We jump into a pool of lies.
You should lose weight.
You should be thinner.
Surgery should fix that (on you.)
Holding our noses on the way down and gasping for breath upon reaching the surface, treading anxiously, we beg for God’s grace to keep our heads above water. The exercise fixes and fad diets and 30-day plans and out-patient procedures threaten to drown our barely flailing bodies as we fight to see beyond the lies. Some days the battle for self-acceptance is exhausting to the point of surrender.
Why even try?
And on the better days, the gravitas doesn’t feel so heavy. The burden of the culture’s messaging weighs lighter, and we feel just brave enough to ask.
Father, will you please help me see me like You see me?
We beg to see Truth. We cry out, like the Israelites, Let us see you. Let us know you. Show us the way. We are desperate and hungry for more.
We plead with Him to feed our starving souls. But how does that happen? HOW does Yahweh actually begin a good and new work in us so that we begin replacing long-believed lies with His truth?
We know His character is consistent. He wants to feed us. He wants to satisfy us. He wants to fill our shallow places.
So, it seems that the hurdle to us believing and living Truth is US. We know the truth about God, but what about us?
What is the truth about US?
It’s the same truth that our human bodies have been toiling with since the beginning, and the Bible if full of stories that remind us of the truth about us. We don’t want to recognize the destruction that’s right in front of us; we want to merry-skip over the rubble and get some healing and move on. But that’s why I love the story of Nehemiah. It reminds us that rebuilding and healing always requires two things: 1) Faith and 2) Action.
As cupbearer to the King, Nehemiah held a favorable position in the Medo-Persian court. After hearing from a friend the dire situation of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem years before, he was burdened to pray. Before he asks God for anything, his troubled heart recognizes God has always been the “one who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him” (1:5).
Next, as he girds his loins to ask the King’s permission to leave and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he considers God’s long-ago promise to Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then if even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (1:8-10). (Read on and you will see how 1) Nehemiah is emboldened to ask Artaxerxes permission to return to his homeland and 2) Artaxerxes agrees to the journey home and funds the trip in its entirety.)
Clearly, Nehemiah has great faith. He understands the character of Yahweh, and he retains an unyielding belief that God desires the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
And, here is where it gets hard for us. But Nehemiah gets it. He is willing to take action. He takes three days to carefully assess the city, and rather than starting a pep rally and hoping his motivational speech spurs the people to work, he announces exactly what is before them. Nehemiah brings the people together, and his first words describe the condition of the land, exactly as it is. Its state is deplorable.
I imagine him looking out – crumbled stones strewn about, burned remains scattered amongst patches of scorched earth — breathing deeply, strengthening his heart to speak.
“You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire”(2:17).
Nehemiah recognizes the trouble, and that is the first action he pursues. In order to do the good work of rebuilding, one must first recognize the destruction.
Are we willing to do that? Or is the truth about US this? We would rather lie about our real struggles, the mess that lies at our feet, than tell the truth about the trouble we are in.
I ask this because, before the Jewish people set out to work on any rebuilding and before we get to work on any healing, one thing seems clear. It appears we need to, at least, state the obvious about the mess we’re in.
In this endeavor to study God’s Word and see how it is foundational to what we believe about these bodies we live in, I am challenging myself to start writing down the ugly and sad things I have believed about my body. Someone might call it “journaling,” others might call it “taking inventory,” but I’m calling it “making a list”– Calling out the Lies.
I even took the introductory assessment in Thomas Cash’s The Body Image Workbook, as part of “my research” and efforts to root out these sad things I’ve been believing. And, at first, it made me feel very uncomfortable. And then a little angry.
Here are some of the questions, somewhat paraphrased for simplicity, I was challenged to mull over:
- Name any of your physical characteristics you dislike? (ie. facial features, waist, lower torso (hips, thighs), height, muscle tone, etc.)
- How often (maybe in one week) do you think a)”I wish I were better looking?” and b)”I wish I looked like someone else?”
- What kinds of social gatherings (ie. pool, party where you know few people, or even hosting in your home) trigger negative emotions about your body image?
In response to probably every section of the assessment, I wanted to lie. It was easy to see how I “should have” responded to the questions.
Yes, I have some dislikes about my body, but they don’t really affect me. Sure I wish I looked different, but that’s a first world problem. Of course, I scan the room at large social gatherings and feel insecure in my skin, but that’s just a few seconds wasted on sizing myself up. No harm done.
But these are lies. There is harm done. There is a reckoning that needs to be made. And for most of us, our cisterns have been filled to overflowing with lies for so long, there’s no room for truth.
And here’s the real truth that I believe God wants for my fighting heart: He doesn’t want me to jump in the pool of lies any longer, barely coming up for air. But that means I’m going to have to climb out, take a time out, and start processing what lies I’m believing so that I can make room for the Truth my Healer longs to deliver.
I thought that the next step to healing was praying more and focusing more and reading God’s word more. But I was wrong. The next step is action-based and it’s clearly confessional. And it was always meant to be. Spending the next few days writing down the lies, confronting them, and shaking my finger at the father of lies might be part of throwing out the old ways and shutting this down. Closing down for maintenance.