Over past few months I have remained silent as a disturbing trend infiltrated the Christian community where I live. I have stayed silent out of deference to people whom I respected. I have stayed silent out of concern of bruising others feelings. I have stayed silent because I felt like the last person who should speak on this and I have stayed silent out of fear of losing relationships.
Today I was shaken out of my silence. My husband posted a link to the four minute response Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor for a local television station in Wisconsin, made to a viewer who sent a demeaning email accusing her of being a bad role model to young women because she is too fat. Her response was eloquent and well stated. I encourage you to look her up and watch it. It is worth the watch.
Before I go further, let me say I am over weight. I know this, I do not pretend that it is not an issue. To be clear before we continue, I am fat and admit that this is a problem that I struggle with every single day.
This is a deeply personal and hurtful battle that I have fought for most of my life. I am used to being judged immediately by people when they first meet me by my size. All my years growing up I had family members make snide comments, "helpful" suggestions, and devaluing statements about me and about my weight. I have had strangers do the same thing without knowing the first thing about me. I have had my value in eyes of others, and if I am honest, even in my own eyes, change depending on what the scale has said. When I was thin my value within my family went up immediately. People were quick to tell me how glad they were that I was no longer hiding my beauty under so much fat. If my weight increased then everything and anything bad that happened was because I was too fat; from falling down the stairs and nearly losing my babies to the fact my children have autism...all of it was my fault because I was fat. I am used to being judged not on who I am but on what the scale says. For years, I allowed this fact to nearly crush me.
The one place where I felt accepted and loved unconditionally was my church. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God loved and accepted me no matter what my size, the color of my skin, how well I did on a test or how much money was in my bank account. I had people in my church who never made me feel out of place or rejected. My Pastor only ever displayed to me that God loved me unconditionally. In fact, my Pastor only ever displayed that love to anyone and everyone who walked through the doors to our church. It did not matter if a person came in disabled, or of a different color, or from a different country, if they came in rich or dirt poor, if they smelled or if they were flat out drunk; my Pastor and the people in my church only ever showed them love and respect. They did not do this because they were perfect or because they had some special gift. They did this because that is what Christ has called us to do; to love the unlovable, to do unto the least of these.
Is it important to be fit and healthy? Yes. Is it important to take care of the bodies that God has given us? Absolutely. Could I do a better job in these areas? For sure.
Should I feel out of place in Christ's church because I am not there yet? NO!!!
I have seen a change in the way we relate to others in the church. Daily I have friends who only know me from a church setting trying to sell me diet products. They are excited to share this product that has changed their lives with anyone and everyone in their path. What I don't think they realize is that in their zeal and excitement they are making some people feel that they are unacceptable the way they are. That even in church and around Christians they cannot be loved or accepted based upon their appearance. Is there anything wrong with these diet product in and of themselves? No. Am I upset because others are finding them useful? No, actually I am excited that they are achieving their goals. However, Christ did not call us to make people thin or fit. Christ did not call us to transform lives by the sharing of our dietary supplements. Christ gave us one simple commission. Christ has called us to go out and make disciples of all men. The end, that's it. When our churches and Christian communities stop seeing this as the goal then we are losing sight of what is important.
Dear friends, I know I probably have offended some of you by this post. I am very sorry that was not my intention, at all. However, I felt very strongly that this needed to be said. If you are one who is in my shoes, who feels unlovable because of the way you look or how you have performed know that you are loved. Please know that God's love for you is not dependent upon anything you do, on how well you talk, or what you look like. God's love is not based on anything you can do or be. God loves you because you are His creation. God loves you inexplicably and completely. I will be praying that you will feel His love tonight. -Kristine