Making Peace with Your Body

During a time of year when people are making weight loss and fitness goals, I (Megan) thought it might be important to discuss how to make peace with your body.

My story includes a fair share of issues with weight management and fitness failures, but over time I have really made peace with my body. Not because I have “arrived” at some perfect state but because I am choosing to live well in the midst of imperfection.  Having had an eating disorder through most of my childhood and it rearing it’s ugly head again just a few short years ago, this is an area where I must be extremely diligent in what I allow myself to think on. So please understand, I won’t use the words ‘simple’ or ‘easy’ in this post.  Making peace with your body, as many of you already know, is not a simple process.  There is no magic wand to wave that makes us fall in love with the way we look.  However, I do know from personal experience that it is possible to feel comfortable in your own skin. Here are some suggestions to help you on the journey:

1.  Recognize the lies media and pop culture are selling.  When you know someone is lying to you what do you do?  You don’t trust them!  You are cautious of their opinions or disregard them all together.  This is an important first step to making peace with your body; call the images you see everyday in magazines, TV commercials what they are, lies.  Airbrushed beauty is not real and if we continue to hold ourselves to that standard, we will never measure up. If you really want to make peace with your body, take some time to figure out what lies you are believing and then silence them.

2.  Stop negative self talk. I already mentioned this wasn’t going to be easy didn’t I?! Once you recognize the lies you are believing the next step is to silence another altogether negative voice, your own. The “Fat, Dumb & Ugly” soundtrack isn’t doing you any good. In fact, it has never done you, your friends or anyone any good. Ever.  So ditch it. Strive to put an end to negative self talk and adopt the more healthy habit of reflective evaluation. Rather than condemning or judging your own perceived failures, you should seek to understand what is at the base of your emotional reactions to the way you look or feel about yourself. If you discover your feelings stem from shaming words spoken to you as a child, seek help or counsel on how to overcome that. If you find depression, perfectionism, people pleasing or a number of other motivations at the root, open up and become vulnerable with a person or group you can trust.  Finding the peace and healing you desire in this area will require work. It may be slow and it may be painful at times but it is worth it to live at peace.

3.  Lean into the people in your life who find you beautiful.  For me the greatest advocate I go to for affirmation of my beauty is my husband.  I know he finds me attractive and I don’t doubt my beauty in his eyes.  I know that for some of you though, your husband is not your advocate.  In fact he may be part of the problem as to why you don’t recognize your own beauty.  In these instances I encourage you to believe the voices of those people in your life who will draw out and call on your beauty as they see it.  If you don’t have anyone who does this in your life, pray that God would bring an encourager into your life.  We all need them and it is helpful for the people we are living life with to be a positive voice in our own journey.

4.  Learn what God says about you.  On this journey called life we are all trying to figure out who we are and why we are here.  These questions cannot be answered without the help of the very One who created us.  If you want to make peace with your body, with relationships or with God; you must know who God is and what He has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ.  Your identity must rest completely in that knowledge.  Then and only then will you be able to experience peace. He loves you for who you are right now. Don’t miss out on experiencing that love.

Death of Perception:

I (Megan) remember our first year of marriage very well.  The passion, the excitement, the newness of it all.  Spending every day with the love of my life, being intimate, learning to love each other.  I also remember our first year of marriage for other reasons.  The fights, the tears, the emotions and the torrent of words I can never take back.  Marriage has a way of drawing out the best in you.  It also has a way of drawing out the worst.  Being fully honest, open and real in marriage is necessary, but it’s oh so very ugly at times.

This can be especially painful when we see and discover things about our spouse and ourselves that we didn’t know were there.  This is when our marriages experience death.  Not death of the marriage itself but death of perception.  Death of what we think marriage should be and what our spouse should be.  All strong marriages experience this type of death.  This death of perception is often unexpected and painful.  Before marriage we thought that our spouse was so great.  We were so “in love” that we knew we could handle any punches life threw at us as long as we were together.  We just never knew that some of the hardest blows would come from within our marriage.

Marriage reveals many things about who we are and who we married.  We see how our spouse resolves conflict differently than we do.  We discover who fights dirty.  We see just how much sexual past’s affect our present.  We come to find out we married an entirely different person than we thought.  A different person than we perceived.  In fact, we discover, we are different.  In these instances it is not our spouse or ourselves that is the problem. It is the perception that is the problem and we need to put it to death.  If we fight this type of death our marriage cannot flourish.  It cannot grow and thrive.

Blame is often a guttural response.  We blame our spouse for lying to us and deceiving us before we were married.  Oftentimes this is not the case but we believe it just the same.  Seeing the ugliness in someone else often makes us blame them and believe lies. We also blame them for bringing out the worst in us.  “I wasn’t this way before we were married!”  Yes you were! You just didn’t have someone there all the time to notice it.  Our perception of our self changes.

While the pain of this death of perception is fresh we have several choices.  We can choose to believe that the person we are married to is not the person we thought they were and we want out.  We can choose to recognize their flaws and though we want out we just stay in the marriage anyway. We check out emotionally and mentally though we remain legally married.  Or, we can grow through this death and build something better.  Something better than we ever imagined or dreamed possible.

Life is a journey.  On this journey we learn, mature, grow and yes, change.  Change is always the one thing that is constant in life.  So, when we come to realize that the person we fell in love with has changed it should be expected.  If, however, we have never put to death our perceptions of who we think they should be the change knocks the wind out of our lungs.  If we never reconcile the fact that the ugliness we see in our spouse is mixed right up with the good, our marriage will end.  It may not end in divorce but it is ended in intimacy, friendship and companionship.  All the things that make marriage worth it are stunted because what we want (perceive) and what we seem to have are too different.  They cannot work together.

So reader, are you ready to put to death your perceptions and build a better marriage?  Are you ready to learn to accept your spouse and dream big dreams for your marriage?  We sure hope so.  It is not easy, it won’t always happen in the manner or the timing we would prefer but it is the only way to move forward in life.

“(God) allows the hours of destruction for the purpose of building something better in its place.  Our part is not to run away from the pain but to walk through the briars and thorns and let Christ teach us how to turn each scratch into positive learning about the depths of God’s love.”  – C. John Miller

Understanding “Love”: Racham

“Love” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  Marriages crumble each and every day because one (or both) individuals in the marriage forget what it means to love another person.  To try to understand what love really is, we first wrote out definitions of “love” from our modern day dictionary as well as a look at an 1800’s Western Culture understanding (how far we’ve come in 200 years!).  Additionally, we looked back to the 1st Century A.D. Roman Empire Culture, by focusing on a few verses of 1 Corinthians 13.  Today, we rewind the clock back a little bit further and look at Ancient Israel and they’re understanding of “love”.

While “love” has a number of meanings in our current culture, the Hebrew Language from the Old Testament complicated things more.  Instead of having one word with multiple meanings, they simply used multiple words.  This is odd, as the Hebrew language has far less words (less than 80,000) compared to English (approximately 1,000,000).  Nevertheless, the Old Testament has 11 Hebrew words for “love”.  Eleven.  Some are used only a few times but others are used in pretty good abundance.

The specific Hebrew word we’d like to focus on today is:

racham  (rāḥam) [rah KHAM)

The term “racham” is used 47 times in the Old Testament, and seven of those come in book of Hosea.  If you’ve never read the book of Hosea, it’s about God commanding Hosea the prophet to marry a prostitute.  Throughout the book, Hosea is to continually show racham toward his wife, just as God shows it to the nation of Israel.

“Racham” is translated by various scholars as either “love” or “have compassion, or pity”.  Some Hebrew scholars indicate that this type of deep love is sometimes used for one who is superior over one who is inferior (an example would be Isaiah 49:15 when a nursing mother shows love toward her nursing infant) but is sometimes used as an expression of love for God (Psalm 18:1).

Still, the term is most often used of God’s love or compassion on others, most specifically, on those He chooses to show racham (Exodus 33:19).  Even more amazingly, it is used as an expression of love/compassion on those who do not deserve to receive it (2 Kings 13:23).  A careful reading of the Old Testament indicates that God shows this type of love over, and over, and over again to those who don’t deserve it.  Think about how amazing this is: God chooses to show racham to whomever He chooses, and the people He chooses to show racham toward don’t deserve it.

How exactly does this apply to marriage?  Well, within our marriage, Megan and I naturally show a lot of love and compassion to one another, especially during our good seasons.  But there are times when we each mess up.  Times when we hurt one another.  Times when we don’t want to show racham to the one who just hurt us. Times when we may think they don’t deserve it.

But this is exactly the point of racham, it is given in an undeserved manner.  Hosea’s wife didn’t deserve it, but God provided it anyway.  Israel didn’t deserve it, but God provided it anyway.  We don’t deserve it, but God still offers it.  And if God is willing to show this kind of love and compassion toward others who are undeserving, why wouldn’t we offer it as well?

The point of racham isn’t to accept one another’s flaws.  It’s not to accept the person and their sin.  It’s to see them, love them, and show compassion on them with the ultimate desire being for them to become the person God made them to be.  It’s to see the person they are in spite of their flaws.  It’s to see through their outbursts.  See through their frustration.  See through their prostitution.  See through all kinds of inappropriate behavior…and to have compassion on them, even though [you think] they don’t deserve it.

God’s use of racham shows that it is a choice.  It’s purposeful compassion.  This type of love has been graciously shown towards us, and we would all do well to reflect it within marriage.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Have you ever shown this type of love to your spouse…this undeserved love/compassion?  How did they respond knowing that they didn’t deserve it?  Have you ever undeservingly received it from your spouse?  Let us know in the comments below.

Identity Crisis:

Over the last several months, I (Megan) have been wrestling through some identity issues.  I don’t really need to go into details in this post but I tell you this because I know that most, if not all, marriages will encounter a season where one spouse goes through an identity crisis of sorts.  Re-evaluation of self worth and identity often happens when big or difficult life changes occur.  Since marriage is supposed to be the one constant relationship that weathers these life changes, it stands to reason our marriages will encounter some identity crisis.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if your spouse is struggling with difficult questions and trying to figure out what the best next steps are for their life.

1.  Support rather than condemn.

Wrestling through the BIG questions in life is never easy and sometimes leaves one feeling condemned or alone.  When it’s your spouse wrestling through these questions, they already feel the complexities of life and may want to try to figure out the answers by themselves.  In this situation, you only have two options.  You can either 1) react or 2) respond.  To react is the choice of most individuals, and isn’t always done with your spouses best interest at heart.  To react is to do so swiftly, and oftentimes negatively.  But when you respond, you take the time to appreciate who they are, encouraging them to better explore and understand who God made them to be.  Taking time to think it through and respond accordingly means only good things for the marriage relationship as a whole.

2.  Love them just because.

There are many reasons you love your spouse.  They are kind.  They are funny.  They are thoughtful.  They are sexy.  They are…  When your spouse is wrestling through something, take the opportunity to remind them of these things.

But remember: during an identity crisis, these reasons may not always seem apparent.  Some of these characteristics may even change through time.  Does this mean you love your spouse any less than the day you married them?  Of course not!  In marriage, you love your spouse…not the individual characteristics of your spouse.  Help them find their identity within themselves and the person God created them to be, not the individual characteristics they act out each and every day.  Love them the way you promised to on your wedding day.  Love them the same way God loves them (1 Corinthians 13).  Love them, because they’re worth it.

3. Develop a network of supportive relationships.

This is important for both you and your spouse.  Your spouse needs people in their life to be honest and real with.  Unfortunately, the times when we need others most are often the times we isolate ourselves from others the most.  If your spouse is needy and does not have supportive relationships, that need for support often falls onto you.  When you feel you can’t give anymore, take the opportunity to rely on those in your circle of friends who can give you energy and encouragement to continue giving your spouse what they need from you.

4. Find something to laugh about together.

Laughter is a gift.  It’s good for you.  It’s great stress relief.  It’s helps you forget about your day, a day that was anything but ‘positive and encouraging’.  That being said, we know there are times when laughter just doesn’t come easily.  During these times, try to find something to bring humor into your spouses life.  It could be anything from a joke, to a comedy movie, to tickling them with a feather while naked.  When they know you can make them laugh even when they’re in the midst of an identity crisis, it helps them find a part of their identity directly in you.  And that may be the small nudge they needed to help discover the rest of it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How do you help encourage your spouse when they’re struggling with their identity?  Feel free to leave a tip in the comments below.

Follow us on Twitter: @_DoNot_Disturb