Sunday, 17 May 2015

Teaching my future daughter to love herself

    If I’m ever blessed with a daughter, I never want anything I say or do to cause her to worry about her body. I don’t want her to catch a discontented glance in the mirror, a thoughtless comment about what was wrong with what I just ate, or a criticism of the way God created me, and watch silently as she subconsciously takes it all in. It’s for that reason that I’m so determined to fight against the world’s distortions of beauty, and even more so against the lies in my own mind about the body God crafted for me!

    I despise the attitude women are taught to have about themselves, and yet I still find it too easy to be dragged into it.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

    I read this and wonder just how well my soul really knows it. I suffered from an eating disorder for several years as a teenager, and lived with the emotional scars for the years since. I spend a large amount of my time travelling round schools across the country telling classrooms full of girls that it doesn’t matter what they see in the mirror each day because God’s love is unchanging, and that He looks at them and sees nothing but sheer beauty because He’s pleased with His creation, yet I find myself questioning how much I really believe those truths. 

    As an ex-gym addict, I sometimes find myself mourning the body I once had, and yet the ironic thing is that at the time I never saw that body. In fact, what I saw in the mirror when I trained twice a day and was at the peak of my fitness was exactly the same as what I saw when I was 3st underweight, and the same as what I see on certain days now (though I’ve already been blessed with an incredible amount of healing). 

    I think as women we often live in that mindset of ‘If only…’! If only I looked like her… If only I hadn’t eaten that dessert… If only I had more hours to workout… Then I’d be happy with myself. But the truth – which I know from experience – is that even when all of those things are in place, they’re still not enough to make us happy. Why? Because only Jesus can satisfy us!

“You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:4

    Jesus doesn’t put any ‘If only’ clauses on his love. He doesn’t ask me to change how I look or who I am to be worthy of Him. He wouldn’t love me more if I was thinner, or prettier, or taller, or wore more make-up, or ‘made more of an effort’. His love is already complete, abounding, steadfast and freely given! I’ve been struck heavily lately by the number of times in the Bible He tells me He delights in me. Never ‘would delight in me if…’, always ‘delights’! He delights in you right now, just as you are, because you are precious to Him, and He loves you.

“A woman of beauty knows in her quiet centre where God dwells that He finds her beautiful and deems her worthy and in Him she is enough.” Stasi Eldredge

    In the light of that love, I renew my promise to my future daughter that I will make every effort to nurture her in all her glorious femininity, to reassure her every day of how infinitely and perfectly she is loved, and to instil in her heart a firm knowledge of her beauty as a woman of God.

    And I will begin by choosing to believe that about myself. Today.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

What my first half marathon taught me about Jesus

    ‘Persevere’ is a word that has consistently summed up my approach to life for a long time. It’s a word that remains close to my heart, and one which often spurs me on in prayer. However, the reasons for that haven’t always been the same as they are now…

    As a self-professed, chronic perfectionist, I spent years feeling like the person I was supposed to be and the things I was supposed to do were always just out of my reach – moving away from me at the same pace I was moving towards them. “Just keep trying harder and you’ll make it eventually”, I told myself. Yet there was always something! Even the moment of elation after a task succeeded would be short-lived as another task or another high standard took over. I refused to give up in the fight to achieve, and yet the fight never ended.

    That changed for me when I ran my first half marathon in March this year. On the morning of the race, I felt Jesus assuring me that His Spirit within me would carry me round the course, and He would restore my dwindling energy at all times: ‘(I) will give life and breath to you again’ (2 Maccabees 7:23). I carried that with me every gruelling mile, being nudged by Jesus every single time I started to doubt it… 

“I’ve promised to see you through this, do you trust Me?”

    At the 11 mile mark, when my legs were growing numb and my mind was becoming less convinced that the finish line existed, it wasn’t about working myself harder or putting in a burst of speed, it was simply about clinging to the promise Jesus had made and maintaining my rhythm. 

    What I realised through that is that drawing closer to Jesus isn’t about what extra I can do, it’s about what He’s already done. He never asks us to give more than we have to give, He simply asks us to depend on Him, trust in His mercy and unceasingly seek to discern His will – never losing sight of the fact that ‘(His) grace is sufficient’ for us (2 Cor. 12:9)! To persevere isn’t to push or grasp, it’s to remain steadfast in all conditions – standing equally firm in His love when the storms attack as we do when the sun shines. Sometimes it may even require us to stay still in order to move forward. It’s not about striving. It’s about holding on to His hand and trusting He won’t let go. We don’t need to prove ourselves to Him! What we need to do is surrender to His will and commit to collaborating with His plan.

‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus... For the joy set before him he endured the cross... Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:1-3

    For the joy set before us in Heaven we endure the trials and suffering we encounter in this life – just as Jesus endured the cross. As He hung there dying, He didn’t strive to give any more or be any more. He had already given Himself completely, and He knew that that offering of self was accepted by His Father. We’re called to give ourselves to Him completely, but once we do we need only accept the promise that He is pleased with our offering, and He is lovingly in control of the rest.  

‘Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth.’ Rick Warren

    And so I continue to live a life of perseverance. But I no longer do it to prove myself. I no longer do it to punish myself for what I see as inadequacy. I no longer do it to become something I’m not.

    I do it to keep pace with Jesus as He walks alongside me, to keep my heartbeat in sync with my Saviour, and to keep spreading the light of Christ to those I meet.