what college taught me about food and my body

Last summer, as I was getting ready to start college, I had one huge unspoken fear. FOOD.

Most people are nervous about classes and friends. I was tied in a knot over food. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how I would react. I didn’t know who would understand, if anyone. I wasn’t nervous about it, I was scared.

I was scared for months leading up to college. I would sit on my couch in my therapist’s office week after week and go over the same “what ifs.” What if this? What if that? All of my “what ifs” and my fears concerning food and my body were glaring me in the face. The only voices I could hear were telling me, “Just wait. You’ll be overwhelmed and out of control. You’ll eat too little and spiral downward again. You’ll never recover. Or you’ll eat too much. You won’t know what to do. You’ll gain the freshman fifty and no one will love you.” My ears were tuned to hear only fear and failure. My eyes trained to see only what could go wrong.

So I entered college, with these barely exposed fears. I had only just gotten used to my food routine at home and now it was turned upside down, inside out. I had no idea what territory I was embarking on.

I can’t say it was a perfect transition, because it wasn’t. I had a few meltdowns in the cafeteria. I had a few silent cries. I had some subconscious restrictions. A few calls and emails to my home base. Many frantic questions and fears and failures scribbled in my journal. It was not perfect, but I’m okay with that, because it taught me a few of the most important lessons I could’ve learned.

I was reading 1 Timothy 4 and it was as if the Holy Spirit lifted a veil from before my eyes and I could see a new picture of food. “Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars, who forbid people to marry and teach them to abstain from certain kinds of foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer” (1 Timothy 4: 2-5). In the prior verses Timothy says that these things will come from “seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach.” These rules and regulations concerning food are not of God. They come from hypocrites and liars. Food rules and restrictions are not of the Lord. They are of Satan who seeks to use what God meant for good, to destroy us, to leave us unable to serve the Kingdom.

I read this passage over and over again, specifically verse four, because of the truth it spoke.

Food is good.

Food is good. It’s goodness itself. And it’s a central part of how we experience God’s goodness towards us. Food matters. Food is part of God’s new and good creation. He created food and He called it good. He didn’t call some foods good and others bad. It doesn’t say some foods or the “safe” food or even the healthy food. It says everything. (Read verse four again if you don’t believe me). He called them all good. He says everything, all foods, He created are good. Let that truth sink in.

Not only does God call food good for us, He shows it’s good for Himself as well. When Jesus came to earth He ate food. He ate the same food as everyone else. He didn’t have some sort of “perfect heavenly food.” The food here on earth was perfect and literally sent from Heaven. It was, is, created by God in Heaven to be good and perfect for our bodies. Nor did He restrict certain foods calling them “bad.” He ate and drank what everyone else did.  Our food was good enough for the Son of God. I think that speaks volumes.

The truth is God made food. He ate food. He calls food good and He desires us to call it good too.

Food is a gift. 

Yep, you read that right. Before college I laughed at the thought of food being good, much less a gift.Food has always been fuel to me, something I need to survive. Nothing more and nothing less. But the Word of God tells a different story. Food is a beautiful, priceless gift to be received with thanksgiving and joy. Food is fuel, but it is not just fuel. It is the sole sustenance of our physical bodies. We cannot live without food.

I always yelled at God for making food. How could He do that? Why did He make me dependent on food? Why couldn’t food be optional or at least plain, bland, unimportant? The answer is that God could have made food just fuel. He could have even made us to be self-sustaining. But He didn’t. And you know why? Because He loves to go over the top for us. He loves to lavish grace, mercy and love upon us. One way He does that is through food. He sees food as a gift, a way to show us how much He cares.

It’s also a tangible way to remind us of our dependence on God in all things. We are not self-sustaining on purpose. We cannot survive without God providing food for our bodies. God made us dependent on food for a reason. He wants food, which we have to eat in regular increments, to be a constant reminder of how much we need Him and how much He loves us.

God hasn’t made food to harm us, but to bless us. God didn’t make food to cause division, but to bring people together. God made food and gave it to us as a gift. Food can seem like a burden, but with a changed perspective, food can become a beautiful, even holy, gift from our Father.

My body is good.

This is also something that I could not have said or seen a year ago. Before college, I made do with my body. I didn’t necessarily hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, although being a dancer made that pretty hard. My body could have been described as “fine” or “okay,” but never good.

Now I can look at myself and say “my body is good” and really believe it. My body hasn’t changed at all. My mind has. My perspective on my body has changed. Slowly, my eyes turned from what my body couldn’t do, to what it could do. From what I didn’t like, to what I did. From reasons to be self-conscious, to the God who gave me a spirit of power and love. The Holy Spirit changed my focus. He realigned my vision for my body, with the vision God has for my body. God’s vision for my body is vastly different than my vision was.

God doesn’t care what size and shape we are. He cares what we do with our bodies. Yes, we are to be good stewards of our physical bodies because they house the Holy Spirit and are a gift from the Lord. However, God cares far more about how we love and serve than how we work out and what size we wear. He would rather us sit in His presence than anything else in the world.

So, yes, my body is good and so is yours. Our bodies pump thousands of gallons of blood a day. They get a bite of food through a complex system of compartments and valves. They know which things are welcome in the body and which are to be fought off. Our bodies are incredible. Not only that, our bodies are vessels of hope and joy for everyone we come in contact with. They are how we communicate the love of Christ to the lost and hurting. Our bodies are incredible. Our bodies are good.

We have to choose to believe that God made our bodies and He doesn’t make mistakes. He cannot. It’s against His nature, contrary to His character. That thing about your body that you think must be a mistake, it’s not. It’s good.

God made my body fearfully and wonderfully. My body is good. So is yours.

God knows.

College taught me that God knows. He knows all about my heart and soul. He knows all about my body. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what foods I like and what foods work for me. He knows what my unique body needs to function best.

I thought I knew what my body needed. I thought it needed less of everything. I thought restricting types and quantities of foods would be best, but God has shown me otherwise. My body is the Lord’s. He is in control of it, not me. Any action that attempts otherwise is a proud attempt at playing god.

The Lord is in control of all things, including my body. I may have thoughts, but His purposes for it will stand (Proverbs 19:21). My body, along with everyone else’s, is in His capable hands (Job 12:10). Though I want to believe that I know best, I have seen the folly in that. When I played god over my body, I sent it into a deep, dark pit, but when God has control my feet are placed on solid rock. God is in control and He knows best.


What was bad became good. What was fuel became a symbol of God’s love and grace for me. What was a grudgingly accepted gift became an opportunity for fellowship with others. What I believed was a mistake ridden body became a way to love and serve those around me. What I thought would destroy me, actually remade me. What I thought would be a burden carried alone became something shared among many. What began as my greatest fear in college became my greatest freedom. 

 

If you’d like to learn more about foods role in lives, read “A Meal With Jesus” by Tim Chester. I read it my first semester of college and it changed my world. I have no doubt it’ll change yours too.

 

A letter to my brothers…

To my brothers by blood and my brothers in Christ,

You might be wondering right about now, why on earth I’m writing to guys when my blog name is clearly brave GIRL living. But girls aren’t the only ones who need encouragement and truth. Nor are guys the only ones that need to read this article. The reality is we, girls and guys alike, live in the same world and have the same sin and the same Savior. Sin manifests itself differently in everyone, but there are fundamentals that we all need to hear. With that being said, I want to tell you a few things I believe are very important and I hope you listen.

You were made for more.

One little boy I know grows up as we speak wanting nothing more than to be a dad someday, because his five-year-old self sees that as the most honorable of tasks. And you too once had big dreams honor and glory. You grew up believing you would one day fight dragons and save lives. You watched battle scenes on TV and tried to recreate them, to be as fast and courageous as the cowboy and the pirate. You read stories of men who did brave things and saved countries. You heard about people who made discoveries that changed the course of history and you wanted to be like them. You read about great adventures and you dreamed up some of your own. You grew up wanting to be a policeman or firefighter or soldier or cowboy or even president. And you really believed you would be any or all of those things someday, because you believed the truth that you were made for more.

So what happened?

You were made for more than peer pressure and fickle friendships. You were made for more than nights in a bar and mornings with a hangover. You were made for more than cussing and crude jokes. More than your “coolness” factor and your friend group. You were made for more than sex and physical pleasure. More than parties and make out sessions and hookups. You were made for more than lusting for what you cannot or should not have. You were made for more than power and control. More than money and a title to fame. More than the sports you play or the weight you can lift.

You were made for more, because you are more. You are made in the image of the epitome of More. You are not just capable of more, but you were created, hand crafted and set aside for more. But not more money, pleasure and power. No, instead for more Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit, more of your Creator.

You were really made for more courage and kindness. More generosity and gentleness. More patience and perseverance. More respect and faithfulness. More determination to do hard things. You were made for more, but a different kind of more than the world advertises.

We live in a world, where casual sex looks like fun and lust looks like love, but you were made for real love. The all in, no matter the consequences, faithful through thick and thin, Jesus kind of love. The kind of love that fights for what is true, good and beautiful. The real kind of love that is forever and therefore is messy and hard. You were made for more than the typical definition of love, which says love is conditional and based on feeling.You were made for more than that kind of love. You were made for His love.

And yes, I know, His love is not the “cool” kind. It probably won’t win you any points by the world, but it’ll win you the most lasting reward you could dream of.

We live in a world where you are under constant pressure. Girls aren’t the only ones who are trying to be good enough. You feel it too. You feel the pressure to perform, the need to be good-looking and strong and popular and smart and successful and wealthy and accepted. So you drink and you cuss and you party and sleep around and in your vulnerability you take advantage of ours. You seek answers in all the wrong places and all the wrong people. You strive to be enough any way you can, because the world tells you, just like it tells us, that you are not enough as you are. And you eventually get stuck in a rut and feel hopeless and start believing that this is all you were made for.

But the world is the worst kind of wrong about you. 

You were made for more than all of that. When you were little thinking you would fight battles someday, you were right. You are fighting a battle right now. A battle for Christ and the Kingdom to take back what the enemy has stolen. A battle to reclaim your inheritance as a child of God. A battle to reclaim who you are and what you were made for. You’re fighting the real battle. The battle we all fight, men and women, young and old. The battle between the bad guys and the God guys. You were made to fight you just have to decide which team you’re fighting for.

I pray, dear God I pray, you choose the God guy. 

And once you choose the God guy, I pray you choose Him everyday for the rest of your life, because He’s chosen you everyday from the beginning of time. He chose you on the cross and at the resurrection. He declares you a chosen man set aside as His own possession, so that you may proclaim the glory of Him who called you out of darkness, out of the world, into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The God guy chose you, adopted you as His very own son, and desires you to be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4-5). He has created you like Himself and wants you to walk out of that identity.

Your identity is more.

Your identity is more humility and less pride. More grace and less judgement. More grit and less timidity. More hard Jesus things and less comfort. More friendship and less rivalry. More sacrifice and less self. More Jesus and less world. Your identity is in Jesus. Let that be enough.

Brothers, you were made for more than the world lets on. So get up and fight for the God guy.

Sincerely, your sister in Christ

 

 

 

 

thank you for not being perfect

Perfect daughter, sister, friend. Perfect student, dancer and artist. Perfect body, face, clothes. Perfect christian, perfect life. Altogether perfect. That’s what I thought I needed. Perfection, the unattainable goal, the unspoken expectation.

Perfect so people will like you. Perfect so you can live with yourself. Perfect so God will love you. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

The whispers turn into screams. The desire an expectation. Before you know it the striving has overtaken. Yet you fail at every turn.

Perfect so people will like you. Perfect so people will want to be your friend. Perfect so people will love and accept you. Perfect so guys will like you. Perfect so a team will want you. Perfect so you’ll be successful. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

I saw perfection in people around me. That’s all that was shown, all I had could see. Perfect lives and legs. Perfect scores and successes. But, like most people, I could only see imperfections in myself. I saw that people tend to like people similar to themselves. So I subconsciously decided from a young age that people would only like me if I was perfect like them.

Perfect so you will like yourself. Perfect so you can sleep at night. Perfect so you can stand tall and not cower in shame. Perfect to avoid having to beat yourself up for your many failures. Perfect. Just be perfect.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that one could love them self after and despite failure. I couldn’t possibly like myself if I wasn’t pretty and smart and talented and perfect in every way. My self-set expectations  meant to lead me to perfection loomed higher and higher with each passing day. But the more I looked up at them, the faster I fell, the further I failed. I could never live up to myself.

Perfect so God will like you. Perfect so He will choose you and use you. Perfect so He will love you. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

God is perfect. I’m supposed to be like Him. So shouldn’t I be perfect?  Perfectly kind, gracious, joyful and strong. Perfectly patient and loving and put together. That’s what God wants, right? Anything less is a disgrace, a disappointment to Him.

These are thoughts you may have. Lies you may believe. Actually, let’s be real, they’re lies you do believe. But I have some Truth for you. Truth for me. For all of us.

You were not made to be perfect. You were made to glorify God and love Him forever. If you were perfect you would have no need for a perfect Savior. You are not expected to be perfect. God knows that your flesh is strong and you will fail. He knows and that’s why He bestows grace upon you, upon us all. Perfection is not a prerequisite for His love or attention. Our Father loves us in our imperfections. He uses us in them.

Last week, when wrestling with my own perfectionism and my fear and discouragement at my inability to be perfect, my therapist spoke some freeing Truth.

“God doesn’t send perfect people, because perfect people aren’t helpful people. Perfect people are scary people because others can’t relate, can’t understand. Perfect people cause others to stumble, to feel like they’re doing it wrong, they’re not enough. Do you want people to feel that way? No. Of course not. Imperfect is better. Unqualified and imperfect, but empowered and sent is better than perfect.” 

Woah. Amen. Yes. Wow. All the praise hands to that TRUTH. Imperfect is better than perfect.

Look through the Bible. Does God ever use one perfect human? David. Adulterer and murderer. Jonah. Hid from God. Thought he was better than the Ninevites.  Moses. Didn’t believe God could use him. Paul. Persecuted Christians. Esther. Faced fear and doubt. Peter. Proud. Denied Jesus three times. And the list could go on and on. But name one person in the Bible saved by grace and living for the Lord, that was not used. Name one person that was perfect. You can’t, because they are all imperfect. But they were all perfectly used, perfectly loved.

You see God chooses the broken, the failures, the flawed and scarred because those are the people, we are the people, who are needed. We don’t need more synthetic perfection in the world. We need more authentic Jesus-lovers. We don’t need more people who are going to cause others to feel like they’re not good enough. We need more people who will look past each others failures and into eyes and say, “You are magnificent.” More people who will live unashamedly in their imperfections, knowing that Christ made them perfect on the cross. That is what the world needs.

You and I think we want to be perfect. We think that perfection is best. But I’d rather be imperfect in the hands of a perfect God any day.

Loosen your grip on perfection. Lower your expectations. Let your mask fall. Let people in. You’ll find that they’re imperfect just like you.

So thank you for not being perfect. Thank  you for failing and falling down. Thank you for making mistakes and messing up. Thank you for sinning and repenting and asking for forgiveness. Thank you for not being awesome at everything. Thank you for sharing your imperfections and letting others love you despite them. Thank you for having bad days and letting people see those days. Thank you for being imperfect.