• Ava Hoffman

my why is more.

I recently encountered a new piece of chronic illness – body image – and for a girl who has blessedly been minimally impacted by this for her whole life…this has been an interesting processing period for me! What has made it more curious have been the three girls that have come to me about this exact topic in the last couple of months.


Chronic disease or not, body image is worth a conversation.


My fervent hope and prayer is that somewhere in these words, there is something that encourages your heart, reveals lies, speaks truth to your struggling soul. A tidbit that points you in the direction of healing, back to your Maker, redefines beauty, and begins a restoration process more profound than you or I can imagine.


See, for some, this is a lifetime battle; for others, only a season. It may have traumatic beginnings or have appeared in gradual bad habits. Perhaps it is minor. Perhaps not. Maybe it is rooted in a lie of unworthiness or maybe a lie of comparison. Regardless of where you currently sit…let’s chat.

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My sister came home from college in March due to CoVID. Her study is focused on exercise and health, and her career focus is getting people moving well again. My sister exercised her tremendous will on this family in an effort to move us toward better health. An all-encompassing more activity, less chips, more movement, less salt kind of step.


When it was first broached, I was very resistant – it felt like I was being told to do something; my weight was called into question; I felt stamped with “fat” from my own family. In a subsequent conversation fraught with raw emotion, I made the tearful comment that “It doesn’t matter! No matter what number the scale says, my body is never going to be pretty.”


I find little to celebrate…it does not matter where I look, my body has failed. Inside and out. Top to bottom. There is not a piece of me that hasn’t failed. My brain has forgotten how to walk. My antecubital is scarred from blood tests and IVs. My wrists bear the marks of dermatology diagnostic tests. My hands bear the scars of IV infusions. My insides are missing organs and housing dead ones. My abdomen has six scars bearing witness. My legs have forgotten how they are supposed to move, and my feet are pock-marked from odd viruses.


There is not a point in trying to manage my weight….it doesn’t matter if I don’t have stretch marks, if my body fat percentage is perfect, if the scale reads the number my doctors want me at…there are still bruises, still remnants of adhesive allergic reactions. There are still poke holes and tape residue and scars. There are always scars.


My body is always marred. It will never not be.

I am marked. Permanently and forever.

There is no escaping.


That is my body image lie. Rooted in a false sense of identity. Believing my marks define me, choosing to see the hopeless and the defeat. Believing I must escape.


See, hiding is easy. We all hide to a certain extent. The anxiety, the eating disorder, the stress, the fear of clothes shopping, the disappointment when the dress doesn’t fit. We omit the double mastectomy, the brain surgery, the marks of self-harm, the betrayals, the loss. We mask the pain, the exhaustion, the overwhelming fears of unworthiness and ugliness. We know how to be happy here, sympathetic now, and celebrating wildly for these two hours.


There is no hiding from ourselves, though. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I am still scarred and marked and hurting and exhausted and wishing I didn’t have to do this. You are still anxious, being swallowed by the comparison, longing to sleep, tired of feeling inadequate, and wishing you didn’t have to do this. At the end of the day, we look in the mirror and all we see are the scars, the fat, the stretch marks, the ugly thoughts, and the vision of what we think we should be.


Most days are okay. Some days, though, it just crashes down on you like a ton of bricks. Hiding is no longer an option. You fall on your knees, crumpling under the lonely weight, holding your hands out, offering nothing but broken ugliness, sobbing because there is nothing. It feels like you are no more than the broken body you are. Those are the hardest moments. Looking up from pretending and realizing you don’t know who you are. Those are the hardest moments, looking in the mirror and seeing nothing. Nothing but a failing body, a broken body, an imperfect body, a body you wish wasn’t yours.


Friend, hear me. Find someone who listens. Who sees. Who is not afraid to speak the needed, necessary, and hard truth to you in those moments. Seek out the person, the people, who kneel on the ground with you, around you, hold your hand in theirs, and remind you.

My person is my mama. I sat in the sunshine with her as I tried to sort through this mess, watching the cotton, the herd, and the cat. We cried. My body image views are perpetrated by my medical journey. She acknowledged that she has no idea what I bear and experience daily. She doesn’t know how to help me change my thoughts and views about my health, my body. But she knew where to start.


And with tears in her eyes, she reminded me who. She reminded me why.


I have scars so that I have life. Hiccupping a sob, she looked at me. “You will always be more of a target. You know that, right?” My scars allow Jesus to be exemplified in my life so much more. He was pierced for each one of us and died with scars that we might have life. He wrote the parallels to His story in mine….I faced death, was surgically pierced, and bear the scars that gave me life. He is not done with me yet. My story, written in His blood, is not finished.


And so she reminded me who. Who He is and who I am. He is the author of my story, and He chose this one for me. He trusted me to bear witness to His might, and He trusts me to carry a heavier resemblance to His own story and all that comes with that. I am a bearer of His image. And I have the scars to prove it.


You, sweet friend, are an image bearer. Crafted in His eyes in His perfect vision. Every version of you. Do you understand the depth of love that accompanies that?! The lace-like patterns inside your stretch marks that brought a baby into this world. He deemed those so. The scars from self-harm that He rescued you from – those tell a grand story of restoration and redemption. Those extra pounds may be scars from a season of loss or hardship, and He brought you through that, too. You are His. No matter how you look. Those doubts and criticism have no place – we do not get to critique His masterpiece.


You are His greatest treasure, most valued sculpture, and most admired piece of art.


Then my mama made another comment…one about my body being a temple. His temple. And I struggled…how can my body be a temple to Jesus if it is so marred by the world? It is not set apart and esteemed. It is the opposite! It occurred to me in that moment….so was Jesus’s body. He was tortured and abused and scarred and bore the spit and anger of a hurting, broken, desolate world. His body was defiled by the world, and He was still found redeemed and precious, priceless and pure in the sight of His Father.


My thought process is one born of lies and lived out in blindness. A thought process implanted by the enemy and curated by the lowlifes at his will. I have fallen for every single line of it. And friend, I am not content with being complacent in that. I will not give my enemy permission to deter me from having better health. This is not his body. I am not his design. He has no say in how I think and what I believe.


I am slowly accepting that chronic illness has affected how I look at my body, at my overall health. In a negative way. I am slowly seeing that I do not see the good to celebrate when it comes to my body. I am understanding that while I fight hard to make sure no one sees my disease first, that is all I see.


Yet, I am committed to changing my mind. To adopting healthier views of both my health and my body. I am determined to learn how to celebrate my body – the days I go without a nap, the nights I sleep all the way through, the days where I get to wear normal underthings, where I can stand for 7.5 hours at work. I will learn how to celebrate what I can do today while taking steps toward better health at the same time. I am determined to see my body, my scars and marks, through my Maker’s eyes. His are the ones that count.


My sister was encouraging me to find my why. Why I work on my weight and fitness. Why it matters to me. Why it is important. And there is a list. Health now means better quality of life later. It makes healthy pregnancy and healthy babies a more realistic probability. It makes controlling cholesterol easier. It keeps the nerves in my hands and feet healthy, allowing me to feel the world around me and keep those appendages. It allows my body to fight infection better and heal faster. Health now enriches my now and my future, letting me live more fully. Health now means my pouch will last longer. My diabetes will continue to respond to insulin.


None of those are my reason why, though.


My why is Jesus. He is why I am still here, still breathing, still writing, still living. He designed this body…He weeps over every new mark and scar with me, blessing it to give me life as His scars and marks have given each of us life. I think my why is so that my body can be a canvas for more – more grace, more miracles, more scars and bruises and allergic reactions, more stories, more Jesus displaying His power in my life and in this world. My why is more.


You, my friend, are more than what you see in the mirror. Completely and entirely more. You are not the lies. You are not the enemy. My prayer for you is one of courage and unfathomable bravery to face the lies. To turn to the demons stirring these things in you and say no. To reach for your Maker and cry for help. To sit and search your heart. To seek wisdom and truth from a trusted friend who will remind you Who’s you are. My prayer is that you allow Him to heal your heart; may the reflection in your mirror grow more and more – more beautiful, more graceful, more truthful, more healthy, more comfortable, more touched by the hand of God.


You are not alone. You are seen and loved, just the way you are. Reach for more, dear friend. Look up and reach for more.

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