Photography by: Kylie Farmer Photography
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12
She was looking at the jeans. The reflection of the dirty dressing room mirror showed that they were too tight, not right, her skin bunched up and overflowing onto the waistband. She had barely gotten them on and felt immobile, her too-big body locked straight-kneed by the new jean fabric. The knot in her stomach grew tighter because she could feel it coming. She could feel it crawling out of her throat, with its corrosive fingers. Hate.
She remembered the small friend, sitting with her on the bus after the track meet, and how this small friend had laughed, and confirmed the insecurity she had just whispered in confidence, “Yeah, you do have big thighs.” And then, how they moved on, talked about something else, as though she would not remember that conversation for the rest of her life and feel crushed under the laugh and the condemnation.
Now, alone in the dressing room, she stared at the barely buttoned jeans, and the hate slid with sinister drips off her tongue, unrecognizable and burning as it left her mouth. “You pig,” it spat, “You fat, fat pig.” She moved her face closer to the mirror so she could see her breath on the glass and curled her lip in disgust as she whispered, “I hate you.” As the hate circled, it kicked the side of her mouth into a sneer and then her body shook, drunk with adrenaline. The tears that fell then seemed to burn rivers into her face.
She watched the intensity in her eyes burn until shame and defeat sat in the ashes. Her imperfection was unforgivable.
She peeled the jeans off and put her maroon sweatpants back on. She sat in the dressing room, holding her head in her hands and hugging her knees to her chest. She had been raised in a home that knew the gift of worth. Her parents had, upon receiving their baby girl, wrapped the special gift in the prettiest wrapping paper. They had prayed over the gift. They had set it in front of her every day, eager for her to open it. They told her what was inside, how good it was, how it was meant just for her. But the little girl had just picked at the wrapping. It was pretty, after all. And now, sixteen years old, she had not unwrapped it, still. She knew it sat in front of her, but the hate had rendered her hands useless.
She wiped her eyes, stood up and, avoided the mirror as she walked out of the dressing room. Her mom was waiting over by the swimsuits.
“Did the pants fit? Look how cute this swimsuit is! Here, try it on.” Her mom said, waving the swimsuit at her.
“No.” The girl responded, keeping her eyes busy and away from her mother so she couldn’t see the tears in the corners, still hot from the fire, “I’m ready to go.”
On the ride home, the pain of the burns left by hate overwhelmed her. She broke down and sobbed about this heavy evil that lived in her. She felt like an utter failure.
“Oh, honey, you really think you’re fat? You are not fat,” her mother said with sadness in her eyes.
“I don’t know how to fix it, Mom,” she said, as she looked out the window, wiping the tears away, “I can’t stop thinking that it’s true. I don’t have control over it.”
Her mother was quiet for a few minutes as the heaviness sat around them. She sighed before answering, “When I became a mom, Satan told me lies too. Every morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, he would tell me that I wasn’t a good mom. He told me I could not take care of my kids, that I wasn’t enough for them, and I was just no good. It paralyzed me. I believed I was a bad mom and I started getting really depressed. I was living in Satan’s lie.”
The girl narrowed her eyes. She was absolutely positive that her mother had never been a bad mother. This did not seem related to her problem.
“I started reading scripture and I realized that it was Satan, taunting me, whispering to me. Just because those thoughts are there, it doesn’t mean they’re true. I told your dad that I had believed Satan and we prayed about it. From that point on, every time those thoughts came into my head, I prayed and used scripture to combat the lie for truth and gave the thoughts to God. Then, I was able to wake up in the morning and sing praise songs, instead of listening to Satan’s whispers. Those thoughts you’re having about yourself are from the devil. You have to break the cycle. Don’t let him do that to you,” her mother looked at her, “I will help you however I can.”
“Okay, thanks mom,” She said and continued staring out the window. She was sure nothing could be done about the sludge in her heart. The rest of the ride home was quiet as they both were lost in their thoughts.
When they got home, she went straight to her room and closed the door. She had had enough of this day. She sat on the edge of her bed. On a whim, she opened the top drawer of her nightstand. Inside were her blue spiral journal and her Bible.
She pulled out both.
She opened to Psalms and started flipping through some pages. Maybe she could try asking God for help, like her mom had said. She didn’t have any other kind of plan. Her flipping stopped on Psalm 138. She read it and thought it was nice. Then she moved on to Psalm 139 and found herself crying tears for the third time today, but this time they were cool on her cheeks. She read aloud quietly, alone in her room, as the tears continued to come.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.”
Psalm 139: 13-18
Here was the gift. The one she had not opened before. She was created. She was purposed. Intended for life by a God who thought enough of her to knit her together, body and soul. What He had fearfully and wonderfully made she was now a steward of; she could not hate what God had made. God had spent time thinking of her, specifically her, and how he wanted her put together inside and out. She didn’t want to disapprove of God’s good creation. But, was she really? Was she really a good creation?
Maybe she was. The psalm said she was. She decided to fight. She would make a stand and try to recover ground in her mind and claim it for Christ. It seemed too much for her, and the thought overwhelmed her. How could she take on re-programing her brain? She couldn’t. So she opened her blue spiral journal and wrote, asking God for help. Then she ripped out a blank page and wrote down verse 14, committing it to memory: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
She tucked the paper in her Bible and stood up, feeling so much lighter than she had.
As she opened her door a sinister voice whispered in her ear of her inabilities and imperfection. She closed her eyes and spoke the verse out loud. The words drowned out the thought and she opened her eyes. She kept walking. Here, was the beginning.
As she walked past the glass case full of traditional German treats she stopped, adjusted the textbooks in her arms, and looked at the chocolates, cakes, pies, caramels, and fudge before deciding on a small piece of raspberry cake. “Eins bitte,” she said in her clumsy German. Her semester abroad in Germany had been full of new experiences, wonder, and unfamiliarity. The waitress behind the counter nodded and motioned that she would bring it to her table. The young woman’s companion had gone straight to their booth, ordering them both coffees.
As she settled into her seat, thankful for the quiet café near their classes, the hot coffee was set in front of them. She and her classmate were meeting here between History of Middle East and Humanities to share their testimonies with each other. They had both been selected to serve as spiritual advisors for incoming freshman the following year and wanted to take the chance to connect and share their excitement.
They laughed and shared their joy together, as well as the struggles they had seen. She shared her head-to-head with self-hate and how she had fought a battle for her worth for so long, having to arrest each sin-whisper and slice it with the sword of truth. She explained that she’d felt silly at first, speaking scripture out loud against thoughts, but how, as a result, she had found herself in a battle she was not losing. Her weight no longer defined her. She sipped her coffee and spoke her struggle straight into a six foot grave, clearly cold and dead.
The friend listened intently and when the impressive tale had finished she asked, “How are you doing with that struggle, now?”
And the young woman blinked. Because that was not the jubilation of triumph she had expected.
And she stuttered. Because the truth was, she was no longer standing on a grave. She had been. She had found peace and worth in Christ and freedom from her sin of believing lies. But then she had become complacent in her peace. She had not noticed the demon behind her, gleefully digging, uncovering her insecurities.
“I..I..am doing okay…I guess. To be honest, I still struggle with it. I still feel obsessed with my weight sometimes. Like I’m not good enough.” She said with shame, realizing how much of a testimony-fraud she looked like, having just declared victory one minute and defeat the next.
The companion nodded though, like she understood both the victory and continuing struggle. She said, “You know, when people share their story with me and there is no more struggle, I have a hard time with that. It’s like they’re saying, ‘this is how you overcome that! I used to struggle, but now, no way!’ I wonder, then, if I’m really a Christian because I’m over here still struggling. It helps me more when someone shares their story and admits that they are still in the midst of it at times.”
She left the conversation feeling in awe, again, of her God. He knew she had been struggling. She had been freed from the desperation of hate so many years ago but then, in the quiet after the battle, she had been distracted and left her post abandoned. When Satan came back around, looking to lurk in the old places, he found them unoccupied.
God wanted her back. And she wanted Him back. She wanted to know again that her worth wasn’t a number on a scale, but a gift already bestowed, a security unshakeable.
She went back to her dorm room and pulled out her journal. It was a small black notebook now, the original blue journal tucked away in the attic of her childhood home, but it served the same purpose.
She wrote about her conversation and asked God to turn her heart towards Him again. She thanked Him for seeing her before the world did and purposing her time here. Then she went to her Bible and opened it to Psalm 139. Tucked into the pages, she found a faded piece of journal paper. She didn’t need to read it, because she knew it by heart, but she did anyways. It was her battle cry.