I gather up my courage and for the second time talk with my spiritual director about being overweight.
“I’m so confused,” I lament. “De Mello says ‘Don’t change.’ Richard Rohr points out that two of the four gospels begin with the call to repent. Lots of people I love are overweight, and I don’t think less of them. And this is the first time I’m not feeling called to give up dessert or junk food for Lent. Instead God is asking me to spend more time in prayer.”
“I don’t like being overweight,” I continue. “It’s not healthy. I see my siblings adjust to the aging process by eating less and working out. But when I try to make these changes, I feel like I’m pushing the river. I know I’m addicted to food, but it’s not like an addiction that involves other people. If I was hurting someone else, I’d stop.”
“But it’s okay to hurt yourself?” she offers gently.
I bite my lip and feel my heart pound.
Once again I picture Jesus with compassion in his eyes, the way he was in the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. This time he stands between my two selves. His back is to my false self (standing, arms crossed, scowling), while he gives my true self (sitting, barely making eye contact) space and a voice.
I tell my director about my two selves. Among other things, she asks me how I feel about my false self.
“I like her because she gives me permission to do whatever I want and makes sure I’m not being deprived. She reminds me of a good friend I used to have who stood up for me and got me through some difficult years. But that friendship ran its course, and so has this one. I’m glad Jesus is standing between my two selves.”
Now I knew why God was calling me to prayer. In the stillness, God exposes my false self and empowers the only me God created. And that me loves my body and longs to be heard.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
–John O’Donahue, A Book of Blessings
Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- How do you feel about your body?
- How does God feel about it?
- Take a moment and, with God, listen to your body. What does it need today?
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I am so grateful for fitness coaches like my daughter’s friend, Karina Inkster (left, Heidi on right). In high school Karina and Heidi challenged each other to care for their minds and bodies. They gave up television for a year and read classics. They refused to suntan and stopped eating animal products. To this day, they support each other in their choice to eat sustainably and care for their bodies. They also make great music together.