By Stephanie Parker
I was exhausted! We had squeezed 3 Christmases into one day and that was about 2 too many! It was wonderful seeing family but I was spent. I had stayed up until 2am and midnight the nights prior to make sure everyone’s Christmas would be magical. By the time we got home on Christmas evening, my exhaustion had hit an all-time high. I should have known what was coming. The enemy usually goes after me when I’m tired. He gets my defenses down and goes for the jugular. And boy did he knock it out of the park this time.
I was sorting through the mountains of gifts from the in-laws while chatting with my mom who was visiting for Christmas. I got to the pile of shirts I had received from my mother-in-law and my mom asked me to show them to her. As I lifted each one up, a look crossed my mother’s face that I knew all too well. And then she said it. And something inside of me broke.
“She should have gotten you a larger size, Stephanie. Those won’t fit you.”
That’s all it took and I was 10 years old again. Memories flooded my brain that reduced me to an insecure child. I remembered the time when I was told I should take a smaller piece of cracker from the communion plate because I needed to watch my waistline. And the time when a heavy-set woman was brought to my attention. I was warned that I would one day become her if I wasn’t careful. I remembered when I was in 8th grade and would do 600 sit-ups a day in hopes of achieving that illusive figure, only to be back where I started a few months later. The insecurities bubbled up from a hidden place in me that I normally keep locked up tight.
I made up an excuse to leave the room where my mother was. I shut the door to my room and began to sob. It wasn’t what my mom had said that hurt me. The hurt was always there lurking deep beneath the surface of my soul. She simply unlocked it and the enemy opened the door. The lies came pouring in.
“You will never be skinny.”
“If you aren’t skinny, you aren’t enough and no one will love you.”
“No one will want you if you can’t get a handle on your weight.”
“You’re just destined to be fat.”
“You are defined by your pant size and nothing else.”
“If you aren’t skinny, you aren’t beautiful.”
Sometimes it’s easier to believe the enemy’s lies than it is to believe that we are beloved by the creator of the universe.
I sat there feeling fat and hopeless. I did the only thing I knew to do. As tears streamed down my face, I started praying.
“God why can’t I just be skinny? Why does this have to be my ‘thorn in my side?’ Why can’t you just free me of this like you’ve freed me of so many other things in my life? You are the God of the impossible so why can’t you just fix me!? I want to honor you with this body, this temple you’ve given me, but I feel like no matter what I try (exercise, eating excessive amounts of kale, etc.) it doesn’t seem to help. What are you trying to teach me in this? I don’t understand! God, show me the way and I will walk in it!”
Then I opened my Bible. I have learned from experience that the only way to bring light to my darkness and to destroy the lies of the enemy is with God’s Truth.
God’s Truth confirmed that I’m NOT defined by my waist-line. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” I know that I am beautiful in God’s eyes because He truly has changed my heart and has made it beautiful. I’m by no means perfect, but I can honestly say that my heart’s desire is to serve and honor God, and I know that is beautiful to Him.
Ephesians 2:10 says that I am, “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do.” I was not created for the sole purpose of looking good and being skinny. In fact, that’s not at all why I was created. I was created by God to do good works that He, in his loving kindness, prepared ahead of time for me.
By placing my identity in my pant size, I’m essentially telling God that He isn’t enough for me. And I know that’s a lie because I’ve lived the Truth. I’ve tasted the abundant life Jesus promises to those who believe in Him and it’s not found in a number on the scale. By placing such a high priority and focus on ‘skinniness,’ I’ve created an idol that I worship above God. Why would God want me to be skinny if it would just feed into that idol?
God is more interested in my holiness than my dress size. Even if I get to a size 2 by the end of my life, it won’t do me any good in Heaven. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
When 1st Corinthians 9:24 talks about “running the race set before us to achieve the prize”, he wasn’t referring to running a 5K so I could loose a few pounds. He was talking about living a life that is steadfast in seeking and serving the Lord so that I can one day stand before the throne of Grace and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, on Christmas day, as I sat there on my bed in tears, I started to fix my eyes on Jesus and the lies started dropping like flies.
God’s Truth stilled my heart and quieted my soul.
But God wasn’t done with me yet. God was going to use my weakness and insecurity, my “thorn,” to display his strength and bring healing to an old wound (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
After I composed myself, I re-entered the living room where my mom was. Like any good mom, she knew something was wrong. She said, “I know I did something, but I don’t know what. I’m sorry.” Just like that, the floodgates opened again. Like a kinked water hose that had been released, the tears burst forth.
We went into my bedroom for Round II.
The old me would have wanted to blame my mom for my insecurities and for what she said that unleashed those insecurities. But, by the grace of God, Jesus took over. I told her, “It wasn’t what you said. It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with for a long time. Old habits die hard and sometimes I have a hard time seeing my worth in something more than the number on the scale. Sometimes I forget who I am in Christ. I was tired and the enemy likes to kick me when I’m down.”
What transpired next was nothing short of miraculous. We had a conversation unlike any conversation we’ve ever had in our entire lives. My mom shared that she was sorry if she fed into any of those insecurities that I had growing up. She told me that I’m leaving a bigger legacy with my kids than she did with hers because of my willingness to put God first. She told me that my heart for the Lord is what’s beautiful and that, although our society might praise a skinny figure, that’s not what God values.
I’ve never heard any of this from my mom before and her vulnerability and transparency made me love her more than I’ve ever loved her before.
For the first time in my life, I can honestly thank God for my struggles with my weight because they led me to lean into God and into my mom in a way that I never would have otherwise.
The apostle Paul had something he referred to as a ‘thorn in his side.’ It could have been a stronghold, a sin he struggled with, a physical ailment or something else but whatever it was, it pulled him down just like my insecurities have. He asked God to remove his ‘thorn’ 3 times but God wouldn’t. God is always more interested in our holiness than our comfort. God’s response to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response? “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Sure, it would be REALLY nice to have a mommy make-over and just erase my extra pounds, stretch marks and C-section scars but when I look at how God has used my “thorn,” to bring restoration and unity to my relationship with my mom and a dependence on God that I wouldn’t have otherwise, I can truly thank God.
What’s more, I don’t want anything to take away from God being first in my life. This whole ordeal has shown me that I need to remove that ‘skinny’ idol and place God back on the throne of that area of my life.
God’s love has broken through and continues to break through my pride, my selfishness and my insecurities so that I can be made whole in and used by Him.
My path to wholeness has been paved with brokenness. I truly can rejoice in my brokenness, my weaknesses and my struggles because “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Stephanie Parker has 3 main loves: God, her husband, Brett and her kids! When Stephanie created the Zipadee-Zip in an effort to solve her daughter, Charlotte's, sleep issues, she never imagined that it would become a business. She is incredibly grateful to God for how Sleepingbaby.com has grown and how it has enabled other families to get the restful sleep they need. Stephanie's husband, Brett Parker assumed the role of CEO which has allowed Stephanie to focus on what she loves which is the creative side of the company, like product and print development. After the Zipadee-Zip was featured on Shark Tank, Stephanie went on to create the book Shepherd's Treasure, a Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf. In her free time, Stephanie loves to spend time with her family and friends. Her hobbies include acting, singing, painting, learning and speaking foreign languages and going on adventures with her family! You will find her all summer waterskiing, fishing and laughing with her family on the weekends.
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