I’m excited to bring you a guest post from my new friend Esther. Esther was introduced to Compared to Who? when I spoke at a MOPS meeting at her church. She told me a bit of her story and I asked her if she’d mind writing something to share with all my readers about what God is teaching her on the body image and comparison front. So, here it is! When Jesus Brought Me to the End of Myself by Esther Villarreal. Enjoy!
I sat at my MOPS table after having dropped off the boys, enjoying my breakfast that I didn’t have to make, sipping hot coffee with the real creamers (all simple luxuries to mommies) thinking to myself, “Body Image? Oh great. I guess I’ll zone out now.” Heather had been introduced by our MOPS leader and was stepping up to the mic and my eyes glazed over.
See, I’ve never really “struggled with body image” you know, STRUGGLED like anorexia or bulimia or addicted to exercise or counting calories.
Don’t get me wrong, I am plenty insecure about other aspects of my life: what clothes I wear, what baby carrier I have, my writing, and more, but my body just wasn’t something I obsessed about. Maybe it is because I was an athlete in school, my skin tone is naturally tan all the time. I am shorter than average, have a bigger behind than most, a smaller chest than most, you see where this is going. I absolutely do spend time comparing myself to everyone else around me. Heather’s message touched my heart in a deeper level than I anticipated.
Heather got my attention when she acknowledged the thorn in my side.
She said, “You know that little voice inside that just hints ‘Maybe if you lose five more pounds you will be happy.”
Ugh…yes, I knew that tiny voice. I was well acquainted with its message. Over and over had I heard it whispering in my periphery, “Just five more minutes so you can eat a little extra tonight; just one more snack, maybe try those chips,” and then not so quietly, “YOU NEED SOME CHOCOLATE!” (Does anyone else out there hear that voice?)
I live in conflict: I love food, it’s like the sixth “Love Language” for me. It’s the language in which I give love and receive love. Some unhealthy emotional ties to eating, huh? When I feel unloved, or lonely, or bored, or angry, or any emotion really, I eat. But I also know that I shouldn’t eat to feel better. So I try to work out a few times a week so that I can keep eating and not gain so much weight. My voice that never quit tells me I need to eat to soothe that ache in my spirit. I did have a body image issue and it revolved around food, eating, and trying to satisfy my longings.
Heather called me out that Friday morning, like she was speaking only to me. “You don’t have to live with that voice forever. You can be free from it!” She finally said out loud what had deceived me for years. Food will never satisfy that ache. Heather proceeded to tell us all about her five ‘C’s, how to end the Fat Talk cycle with friends, and the real scary stuff…to reckon with how God sees me, his precious daughter.
In the weeks since Heather shared with us, there are things I have come to realize. The first crept up slowly. As I entered my thirties I found myself not enjoying food as much. Food just didn’t taste AMAZING anymore, heartbreaking, right?
I blamed it on my slowing metabolism, or the restaurant we had eaten at, confused as to why my Old Faithful Standby wasn’t making me feel better. I was less satisfied by food.
So, I began to turn to my sweet, darling husband. Then God brought me to the end of him too. That was the second realization: I used food and my husband to satisfy me instead of getting satisfaction only from God.
Tying it all back to the things Heather awakened in my heart a month ago. Her message was simply, “we need Jesus.” Finally, I see he had been wooing me the whole time. Slowly He had, much like Hosea in the Old Testament, been taking away my “lovers” – my love of food and the idolization of my husband, everything I had used to satisfy my hunger. He led me into a desert where I found myself alone.
“She herself said, ‘I will go to my lovers–they give me food and water, wool and linen, olive oil and wine.’ So I am going to fence her in with thorn bushes and build a wall to block her way. She will run after her lovers but will not catch them. She will look for them but will not find them. I will strip her naked as she was on the day she was born, I will make her like a dry and barren land.” Hosea 2: 5-7, 10
Much like the parenting Love and Logic quip, “I love you too much to let you…” fill in the blank. God had been whispering, “Esther, I love you too much to leave you here like this, unsatisfied.”
We were singing in church, “Better Is One Day,” you know the line: “For here my heart, is satisfied, within your presence.” Finally I was hungry enough to sing these words and mean them.
Read on in Hosea 2:14-17:
“So I am going to take her into the desert again; there I will win her back with words of love…she will respond to me there as she did when she was young…Then once again she will call me her husband.”
In His faithfulness he was calling to me, my final realization.
“I heard the Savior say, thy strength indeed is small; child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all.” The nail on the coffin!
Food will not satisfy me anymore. It still leaves me hungry.
My wonderful husband cannot satisfy my needs anymore, he still leaves me wanting, leaves me hungry for a more perfect connection.
Finally, I can say with humility and fervor-only Jesus can satisfy me.
My life is not all sunshine and roses today. Do I still instinctively grab for a snack in the evening after the kids are in bed in order to more thoroughly enjoy my free time? Yes. But I am learning to stop eating waaaaay before I used to stop. Like I don’t finish the bag of chips because I know it doesn’t really taste that good anymore.
I still need reminders to spend time with Jesus instead of heading to the fridge. My dream is to use this community, to point each other toward Christ and away from distractors. How can we do that together? Because nothing compares to the sweet love of Jesus. I can’t live without it.
Esther is a recovering perfectionist who lives in Dallas, TX with her husband of four years, Riqui, their two boys, preschooler Emory and baby Elio. She revels in God’s grace and attempts to dish it out to everyone in her life. And she loves to cook and grocery shop.