The Woman from 2009

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Gentle Reader,

It’s uncomfortable, sticking that picture of myself in this post.

But there’s a reason.

The other night Chris decided that he would take our camera, which we never use (hello, smartphones) to work. He needed to use it to take pictures of new employees at the hospital for their security badges. As he checked and cleared the SD cards, he came across this random photo.

From 2009.

The image of this woman upsets me. She hasn’t yet started to feel crappy all the time. She hasn’t yet been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Her skin is smoother. Her smile brighter. Her eyebrows need some work. She hasn’t yet succumbed to anxiety so bad it sends her into a pit of depression and despair.

There is so much ahead of her.

I study myself in the mirror today. I see the perpetual dark circles under my eyes. I see the roundness in my face. Skin forever itchy and marked. My hand absently strokes the lumpy, bumpy swathe of abdomen, wrecked forever by surgery and scar tissue. Stupid liver. Stupid chronic fatigue.

I wish I looked like the woman in that picture. (I wish I could fit into her size 8 jeans).

It’s sad and strange.

No amount of caloric restriction will flatten my belly. No amount of make-up can fully cover the dark circles. Nor can sleep, even double-digit hours at a time. No matter how hard I try, I can’t will myself into more energy. I can’t stop the aching in my joints. I can’t predict the days when I’ll spend my time throwing up.

I long for a time machine.

To go back and be that woman again.

The longing has stayed with me for a week now, ever since I first saw that picture. Some part of my brain, the part that has bought into the lies that thinness and a frantic pace equal happiness, keeps trying to work out the equation for time-travel. Or at least a miracle drug to make my sad liver happy again. (No, organic kale is not the fix. Sorry). I keep straying back to, “If I could look like that again…” “If I could do it over…” “It would be better if…”

Another part of my brain, the part that has learned to listen for the arresting voice of the Holy Spirit, knows better.

Most of the time, I don’t actually care that I’m a size 12. (There, you know). I have a better relationship with food now. I never exercised back then. These days I get out and take walks and have even done a little weight lifting here at home recently. I can’t change the fact that my health problems have caused me to gain weight. I see and hear women who are obsessed with being “skinny” (though they often couch it in terms of “being healthy”). All they talk about is food – what they do eat, what they don’t eat, how they eat it. They feel superior to heavier women and then judge themselves if the scale moves up an ounce. They make me roll my eyes because it’s not worth it. There’s no point in attaching a sense of value or self to the numbers on a scale or the number on a label in a item of clothing.

I’d rather have a lumpy, blobby stomach than a tumor. That big ol’ scar is a badge of honor. A mark of battle..

I don’t want to go back to straightening my hair every day. It takes too much time and it never, ever lasts longer than an hour. I’d rather sleep.

Same goes for eye make-up. I used to wear it all the time. Now…who cares if I do or don’t put on mascara? Big whoop. I have other things to focus on.

I was going through a rough patch, friendship-wise, back then. Now, at 31 (in a week), I’m learning that friends come and go. Closeness waxes and wanes. Things change. People change. It can be painful, but ultimately it’s okay.

This woman held a lot of resentment toward her husband. Chris and I don’t have a perfect or easy marriage today, but it’s far, far better than it was.

I remain neurotic, but back then I was far less comfortable with myself. Back in that day, which was probably a Tuesday, I was usually far too afraid to share my opinions. I let people manipulate and steamroll me. This blog was a whole lot blander. Though I try to be wise in what I say and how I say it, I’m now much freer in sharing what I think. I’m also better at spotting the manipulating and the steamrolling.

In 2009 I barely had an inkling of what it meant to be close to the Lord. Hardship has brought me near to Him. It has pushed me to climb up into His lap, onto His shoulders. I thirst for His word. I ache to know Him more. My ear is tuned to the sound of His heartbeat. I want to love Him more, obey Him closely, sit and bask in His glory. This, I would not trade for anything.

In a surprising plot twist, I realize that the woman from 2009 longed to be the woman I am today.

Isn’t that odd? So often we look back on the past with the proverbial rose-colored glasses. Or we look off into the future. We forget to appreciate now. Today.

Perhaps, like me, you also entertain the “what if?” kind of thoughts. Perhaps you have longed to “go back.” Or judged yourself today because you aren’t as thin, as young, as busy, as influential, as wealthy, as whatever as you were then. Perhaps you shut your eyes tight and hope to plow through and into a brighter tomorrow, ignoring these 24 hours. Dear one, you are missing the blessing of right now. You are missing the good things that God is doing. You are blind to the joy and the peace and the love and the happiness that shower you as His beloved child, even in the middle of horrendous storms.

Step away from the then and back off from tomorrow. Don’t miss this moment.

This beautiful, wonderful moment.

I’m abandoning my work in the time-travel field. I’ll stay the “plus sized,” Medusa-haired, tired-eyed person I am. It’s better.

I’m better.

Because God is good. He loved me as I was – and loved me too much to let me stay there.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Favorite

Gentle Reader,

Seems like I’m not very good at keeping up with the party on the Twitters these days. I miss something special when I’m not able to participate. And it is special. Who but God would use social media to draw His daughters (and a few sons!) from all over the place into one unique writing community? We have many differences. We don’t always agree. Yet we cheer each other on.

Kate and my buddies.

We write about: favorite.

Go.

I am often shocked at the insanity that crosses my path. I shouldn’t be. People are crazy, whether in an official, clinical sense or not. The world makes less and less sense as the days go by. No logical standards seem to apply. Do what you want. Chase your feelings.

Pseudo-intellectual elitism. Arrogance run amok.

People like me are accused of being close-minded. Accused of “being afraid” of “searching.” Afraid of “wrestling” through the “deeper” questions.

It couldn’t possibly be that people like me think that some of the answers presented are wrong. Or just stupid.

The world seems to tilt further on its axis. The spin increases. My head whirls. And so I try to focus on this:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; (4)

No matter what anyone says or does, God will never be knocked off of His throne.

That is my favorite truth.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Marriage is What Drives Us Apart Today

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’ll just get right down to it.

I do not plan to revisit this in future posts. This is not going to become a theme. However, since I have long placed my words on the public buffet table, there’s really no way to avoid the topic. Before we get any further along, allow me to quote John MacArthur, who I don’t agree with on many points of doctrine, but who expresses it best when he says:

Marriage is not the ultimate battleground, and our enemies are not the men and women who seek to destroy it (2 Corinthians 10:4). The battleground is the Gospel. Be careful not to replace patience, love, and prayer with bitterness, hatred, and politics.

So here we go.

I’m not going to go protest at a gay wedding. I’m not going to refuse to associate with gay people. I wouldn’t shun a gay couple if they moved in next door. I don’t feel the need to bring up the topics of gay marriage or homosexuality in every conversation, Facebook comment or blog post. I’m not going to seek out gay people so I can shout at them. These actions are not only pointless, they are caricatures of what it means to be a Christian.

I’ll keep behaving as I have behaved all along, thanks.

But none of that requires that I say that gay marriage is blessed by God. I’m not going to say that He “created” same-sex unions anymore than He “created” heterosexual promiscuity, the point being that He does not call us to continue living in what He defines as sin. Yes, God loves us as we are and He sent Christ to save us while we were still sinners. Praise Him for that! But that love? It is transformative. It does not say, “Oh, you just go ahead and keep doing what you want.”

The fact that I believe marriage is a God-designed institution made for one man and one woman doesn’t make me a bigot. It doesn’t make me hateful. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than other people. It doesn’t make me sick or twisted.

All my stance on this issue means is that I am striving to be consistent in my doctrine.

My denomination has issued a statement affirming that which is laid out in our manual of practice. We also stand with the National Association of Evangelicals:

Statement from the Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene –

Societies across the globe are engaged in conversations to redefine marriage. Media debates, election-day balloting, and governmental court rulings have provided the platform for this redefinition. We believe a biblical view of marriage involves a monogamous, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus said, “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV).

Today the United States Supreme Court, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. We remind our people that while the civil law of yet another country has changed, divine truth has not changed. We will learn how this civil definition functions within the context of our constitutional and religious freedoms. Our commitment to the orthodox biblical Christian faith remains the same. We continue to call Nazarenes around the world to a life of holiness, characterized by holy love and expressed through the most rigorous and consistent lifestyle of sexual purity. We further call our people to a generosity and graciousness of spirit that extends kindness to those who do not share our belief. We pray that God will help us be examples of His truth in a world that needs to see God’s love demonstrated in word and deed more than ever.

Statement from the National Association of Evangelicals –

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people.

While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

In its role as a moral teacher, the law now misleads Americans about the true nature of marriage. Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.

As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage. Those who continue to embrace biblical teaching on marriage will increasingly appeal to the First Amendment protection not just for abstract belief, but for the practice of their faith. The National Association of Evangelicals calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

More –

In the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) regrets the court’s shift away from the historic understanding of marriage, but recognizes that the truth about marriage has not changed.

“At the beginning of the Bible, God defined marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus described marriage. Neither asked the Supreme Court for a new definition or description,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

The NAE today released a statement about marriage in light of the court’s redefinition, which says in part:

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

Anderson said, “As evangelicals, we look to the Bible — not the courts — for guidance on life. Marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. May this court decision be a clarion call to American evangelicals to proclaim and exhibit the good news about biblical marriage.”

The NAE recognizes that governments at times adopt policies that do not align with biblical values. However, those policies should not require those who follow the clear teachings of the Bible to change their beliefs or practices.

Anderson said, “As we respect a legal ruling with which we do not agree, we ask others to respect our faith and practices even when they disagree with us.”

The NAE calls on evangelicals to be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage and to also advocate for liberty for all who desire to live out their faith. The NAE calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

I look to God for direction in all things. His word tells me that the faith has always been counter-cultural. Following Christ has always meant being out of step with the world at large. He defines what is right and what is wrong and will never be knocked off of His throne. It does not matter how governments rule on this or other positions. God is supreme. With this in mind, I will continue to learn to navigate life with both sobriety and joy, confident in my position as a daughter of the King. I will strive to treat everyone I come into contact with as a person, a human being, an image-bearer – whether they agree with me or not.

Nothing else needs to be said.

My journey to faith. (15)