It's finally 10:30 p.m. and the baby is asleep. I pad wearily to bed, whisper goodnight to my husband and lie down. But in the darkness sleep eludes me. So I pick up my phone to spend some hard-won free time, browsing idly on the internet. Pinterest is my go-to favourite so I click on the app. Immediately, I'm flooded with beautiful images and I scroll idly, my mind finally slowing down after the frantic rush of a full day being a wife and mother.
Then, just as I'm beginning to relax, I see a few pictures of women, dressed in lovely clothes. The clothes come in all shapes and sizes, but the women are all the same – tall, slender, with flat tummies, glossy hair and glowing skin. OK, I know photoshop plays a large role, but still, that doesn't stop my heart from plummeting a bit and that oh-so-familiar voice in my head starts again - “I've put on so much weight!”; “When will I go back to my pre-pregnancy weight?”; “I don't look good!” etc. It's a familiar ditty. Eventually it plays itself to the end and I forget about it (or fall asleep), until the next time something prods my over-sensitive thoughts about my looks.
I don't know if all women are geared this way, but I dread standing on a scale because I fear bad news. Yet, I'm ridiculously happy if the scale shows that I've lost a kilo! Invariably on those “happy” days I'll meet someone who helpfully points out how much I've changed since I've had the baby and how I've put on weight! Down goes my heart again and lands with a thud at my pudgy feet!
I know all this is silly. That there are a million more important things in the world that I ought to care about more than my mummy tummy or flabby arms. Some days I'm good at banishing all thoughts of self and focussing on others, but the thoughts never truly gone. Always, at the back of my mind, I'm quietly comparing myself with other women around me. If I come up short in this mental survey, I feel upset and low. On the other hand, if I feel I look better than them, then I'm filled with elation and walk around with a smirk on my face for the rest of the day.
It eventually struck me how much my life revolves around feeling jealous and engendering envy. I'm not content with the way I look, though I've been created in the image of God. In a moment of brokenness I cried, “Why can't I be happy with the way I look right now?”
However, I was asking the wrong question. And I found these words of George MacDonald resonated with me -
“Haste to me, Lord, when this fool-heart of mine
Begins to gnaw itself with selfish craving.”
I realised that I may not be able to stop people from commenting on my weight, or the media bombarding me with images and opinions about women who have lost their pregnancy weight in record time. But I can choose to look to my Maker when such thoughts plague me. MacDonald puts it well -
“So bound in selfishness am I, so chained
I know it must be glorious to be free
But know not what, full-fraught, the word doth mean.
By loss on loss I have severely gained
Wisdom enough my slavery to see;
But liberty, pure, absolute, serene . . . ?
. . . Freedom is to be like thee, face and heart;
To know it, Lord, I must be as thou art.”
Freedom – like a long cool glass of water on a hot, dusty day. I feel like letting out a deep sigh of relief as a burden rolls off my shoulders. The answer has been with me all along. Instead of letting my looks and weight imprison me, I can live in liberty when I strive to be more like Jesus.
This doesn't mean that I am exempt from being fit. On the contrary, my goal is now of much more significant value. I'm not aiming to be thin, but I'm aiming to be like Jesus. Which means being a healthy woman who has the strength to care for her child; a physically and emotionally vital wife who can support her husband and provide for her house; and a spiritually healthy woman who has strength left over to give back to her community. Rather than being a woman crippled by diets, envy and low self-esteem.
Every day I have a choice. I can live a moody, disgruntled existence, tossed to and fro by every comment, image or comparison that crosses my path. Or I can live - “pure, absolute, serene” - drawing closer to the One who created me, until I can say with the Psalmist -
“As for me . . . I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:5).