From the time I was about eight years old I was the “fat girl.” During the 70s when all the young girls wanted to emulate Twiggy and her emaciated figure, I was a chubby, well-fed, healthy American girl. It was devastating, humiliating, and so heartbreaking to be called all those ugly names pre-teen girls unerringly find to call those who are different. I cried quietly and usually in private, never allowing them to see the pain on my face. My mother was no help. Worse, she was a hindrance. Overweight herself, she railed at me day after day about not being lazy and dragged me with her from one weight loss or exercise program to another. All were places fill with middle aged women and my being among them brought a lot hostile stares.
As the years passed, my weight ballooned higher and higher. By the time I had given birth to three children, divorced their dad, and remarried I had reached a frightening level of morbid obesity. My mid thirties had me tipping the scale at 350 pounds. It was not a joyful way to live. I was a devout Christian from childhood and I knew that God saw my overeating as abusing the healthy body He had given me; it was my own holy temple where His holy spirit dwelled within my heart. I was ashamed of my size, my appearance, my unsurprising poor health at such a young age. I found myself horrified at the reflection of myself in the mirror.
When a major change comes to us, it is usually because there has been a reckoning. My reckoning came in the form of a precious gift from the heavenly father. My recently married daughter called me to say she and her husband were expecting a baby. I was ecstatic. Then I was desolate. How in the world, was I going to be able to help care for a grandchild when I was wheelchair bound due to excessive weight I could no longer carry alone? What would any Christian do? I got to my knees at the throne of grace and cried out to God. I pleaded for a pathway to better health. God is good! He heard me and answered me in his timing. This was not a new prayer. I had prayed for weight loss hundreds if not thousands of times. Why was this time different? I think only God may know why this was the right time to answer.
His answer came in the form of weight loss surgery. I’d been watching videos for months and joined a website for people researching weight loss. As I made serious inquiries the pieces of a puzzling process seemed to fall together with almost no effort. That was definitely God’s hand at work. It wasn’t easy. The process took a full year. During that year, God stayed by my side. He was there through the surgery and He was there after it was over and when I came home with the strictest food regimen most people have ever seen.
For the next four years, I logged every bite of food that went into my mouth. I logged the nutritional content of each bite as well. Eventually I reached, then exceeded my goal weight by 20 pounds. I was overjoyed. For a while. As time passed, something very startling became apparent. I was still miserable in my body. Life was still trying and difficult. I was healthier, yes, praise God for that, but to my astonishment the rest of my issues did not magically disappear. Getting my weight under control to conform to societal norms was a mistaken focus. Taking better care of my body was in God’s will for my life but conforming to the world’s standards in any way was not. In time I had to accept the actual truth of my weight and body and the truth is that my size didn’t matter. I was a child of God, created in His image and beloved by Him enough that He sent His son to die in my place. How enlightening and freeing that knowledge was to me! God had no trouble loving me no matter what I looked like or what size I was. I was the one who had failed at loving myself.
Hopefully, that is a lesson I learned well. I don’t worry so much about my weight anymore. I am somewhere in the middle ground between my highest weight and my lowest. I am comfortable in my body. Do I regret the years it took me to reach the understanding I have now? I don’t. I’m healthier than I was before surgery. What I do regret is how much time I wasted on myself trying to change things that were meaningless. None of it was who I really am or who God knows me to be. I could have been about my Father’s work instead, reaching out to the lost and hurting. God is so good. He can use anything, including mistaken thoughts or actions to teach us more about Him and His ways.
“Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.” Jeremiah 1:5
Dear Heavenly Father,
I humbly thank you for your presence in my heart and in my life. Without you, I am nothing. With you I am an heir with Christ Jesus and will be with you in heaven someday. Please, Lord please forgive my sin of vanity in seeking to improve on what you created. I understand now that you love me just as you made me.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
Karen Butler Ogle