Applying My Theology in the Mirror

Lori-Speaking-resizedIf Jesus took all my guilt and shame, why does it still appear in my mirror every morning?

I stare at the body that reflects my poor choices:

all the times I take my stress, not to God, but to French fries,

moment upon moment that I opt for inertia over movement,

bite after bite when I choose taste, sensation, and excess over self-discipline;

and I wonder why I can embrace the murderer, the addict, or the adulterer with forgiveness but refuse to completely inhabit the truth that Christ’s cross paid also for these crimes, the ones reflected here, spilling over my waistband, emphasizing my thighs, testifying to my weakness.

It is, indeed, a cruel world in which to be overweight but no crueler than the one I find in my mirror. No one speaks into my ear a worse condemnation than I whisper to my own reflection; and even as I speak, I know this is as contrary to God’s will for me as the rolls of fat I seek to shame.

I commit other sins: pride, selfishness, discontent, and more. Thankfully, these don’t appear in my bedroom mirror every morning or I would collapse from that sight. Still, when I glimpse them as I stare into the mirror that is God’s word, I accept His sacrifice for these sins. Somehow, every night when I confess, I face the new day feeling forgiven and free. But the extra pounds around my waist shackle me to yesterday’s forkful of indulgent sin and I wonder how to access the power of the cross over my plate, my scale, this shame.

And the world partners with me, ganging up on my greater angels with thug-like precision as I find myself mocked at every turn. Even atheists believe in this sin. Even secular humanists agree the overweight should inherit judgment. So, I wonder if there is a theology that will stand beside me against the crowd when even I have a stone in my hands, ready to lob like a grenade onto the growing pile, shattering not only the reflection but the reflected one.

Other factors are at play besides sin, of course. Unforgiving genetics. Advancing years. Medication. A sedentary, necessary job. Gender. But, still. No amount of covering up with oversized sweaters, excuses, or baggy material can hide my shame from my own eyes or disguise my failure against the glare of a media liberal with insults who side with the most conservative fundamentalists against gluttony. Plus, I don’t blame outside factors for other sins, why scapegoat them for this?

The entire history of my efforts to affect change, gain victory, overcome this battle look to me like wood, hay, and straw. They burn, consumed in the fiery gaze of my self-incrimination. All that remains is the dross of my intentions, worthless as a shield against this shame. Tell me, O Lord, what Word do you speak into my sorrow? Speak your answer for these tears. Show me Your presence in the face of this ongoing failure, this persistent shame. Don’t leave me defenseless in my own mirror. Stand here and demonstrate the power of the cross over the power of the pounds.

He does show up for me, here. Inviting Him into this struggle opens a door He’s eager to enter. He promises never to leave me nor forsake me – not in fire or flood, not in French fries or Filenes’ three-way mirror, not in failure or fat. He is Emmanuel – God who is with us – even in the full-length mirror.

He speaks truth. My frustration over this sin is as much a reflection of my other sins as anything else. The pride that wants to hide my sins, keep them private, hates that this one shows. Discontent bellows through my whining. Vanity consumes me with self. Jesus whispers that these other sins are not as hidden from view as I imagine. If they were physical, it would be hard to slip my jeans on over them, too.

He speaks more truth. We’re not home yet. The battles of this world are not about constant victory but about the work of learning to rely on Him, not my own devices. When I receive forgiveness for pride or vanity, I expect I will battle it again on another day. So it is with the sin of taking in more food than my body needs. This is a manna battle. It requires His provision every day.

So, He does stand with me as I hide in caves from this crazy man – even though the running feels as though it may never end. The theology He speaks is expansive enough to include even this, my shame over my fat. For if He will work all things together for good for those who love them, He will use this, too, to His glory. He uses this struggle already to point me to old wounds, invite me to heal, and develop spiritual muscles that might otherwise go unused. I hear Him whisper about compassion, humility, and inner beauty that are the overflow of this battle with the fork and with the mirror.

Mirrors won’t speak the last word on my life, for none that love Him will ever be brought to shame. When I see Him face-to-face, He will yank out the bruise-colored thread of shame inserted into my story and completely unravel the enemy’s work in my soul.

I smile at Him standing beside me in the mirror. I lean into His Word, His truth, for support and when I look back at the reflection, I still see the weight but I also see a warrior, equipped for the battle, assured of victory in the end. The enemy is disarmed. There is no shame in not having yet arrived home.

I see, too, a million other mirrors. Loved ones hating what they see – too fat, too thin, never enough. I intercede on their behalf and bid Him meet them in their mirrors, too. This is a manna battle, loved ones. Rise up, warriors, and accept His daily provision of strength. He vanquishes shame. In every mirror in eternity, we will reflect Him.

How about you? Do you struggle with your reflection? We do on so many levels no matter what our shape, size, or age.  Let me know if you’d like prayer over this. We can experience our freedom in Jesus over our shame. This is a manna battle, loved ones. Let’s intercede for one another. Share your struggle here.


A Theology that Works in the Mirror

If Jesus took all my guilt and shame, why does it still appear in my mirror every morning?

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