Thursday, January 13, 2011


Image is a funny thing. How we are shaped shapes how we are, at least it can be. 

I am going to be blunt, Americanized image sucks, so so much. I was super fat my early years, climbing to 400 pounds. I got a lot skinnier after that, then saw some of it creep back after a couple of years of sitting in class and then a full time job 6 days out of the week with nothing but a microwave, fast food, and convenience store snacks at my disposal. I am glad to say that I am currently in the middle of progress in turning things back around and getting back in shape again.

That part of the story is important because it affected my journey and is how I relate to the issue of image affecting our self-perception and how I dealt with it. The truth is that we all have problems with our image and the person we see when we look at ourselves. We might not share the same image issues, but they are always there. In America I think we have glamorized image to the point that none of us are capable of becoming what something once told us was perfect. In that we have molded ourselves to be a self-destructive society whose daily goal is to keep reaching for that end goal, an end goal beyond reach and never fully realized until our final slumber: perfection, and the contentment therein.

For matters of health, I think that being in good shape or healthy (not always synonymous in my case) is important and vital to a long, happy life (being in shape means natural endorphins are released in your body, providing further energy and a more positive outlook on life). Growing up, though, being in good shape meant everything. As I saw myself getting bigger and bigger I saw my dreams becoming smaller and smaller. I thought myself so incapable of so many things, and of being someone of substance who could provide anything to society. I found a sense of humor to be something people were never in short supply of, though, and I did my best to keep the laughs coming. I also maintained a commitment to the church I grew up in and found one of the few joys in life being involved in the lives of the teenagers, helping to lead them and just have some fun in their life.

Through the help of surgery and then a much more active and healthy-conscious diet, I was able to start dropping weight, and fast. I found myself losing more than half of what I weighed, as if I were two people halved into one. All those years of thinking all my dreams and all my desires were unreachable were suddenly within my grasp. And when I reached out to take what was mine and what it was I felt entitled to ... I came back empty-handed. Ok, ok, I have to put out a little effort to make this happen I thought to myself, and I started to conform to images I had always seen, but never had been able to be myself due to my weight and my poor self-image. To say I became selfish and reckless is an understatement. I was destructive to a fault, and I could not function as a friend or a leader to anyone, not even myself. I betrayed myself and my values so many times, I began to feel like a living piece of sludge.

Still, God does not always call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I saw the call in a vivid dream and a spoken word that will remain with me as if it were a movie onscreen for all the rest of my days. It was a snap-to attention, and it got my full focus, but there was much more of a journey ahead of me. I had a lot of lessons to learn, a lot of tests to take, and I can not say I passed them all. I failed, failing not just in secret, but in the limelight, in front of people I respect, admired, or aimed to be like. I let down all my friends, my family, and my leaders, but still they had love for me, even if I did not know it at the time.

My journey humbled me in ways that broke me, tore me down, and ripped me apart, but it was like that scene in Spider-man where he had to literally tear the dark symbiote from his body before he could become the good-natured person he was meant to be again. I felt like I was placed on new ground, with a fresh start and a clean slate. Sure, the things that had happened in my past shaped me, gave me perspective, and keep me sharp in my humility, but it has also done a myriad of good in my life. There has been an increased sense of compassion for others who hurt, a better sense of purpose and not wasting the time that I have like I used to, the lack of desire to be selfish with my time or activities or calendar, but mostly the dependency of God to shape who it is I truly am.

After a run in college in another city, I returned to my church and have found it to be a completely different experience. The call that was placed on my life is all that mattered, and I felt as though God truly led me back to serve the church family I grew up with, as a time to pour back into something I took so much out of and took for granted before. The difference is now the image that God has of me is what makes me up, drives me, and when we can grasp that image and embrace it, we can take the focus off of aspiring for greatness and, instead, inspire to spread His glory. 

Of course, this is easier said than done.

There is still much inside of me that can be unsettled at times, and I have not transcended to some upper level of spiritual nirvana, preventing me from the mess that is to be human. When looking at God's image and then who I am side-by-side I realize there is so much that I have to learn, much growing that needs to happen. There are still dreams I have that I sometimes think would have been realized by now had I not wasted so much time. Sometimes it can be a bit debilitating and discouraging to think of how far I still have to go, but then I found comfort in this verse today: 

Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

This verse was paramount in reminding me that God's plan, His will, and His image for and of our life is meant to work out, with purpose. We are guaranteed an inheritance, and with that inheritance comes promises and guarantees of who we are and what we possess. By American standards we may not be much, in fact we might be downright out-and-out, but God is the one whose standard we should measure ourselves by and how we value ourselves. There comes a time when body, spirit, and mind all come in congruence and alignment, and I continue to press towards that goal, but in the meantime I do not count this time as wasted or insufficient but timely in His ultimate purpose for my life.

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