Walking home from a downtown coffee shop this afternoon I was startled by a familiar voice. Hey, you’re Morgan. I turned around to see the face of a man I spent many months getting to know last year as he hung around the church office looking for company, a cup of coffee, or just respite from the Georgia weather. I had not seen his face since the day last winter that he had a meltdown in the parking lot one Sunday morning, told me never to speak to him again, and walked off in a wild rage. I had asked him how his week had been so far.
This man— homeless, legitimately schizophrenic, a few years younger than I am— had a kind face. On a good day, he was funny. Interesting. Full of great stories and hopes and questions. On bad days, he was frightened. Unkind. Demanding.
Hey, you’re Morgan. You got fat.
I didn’t immediately react to his words as I had grown accustomed to taking them in with a grain of salt. I just smiled, said hello, and kept walking. But with each step I took, his words eventually echoed loudly in my mind. The smile faded from my face.
When I got home, I looked in the mirror. I put my hands up to my cheeks and cradled them, turning from side to side and wondering if what I saw was indeed fat. I concluded that my face probably was a little rounder than when I last saw him, but I couldn’t be sure. I noticed the fine lines that have appeared by my eyes; the dark circles from being exhausted rounding the splashes of bright green beneath my glasses. Standing there, face to face with myself, I wondered if there was any truth to what he said or if he was just being mean like he had been many times before. I took a deep sigh and walked away from the mirror.
It’s not exactly common knowledge that I struggled with my weight in high school. And by that I mean I had a problem. It started out innocently enough: all it took was one comment during basketball season and I was hooked. You look really good, Morgan. You working out? I can tell! One conversation and I was hooked. Hooked on the approval of others. Hooked on measuring up to someone’s idea of looking good. I started running, a lot. I stopped eating, a lot. Most of my calories came from Gatorade and most of my afternoon were spent sprinting in the silver and black cave of my high school gym. That same year I went on my first date. I could finally wear the jeans I’d always wanted to wear. People complimented me on how skinny I was. I craved their words and their admiration. I felt in control of something in my life. I, the nerdy funny girl, felt powerful. I felt loved. I felt free.
But I wasn’t.
College did its best to unhinge me from all those things: friends who liked to eat, a community that pushed me to seeing God and myself more clearly, a newfound appreciation for breakfast food, not spending hours in the basketball gym. The freshman 15 was something I secretly celebrated; it was my freedom from guilt and the need for approval. I was finding my true self, and all as a result of seeing myself as God sees me: as one who is deeply loved and approved of by Him. He is in control, not me. I began to see that I was actually in bondage to food and it’s in Him that I am free.
Today on the street, those simple words you got fat slammed a lot of forgotten thoughts back into my mind: You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not skinny enough.
Now, it is true that I need to take better care of myself (I admitted as much in my last post) but what I quickly realized was that I needed to think about my motives and what I am truly worshipping. Standing in front of that mirror this afternoon, thoughts of I could be skinny if I really tried. I did it once. I can run more. I can eat better. I can be better. People think you’re fat and fat is garbage. Do you want to be garbage? I want people to like me. I want someone, in particular, to like me enough to want to marry me and spend forever with me. I want to be loved so badly. I want to be approved of, I want to be in control, I don’t want random people on the street to think of me as fat.
In truth, I know that that mirror lies. Not that it isn’t an accurate visual representation, but what it tells me about myself is not the truth. The truth is that Lord is bigger than all of my doubts. He is bigger than all of my fears. He is greater than all the amount of praise I think I could garner by being thin. I am not identified by my weight or attractiveness or even how secure I feel: but I am known by a God who loves me and who wants to see me trust Him— with every thing and every thought and by every piece of food and truth I put into my body.