It's time to break up...

There’s a relationship you need to end. It’s not good for you.

These were the words recently whispered into my heart as I drove home from work in silence. Silence because I've learned that turning off the radio when life gets busy creates space for Jesus to speak––and allows me to better hear His voice. 

"What? What relationship?!" I questioned, shocked and a little alarmed.

Now I should tell you that a few days prior I had read about the Lord calling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). In response I had directly asked God to reveal to me the things I’ve been holding too tightly. The things He wants me to offer up. To surrender. To sacrifice. Now I had heard God is always willing to answer these sorts of questions, and apparently it’s true. We just need to provide Him with a quiet space to respond and patiently await His answer.

I had assumed He would again remind me that I need to let go of my desire for control. Or my desire to always be right. But a relationship? I hadn’t anticipated that.

I guess this will make more sense if I start at the beginning…

For most of my life I’ve exercised regularly and eaten healthy. Don’t get me wrong, mac-n-cheese is my go-to comfort food, and I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookie cake.  And of course there have been busy periods in life that didn’t lend themselves to regular work outs. But for the most part, more-exercise and less-dessert has been the norm for me.

I previously shared some of what led to my faith reversion several years ago. My overly full schedule combined with unwanted circumstances I hadn't anticipated resulted in me feeling as if I was losing control. As a result, I began to (obsessively) control other areas of my life. I’ve also told you about my lifelong history of comparing my body to others––friends, strangers, airbrushed models on magazine covers, fitness models on Instagram. These comparisons always led me to the conclusion that I didn't measure up. I wasn’t good enough. And for years I'd been disappointed with myself each time I looked in the mirror. Together, this period of stress combined with my desire for control, along with my longing to achieve an impossible goal of “body perfection, slowly caused a shift in nearly every aspect of my life.

Before I knew it I was lifting weights 5-6 days per week. Menu planning, grocery trips, and meal preparations were taken to a new level, as I was literally counting every gram of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that I consumed. To accomplish all of this while maintaining a full-time career and living out my roles as wife and mother, I was waking earlier and staying up later.  5-6 hours of sleep per night was normal for me.  In hindsight, I was exhausted!

For a variety of reasons I stopped my obsessive gym and diet regimen. As you'd expect, I gained back the few pounds I'd lost. Muscle tone went down and body fat went up. Clothes I'd bought during my obsessive diet and work-out craziness no longer fit. I was incredibly unhappy with the appearance of my body. And it was during this time that God revealed two very important things to me:

First, He allowed me to see that even when I was wearing smaller clothes, I never thought my body was good enough. I always felt there was room for improvement. It was as if the image of “body perfection” that I'd been chasing was a carrot that would forever dangle just out of reach.

Second, He revealed to me the truth of who He says I am. He has shown me the beautiful names He calls me and has helped me to accept them. To own them. He has helped me to stop speaking unkind words to myself, to stop my ugly name calling. When I reflect on where I was and the healing and freedom His love has offered me, I am once again brought to tears.

Now as I describe to you the details of my gym schedule and calculated food regimen, I can see it was absurd. But while I was doing it, it all seemed normal. In fact, it almost seemed … required.

You see, at that time I slowly came to believe that achieving the perfect body would somehow make things better. Would make me better.

Slowly, without realizing it, I had begun to associate my worth
––my value––with my physical appearance.

I had allowed my clothing size … to define me.

I had allowed my body fat percentage … to become my identity.

None of this was intentional or deliberate. But it happened. My gym time and diet started out as a way to be physically healthy and to manage stress. They weren’t inherently bad things. But before I knew what happened, I had turned them into an unhealthy obsession through which I was essentially trying to earn my worth.

Pastor Timothy Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is quoted as saying,

“Our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially ‘deify.’  We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion…” 

In other words, allowing anything or anyone other than God to determine our value or define us will ultimately result in idolatry. We will begin to serve that person, thing, or ideal.  In essence, we become slaves to it, just as I clearly became a slave to the ideal of body perfection. (Remember how I felt that keeping my crazy schedule almost seemed required?)

So what relationship does God want me to give up?

He wants me to give up any relationship in which I’ve allowed someone or something other than Him to determine my worth or my value. He wants my meaning in life, my sense of security, and my identity to always and only be rooted in Him.

And this, I have learned, takes effort. He has shown me that I must be intentional and deliberate in all that I do. Because it is so very easy to say that my identity and value comes from God alone, all the while slipping into a pattern where my actions demonstrate otherwise. There is sometimes a subtle line between honoring a good thing, and turning a good thing into the best thing. 

As I reflect on my life I can see that at times I've allowed a variety of things to define me or determine my value: Achievement in school. Success in my career. My motherhood. Approval from others. These are just a few examples.

Perhaps you have a different list…
Financial security? Relationships? Appearance? Social media acknowledgement & approval?

I’m sure other examples exist as well.

Right now we have only a few days left until Christmas. A few days left to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
 He came out of love to save us. To free us. And right now I think He’s telling me the thing I need saving from most––is myself.

From now until Christmas I’ll continue to pray that He helps me identify all of the things I’ve allowed to somehow define me and determine my worth. I’ll pray He gives me the grace to “break up” with them, as I acknowledge and embrace the truth that my value and identity come only from Him. And I’ll repent and ask forgiveness for the idolatry in which I have participated.

Perhaps you’ll want to whisper the same prayer along with me?

To everyone who continues to read this blog - along with all of my ramblings on Instagram and Facebook - I wish you a Merry Christmas filled with the Peace and Joy that can only come from being in relationship with Him.

And as always, I’m praying God breathes life into these words…


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