My dear one looks at his brothers and cannot help but compare.
It is what we do. We compare.
It’s early, 6:30 AM, and a Monday. I’m capturing a few minutes of early-hour quiet before the Fabulous-5 crawl out of bed and head for our room for Good Morning Hugs. I hear a shuffle along the wood floor just as I am about to turn on the hair dryer. The quiet voice in my head turns loud in an instant. Hurry!!!! Start blow drying you hair before you lose your chance!
I click on the heat with my right hand and position my hairbrush with my left, tilting my head sideways as he walks in. He bumps up against me, nudging me a few inches left, and I give. These growing high and strong boys have taught me a few lessons in the last couple of years. If my natural reaction isn’t just a bit of body give when they lean in close, I risk getting knocked down or tripping over my own two feet.
Moving over to afford him space, he files in next to me. He’s standing still. Not asking for a hug or a backscratch. He’s quiet. Not asking for help with hot water for breakfast making. He’s focused and still and quiet.
Something must be wrong.
I look up and see him in the mirror’s reflection. Standing upright, he’s measuring his height, momentarily happy with his recent growth. But then I see his eyes shift lower, and he looks disparaged. Disappointed. Disgusted.
I look at his reflection in the mirror, and I see his growing, masculine, broad shouldered strength.
He looks in the mirror, and he sees something altogether different. “Mom, why am I fat? I don’t understand why I’m so fat.”
It is too early in the morning. I have no tools for this yet, I say to myself. Lyle Lovett’s In my Own Mind, comforts me in my weakness:
“…Kiss her on the forehead
Asked her how she slept
She says, ‘honey, it’s so early,
Probably shouldn’t speak yet”
All I can do to comfort him is counter. “Bubba, you are not fat. Can’t you see how strong you are? God made your body so strong.”
I’ve heard him complain about his body before, maybe for the last few years. All I have in my toolbox to combat lies is truth. I keep telling him how delighted God is with him. That the Lord did not make any mistakes when he created his body, mind, sense of humor, and sheer determination. Why can’t my child hear me?
All the words between he and I. What’s a momma to do? I switch the blowdryer back on, take a few deep breaths as the motor’s drum sounds loudly, reverberating in my bathroom walls, and I realize. This is always the truth for my son, for all of my sons.
It’s not just my voice he’s hearing.
He’s hearing the kids’ voices at school point out that so-and-so is overweight and will never be able to dunk on the eight-foot goal, no matter how tall he gets. He’s hearing the commentary and conversations in movies that make fat jokes, poking fun at the “larger-than-life” characters on the screen. He’s hearing family members speak how disappointed they are with their own fat bodies. Self-condemnation pierces his heart when someone he loves speaks cruelly about themselves or someone else in the room they claim to love. Even in families, there are people who just can’t seem to keep their mouth shut when it comes to speaking U-G-L-Y.
Poor child doesn’t even know what he’s up against with the fat shaming out there. Fat shaming demoralizes even the strongest, most confident people. Then, add social media. In our house, Dave and I are referred to as “the only parents who won’t let them have…” And maybe we are overprotective because we won’t let them have Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram. But the truth is I just can’t handle it.
But I can pray. I’m praying that all of the hashtags, school gossip, family shenanigans, hate messaging posted to published selfies, will go away. That a fire of sorts, appearing in the likes of a burning bush, will descend and extinguish the crushing voices, especially if it has to do with shaming people about their bodies. I realize that’s a bold move. But I am praying. I’m praying for God to penetrate the hearts of men and women and boys and girls and lovers and haters to think before they speak.
Even I’m working on it, this thinking more before I speak. And if this heart can seek heart change, then there’s hope for a whole lot of others who dare to pray for change.
If I can see beyond the reflection in the glass, the reflection of my precious one standing next to me, there is hope. Hope is all we have. As believers, we carry the kind of hope that has the power to change humanity. At the very least, Christian humanity.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless, that I might make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly. Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17: 1-5, ESV).
Simply put, God called Abram to be blameless, and Abram was changed. He fell his whole body down, his ninety-nine year old hands and knees buckling to the desert ground, prostrate before the voice of his Maker. In a piercing moment, Abram’s whole life was changed in God’s presence. Likewise, God has the power to change us. We have the opportunity to buckle down and change according to His love for us.
And what is even better? He has the power to change our identity. He has the power to change our names.
For those of us who have been the victims of slander, especially when the spoken statements originate from fat-shame, skinny-shame, surgery-shame, skin-color shame, we must choose to reorder our thinking. For ourselves and for all people. Our Heavenly Father is the only One we should give permission to speak about our value.
He is the only One we should give the power to name us!
Moreover, He is the only One who has the right to name our precious children. Might their names be Beloved, Joy-Filled, Peace-Making, Patient-Seeking, Kindhearted, Good, Gentle-Spirited, Faithful, and Self-Controlled. (Galatians 5:22-23).