Today’s post is by my new reader friend Gina Funderburg. Gina reached out to me with her story and I asked her to share it with you all. I think you’ll be encouraged by reading about her journey: When Self-Esteem, Self-Help, Dieting and Exercise Lie to You.
My battle with my own body began at a fairly young age. I remember when I first noticed that I began to put on a little extra weight. I was eight years old. I was a very active little girl but I loved to eat. For some reason, probably genetics, when I ate, even though I played a lot of sports, I put on extra weight. When I look back at the pictures now I chuckle. I was a little tubby, but it was cute.
What isn’t cute: how aware of my weight I always was. I remember getting ready to go to sleep one night and begging God that when I woke up I would be skinnier. (Umm. . . that might have been last week?) I am now 29 years old. For over 20 years of my life I have battled and belittled my body because of it’s weight gains and fluctuations.
I wouldn’t say that I had horrible self-esteem as an adolescent and young adult. I had parents and others that loved me and poured into me. However, what I have come to realize is that when our self-worth is dependent on people’s perception of us, even a good perception, we will always be chasing after the wind. Some will love us, some won’t.
When the affections of our heart are being placed on something other than what it was created for, we will always feel empty and unsatisfied.
Like most teenagers, friends were incredibly important to me. I had a great group of friends with whom I played sports and attended youth group. I was a well-behaved Christian girl, leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, band member, athlete, church choir member, and idol addict.
Wait. What? Back up. What was that?
In hind sight, I realized that early in my teenage years I developed an idol in my life. What is an idol? According to Google (thank you, Google, amiright?!?!) an idol is “an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.”
Now, I could go ’round and ’round about how our society’s outright obsession with celebrities and status and beauty helped to form this idol, but I will just cut to the chase: It is in our fallen human nature to set up idols on the throne of our heart that rightly belong to One King.
On the outside was a thriving young woman, but on the inside a battle was raging in my heart AND in my mind I was none the wiser.
In college, I struggled with desiring the attraction of boys. Yet, even if I would gain their attention for a short time, there was always someone prettier or skinnier right around the corner. Having a male find me physically attractive became paramount to my value. Thus, I often felt the weight of rejection.
I was sure marriage would cure that.
I met my husband the year after college graduation. For the first time, ever, I had been loved and pursued in a grand, eager and intentional way. I fell head over heels and we were married nine months later. Soon an interesting physical transition happened: I dropped extra weight I had been carrying around. Though I had not been overweight prior to getting married, just the sheer fact of being naked in front of someone for the rest of my life was incredible motivation to take better care of myself, starting with what and how much I ate, and workout.
Though I felt good—great even—while people complimented my weight loss and I had to buy new clothes to fit my smaller body, deep inside of me sparks were flying from an incredible war. I still wasn’t satisfied. Something else needed to be changed, or wasn’t yet good enough. (Or just flat out needed to be genetically modified.)
Why didn’t this achievement satisfy me fully?
My suspicion that this battle was a spiritual problem solidified when I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t enjoy the process like you’re told you should. Every doctor’s appointment I stripped off as much extra clothing as possible while still being modest before stepping on the scale. I hated putting on all the weight I had just lost. I gained 48 lbs. during my first pregnancy and I cursed every single pound. After my daughter’s birth, I dedicated every ounce of myself, (no pun intended) to losing every last pound I had gained. And I did. I was proud of my accomplishment. But still, deep inside, sparks were flying.
When I got pregnant for the second time I was a bit more relaxed because I saw that I actually could lose the pregnancy weight. And because I focused a little less on my weight-gain, I actually gained about 5 fewer pounds. It’s funny how that happens.
Then I learned first-hand of the dreaded floppy mommy tummy. Oh my goodness. I could not believe how much floppier one child could make my tummy. Over the course of the first year after my son’s birth I exercised and counted calories, and obsessed in the mirror over different angles and lighting, but then of course I splurged, because chocolate. It didn’t matter what my husband said, how he caressed me, or the “look” he’d have in his eye (you know, the look), the only time I felt worthy of physical love and affection was if I felt I looked the part. It didn’t matter that my husband had promised to love me when I was healthy and sick, wealthy and poor, pleasant to look at and floppy mommy tummied. And I admitted it to him. When my sweet hubby said, “When will you believe me, that all of this is good, and beautiful, and mine?”, I responded by saying:
“This has nothing to do with you. This is between me and the Lord.”
And that’s when I finally got something right. That’s when something clicked.
The thoughts of my mind were grinding away at my heart as I stood in the mirror and told myself how horrible I looked now. Oh, I lost the “weight”, but the weight didn’t take the floppy mommy tummy with it. At least not all of it. Not enough. It was never enough. Because Kim Kardashian. Because Thin Waist. Because Large Breasts. Because Firm Booty. Because Lose 10 lbs. Because Look this certain way and you will always be loved, desired, cherished and successful.
I realized the thoughts of my mind began to read like a marketing slogan for an article in a beauty magazine. Not that I had been reading magazines, but that’s exactly what these thoughts sounded like: Physical Attraction. Acceptance. Love. Desire. Beauty.
“Beauty, She is the key to your heart’s desires. Worship Her, pursue Her, spend all your time focused on Her, and you will never lack anything.”
That is exactly the tactic my enemy, Satan, used on me for 20 years to entice me to worship the Beauty Idol. Don’t get me wrong, beauty in and of itself is not bad. Just like money, it is a tool that can be used for good. I am reminded of Queen Esther. But, for some reason, the enemy knows that for women, Beauty is incredibly enticing to worship. We believe it to be our key to life, love and happiness. But it is a lie. Beauty is a moving target. Just look at how what is perceived as “beautiful” has changed over the decades.
A few weeks ago after reading one of Heather Creekmore’s articles, I realized that I had allowed Satan to deceive me. I thought my problem stemmed from not having enough self-esteem and not meditating on being “fearfully and wonderfully made” long enough and hard enough. Every time I shot an offensive arrow in that general direction it didn’t work to defeat the threat.
You see, the weapons the Lord gives us through His Word and prayer need to be used just like a vigilant and efficient warrior: through tactical, intentional and precise attack of the actual threat. I wasn’t using my weapons on the right threat. And the enemy wanted to keep things that way, which is why I believe I had been confused for so long on what was the root issue. Satan wants to keep people’s noses in self-help books, diet plans, workout gyms, magazines, pornography, romance novels, and fantasy fiction, instead of fighting with their eyes on the real target: the Beauty Idol. So when self-esteem, self-help, dieting and exercise lie to you, attack with Truth.
Now that I know what has been transpiring in my life for the last 20 years, the absolute heart-felt worship, pursuit and obsession with this false idol, I now know how to formulate a plan of attack. I still and probably always will battle this enemy. I can already tell that when I name these lies and call them out as such: “Being more beautiful, skinnier, prettier, won’t give me what my heart truly desires, unconditional Love”, the lies have less of a hold on me.
Jesus is the only One who was meant to be on the throne of my heart. Jesus is the only One I was meant to worship, pursue, and be in total awe of because He is the only One who can fulfill all of the empty promises of the false idols. And He fills promises abundantly, overflowing, and to the uttermost.
May Jesus be the only One to whom our hearts bow in worship.
About Gina Funderburg: Gina holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Texas State University, a physical education teaching certification for K-12th grade, and is a certified personal trainer through Interactive Fitness Trainers of America. From the time she was a young girl playing in organized sports, Gina has always loved to be physically active. She has participated in all types of physical activity, from organized individual and team sports, teaching fitness classes in college, competing in a triathlon, going on hikes with her husband, working out in their garage-turned-home- gym, and even dancing in her local church programs.
Gina also has a passion for encouraging others on their journey towards a healthier lifestyle by helping them understand basic and simple exercise and nutritional principles, as well as the value of community and accountability. As the mother of two young children, she believes that a healthy lifestyle journey should be a joy, not a burden as another task to make life more difficult. As a fellow woman, she has been wounded by the battle of body image and self-perception, and has discovered that the only respite from the war is found in the strong arms of her loving and gracious Savior, Jesus.
Follow Gina’s blog at: Funderandlightening.blogspot.com