it so. I think It is easier for me to blame the sweet stuffs than face the truth.
The truth that calls to me from deep in my soul that discontentment is truly at the root of this issue.
You see, I think the reason that this particular chain is so hard for me, is because it is actually two actions that oppose each other, like a tug of war in my soul, that has each of my wrists handcuffed, and is literally pulling me apart. But both sides are caused by the same inward lack. There is something deep within me that is just discontent.
First, there is the discontentment with the reality of life in the brokenness. I do not want to feel bad when I have a hard day where someone hurts my feelings. So, I reach for the pint of ice cream, and let the sweet taste and the instant release of endorphins temporarily soothe my wounded heart. I also don’t want to feel the frustration of the dull, monotony most of my days are filled with. So, I make a lavish meal, full of complex flavors and overindulge to fill the longing in my soul for just a bit more…something.
On the other side, there is this exasperation over my inability to meet the unrealistic – thin, yet curvy, strong yet feminine, forever young – standard our world has said is beautiful, regardless of how hard I try. I so desire to be called beautiful and to be seen that way by others. And even though my head knows that beauty comes from within, the truth is I want an easy way to feel good about myself. Or maybe, if I am being brutally honest, an easy way to prove that I am better than those people who made fun of me as a kid, whose metabolism finally caught up with them.
Oh, how these opposing forces fight each other and leave me weary and unable to love either myself or others. Discontentment is evil. Constantly egging me to try harder to beat the standard and always telling me I did not hit the mark. But the truth is neither the sweet treats nor the perfect figure are going to make me content.
This is not where contentedness comes from. True contentment is an attitude of gratitude that is so overwhelming is causes one to give out of the abundance one sees they have in God.
We have all seen that greed is never satisfying, yet we still think somehow it is. And we have seen or heard the stories about those in other countries with far less abundance that have far more joy. It seems they have joy not in the abundance, or lack thereof, but rather are content in the knowledge of a God who loves them so much that He sent His son to die on their behalf.
Now I can see you rolling your eyes. I did too. Gratitude is hard here in the land of overabundance and never enough-ness. We are a discontented people for sure. This cultural norm makes it hard for us to walk in a different way. But like all generations who struggled with dis-contentedness before us (think every generation of human since the fall,) it is because we are looking to the wrong thing to be truly satisfied.
The unfulfilled longing, we keep trying to fill with food, or wine, or things, is the longing God placed in us to drive us to Him. Each of us long for a meaningful relationship with our creator and are only truly filled by Him. And yet our flesh pushes us to try and be filled with something other than Him. It seems in our broken humanness, we have contentedness all backwards. So, although, we can learn to be more content, it is going to be a constant redirect of our gaze to God and all that He has blessed us with.
Father, we know that contentment does not come from food, things, or reaching some goal as our culture says it does. We have all found these things lacking in providing true contentment. Help us to find the source of contentment as we learn truth from you. Thank you for ever being gracious to our brokenness and patiently leading us to the truth. In Jesus name, Amen.