Monday, November 12, 2012

A Weighty Matter

Today I posed the question on Facebook, "How often do you weigh yourself?" So far the replies are what I have expected, all over the map. However, it does  seem that the majority of responses fit into two camps: every day or almost never.

In Camp 1, the motivation of the "every day" people is pretty straightforward and totally understandable. If you struggle with your weight and want to keep a tight reign on it, you keep daily watch lest five pounds leaps onto the bandwagon while you're not looking.

The motivation for the "hardly ever" crowd in Camp 2 seems to fall into two categories. The first is the category that every female dreams of fitting into but few ever make it there. These rare individuals don't get on a scale unless they are at the doctor's office because they just don't think about it. Weight is the farthest thing from their mind and they are totally comfortable in the body God gave them. Life is full of so much more and, well, what is a number, anyway? Sounds like heaven, huh ladies?

The second is far more common. The scale is the Doomsday machine. The purveyor of evil. The scale sees all and knows all and, worst of all, TELLS all. Turns out that a major reason people avoid going to the doctor is that they don't want to be weighed.  Last year, someone who will remain nameless (you can fess up if you want, you know who you are), wore shorts and sandals to the doctor's office in the freezing cold so that she would not weigh so much. Some choose to stand on the scales backwards and ask the nurse not to tell them the number. Others flat out refuse to be weighed at all and threaten to go elsewhere for medical care.

It's funny, isn't it? That a number can be so powerful. It makes no sense whatsoever, but the majority of women (and indeed some men) in our culture are influenced or controlled to some extent by that number.

I am not here slinging mud at others that I have not been bathed in myself. I spent several years of my young life in Camp 1. I weighed myself every day and, sometimes, several times a day. Of course, that is excessive and obsessive and I was terribly mixed up in the bizarre pursuit of the thinness that sucks the joy and life (sometimes literally) out of people. That is a long and messy story that I won't go into here but God graciously healed me through that over the years and brought me to a place of greater peace and less angst.

After the birth of my last child, we tossed out our rusty scale. We didn't want our children, especially our three daughters, growing up with a scale in the house and I knew that I didn't need the temptation to focus on that part of my life as I waded (or waddled?) into middle age. So I moved into Camp 2. Now I won't say that I NEVER weighed myself. There were occasional opportunities, but I would only do so when I felt "thin". All you ladies know what I mean. You can just TELL.

A couple of years back my husband bought a scale without my knowing it, so that he could monitor his attempt to rein in his middle aged middle. He kept the scale hidden for months before I found it in the back of a file cabinet drawer one day.

So now I am one of the "every so often" kind of people that don't really have much of a camp because there aren't very many of them. But even in this small camp I find that the numbers can still have more power than they were ever meant to. And it's crazy. And I say we stage a revolt.

By what authority can a number ever, ever, EVER define who you are as a person? Our culture is sick, deranged, and hell-bent on distracting us away from what truly matters. Whether it is airbrushed models or hyper-fit yoga instructors or uber-righteous news reporters telling us all how fat we are, the world screams that our value is all wrapped up in our physical packages and that bodies that are broken or floppy or fail to live up to the current standard of beauty are of no value. Not only are they of no value, but they are a source of shame and scorn.

But Jesus came for the sick, the scorned, the outcasts. Jesus never once mentioned a number on a scale. He doesn't say, "Blessed are you with a body mass index of 19-25, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven." He never says to the Pharisees, "Why are you so FAT?" He addresses the heart.

What does God require of us? To do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with him, regardless of a silly number.

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