“Terri, you just wouldn’t be you if you lost weight”. Those were the words I heard from a very well-meaning friend after listening to me grumble about how much I hate diets. I know that what he meant was probably something like, “You’re loved just the way you are. Don’t sweat it”. But what I heard down to the very core of my being was “I define you as fat. Fat is not what you are. It’s who you are”.
I remember, even as a child, I had an uncle who would make up songs about how chubby I was, and sing them to me regularly. The intention was to be funny. But the result… “I define you as fat… and that’s funny”. My dad, in a gesture of strange pride and even encouragement used to joke to family and friends how he loved taking me to a buffet as a kid, because he “always got his money’s worth”. Keeping up with my dad at dinner was one way that I knew (or believed in my young mind) that I was meeting his expectations and earning his love. I know all my dad meant was “isn’t it cute how my little girl can pack it away”. (*note to parents… It’s NOT cute. It’s unhealthy*) What I heard was, “I define you as fat… You’re good at that”. As a teenager, I helped out occasionally at a nearby horse farm. One afternoon, as I was riding one of the horses, the man who owned the place came over to me and said “If you lost a few pounds, you’d look amazing on that horse”. He knew I had been trying to lose weight. What I’m sure he meant was “keep it up and you’ll achieve your goals”. What I heard was, “I define you as fat. If you ever become not fat, you may be attractive. But right now, you’re fat”.
Like many others in my situation, I’ve got a whole list of other examples I could share. I’ve spent my entire forty-plus years of life being defined by fat. I fought it for many of those years. Somewhere along the way though, I quit fighting. I’m not sure when it happened. But at some point I subconsciously agreed with that definition of myself. It is who I am.
A few nights ago, my seven year old daughter and I were having a “girl’s night out”. We went to the mall, got her hair done, enjoyed a super delicious gelato… And to end our evening out, we went into one of those little instant photo booths. We waited excitedly for our strip of pics to pop down out of the picture chute. Finally, there they were. I almost gasped out loud at how ugly and grotesquely fat each close up of my face was. My daughter, of course, looked beautiful. But me? Most definitely not! My face became flushed and my eyes quickly teared up in embarrassment. I felt a sense of pity for my gorgeous daughter for having my fat face ruin our strip of pictures that we were just moments ago so excited to see. All I wanted to do was rip them up.
But then… My little girl grabbed the strip, looked at the pics with a gigantic and recently toothless grin, and said “These are awesome Mom! Can we pleeeease put these on the fridge where everyone can see?!?”. She loved them. She didn’t even flinch at the sight of them. Not once did she even offer a bit of sympathy and say, “don’t worry mom… they’re not that bad”. Nothing. She was looking at those pics as though they were beautiful… Because to her, they were. She wasn’t defining me as fat. She was defining me as mom… and everything beautiful that “being mom” represents.
Later, as I prayed about this situation, I heard God speak directly to those wounds created with the words I had let define me all my life. “I do not define you as fat. I define you as all the beauty I created you to be… wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, Child of God… Made in the image of beauty and love Himself. See yourself as I see you.” I asked for God to show me just exactly how He sees me. Having a bit of bible knowledge, I fully expected at this point to be led to Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs… depending on your translation). This was where God was going to say flowery wonderful things to me. Or perhaps I would even be led to Proverbs 31. I know I’m not superwoman. But maybe God was about to reassure me regarding all my good efforts to be the best wife and mother I can. Nope. Not this time. I prayed and prayed for a scripture. Nothing was coming. Then I turned to look at my daughter. My beautiful, precious, perfect beauty… My princess who totally has my heart… My daughter who I am eternally proud to claim as mine… My child who needs only to ask, and I would give her the world, were it in my hands. And then I heard, “And that, my sweet Terri, is how I see you”.
While this revelation feels at the moment like a great healing, (and I’m sure it is), I get the feeling this only marks the beginning of my path of restoration. But by the Grace of God, as I am led by the Holy Spirit, I’m willing to redefine me. What or who defines you? Broken words or words of life? I choose life. I choose Jesus. I choose restoration. I choose Grace. Grace that looks at me and sees love… not fat.