The other night, I had a dream that my pastor stood before our congregation, angry with all of us. He was getting ready to roast every person in front of him. He started with a young girl in the front row, telling her she was so fat, she couldn’t fit into any of her clothes. I saw this was going downhill quickly, and knew I needed to step in to save this little girl’s feelings, and to head off any more ridicule coming toward anyone else. I moved forward, and he turned to me, his eyes blazing. I reached him, and rather than tell him what he was doing wrong, I wrapped my arms around him in a huge hug.
“Take a deep breath and hold it,” I told him. We were suddenly in water, just the two of us, and he took a deep breath and dunked himself under the water. I held him down gently to keep him from floating to the surface, and then released him when he was ready to come up for air. He was visibly calmer, and I asked him, “What would Jesus do?” At this, he softened. Then he reached forward to move my hair from my forehead as a sign of gratitude and immense kindness.
This dream stayed with me in the morning when I woke up. I remembered hearing once that when we dream, everyone in the dream is actually us. I realized that the dream wasn’t about my pastor or that little girl. It was about me.
I was the pastor. And I was the little girl he was ridiculing.
The night before, I had been trying on dresses to wear to an event in San Francisco. My selection had grown slim, as I’ve gained enough weight that my favorite dresses no longer fit. The red dress I chose to wear still looked cute on me, but in a chunky girl kind of way, and not the slender sexy way it used to fit. I had to force myself not to focus on my flaws—how my arms spilled out, my fleshy parts, my lack of waist, my swollen face… Obviously, I still focused. But I didn’t dwell.
Except for the dream…
So, the girl in the dream was obviously me, and she was being shamed for her weight by my pastor, who was also me. He/I was telling her/me how fat she was, how she lacked self-control, how none of her clothes fit, and that all this was her fault.
But the focus of the dream wasn’t on me as the little girl, though I was definitely concerned for her feelings. The focus was on me as my pastor, who was being unkind and harmful to MYSELF about having lost my self-control so much that I’ve gained weight.
“What would Jesus do?” This scene was a reminder that in times of losing control (in anything, but particularly when I’m angry and about to unleash fury on others or myself), to take a deep breath and let it out slow. Then I’m to think about what Jesus would do in this situation.
How would Jesus treat me about my body?
First, he’d tell me I was special and unique. He’d tell me that each part of me was made with love and care, and to serve a purpose. The eyes I am seeing myself with are through a global lens. I am judging myself through society’s standards, which keeps everyone striving to reach an ideal that can never be reached (thanks, Photoshop). People like me, who have had kids and are growing older, are pushed out and made to feel like we don’t belong, all because we aren’t devoting our time to constant exercise and losing the battle to gravity.
Me, I’m comparing myself to 20-year-old girls at my gym who have never had kids, and have tight, perfect bodies. I’m comparing myself to people my own age who have devoted their lives to fitness and health, and look amazing because of it.
But I’ve devoted my life to writing, because that’s how God wired me. This means I’m doing a lot of sitting. Plus, my work is sedentary, and so is school and studying. I have a steep hill to climb to get fit, and often I don’t have the time or energy for anything more.
If Jesus were right in front of me, talking face-to-face, he would remind me about how I was wired, why I’m shaped this way, and tell me to not get distracted from my life purpose, which is to change the world through writing.
But then he’d go on. He’d remind me that my body is two things—the temple for God’s Holy Spirit, and a gift from God. In that, I should treat my body with care. That means feeding it nutritious foods and moving it through exercise. I don’t need to suffer in this to reach an extreme ideal. I just need to treat my body with kindness, doing what I can to provide it with good health and preservation.
The final part of my dream was my pastor/me showing me how grateful he was that I corrected him through love and kindness rather than condemnation. Judgement and condemnation never work with anyone, not with ourselves and not with those around us. We see this all the time, from the political storms and divided fronts in our nation, to the financial differences that separate us by class, from different parenting styles, different ways to love, differences of faith, differences of opinion… When we lash out at someone we disagree with, each side holds on to their point of view, and no one bends. It becomes a feud, and condemnation and judgement fuel that feud.
The other day, my son and I got into a huge fight over chores. Both of us were seeing red, and we each said some pretty horrific things to each other. As things escalated further, it occurred to me that neither one of us was bending. I chose that moment to stop and go over to him. I grabbed him and hugged him. My 6-foot-tall, stubborn 16-year-old child put his arms around me and started to cry. It came out that he was troubled because it was his dad’s birthday, and he hadn’t talked to his dad in over a month, even though his dad had tried to reach him. On this day, my son called and left a voicemail message when his dad didn’t pick up. But as the hours passed by and he received no call back, my son was racked with fear that his dad hated him, and guilt that it was his fault (his dad called later, and everything was fine).
If I hadn’t stopped and hugged my son, we would have remained in this feud, plus my son would have these terrible feelings he couldn’t handle. We never would have reached the root of the issues.
Judgement and condemnation don’t work for ourselves, either. When we hold ourselves to the world’s standards, we forget that we are beautiful creations of God, and instead see ourselves as imperfect and ugly. We feel hopelessness, because achieving these standards feels out of reach. Then we compensate by giving up, choosing not to exercise because “what’s the point?”, or feeding our feelings with comfort food, which mends the hurt temporarily, but only causes more pain in the long run.
The other night, I filled myself on chips and tacos while hanging out with friends, and then ended my meal with ice cream—something I know doesn’t work with my system. I was already feeling rotten when I started eating it, and halfway through I felt terrible. I still wanted that ice cream, though, even though I felt worse with every bite. I had to force myself to put it down. That night, I was in so much pain, and I curled up in a fetal position half the night, wishing to fall asleep or die…all for a moment of good tasting food.
When we choose things other than God to give us comfort, it’s never forever. It’s for a moment. I did not need that ice cream, or all the chips I ate. The pleasure they gave me was only in the time I was eating them. But they were poisoning my body, my gift from God, my temple to his Holy Spirit. I knew the consequences. This wasn’t about striving for an ideal weight and failing, it was about poisoning the gift God gave me. There were healthy options there, and I chose the poisons.
Back to judgement and condemnation. When I looked in the mirror the next day while trying on the red dress, I saw every flaw. But I missed the miracle. I am not my flesh, though it’s a part of my body. I’m not my fat and rolls, or my swollen parts. I am not my extra 40 pounds.
I am a gift. My body is a blessing. God gave me the ability to walk, and to be healthy. He created me the way he wanted me, to serve a unique purpose. He sees me as beautiful.
My job is to remember my body is a gift, and to treat it with gratitude through healthy measures. This includes my thoughts.
So the last part of the dream, where my pastor moved the piece of my hair from my forehead, that was ME being loving to ME, treating myself with Agape love, feeling grateful for kindness in an unkind situation, and seeing myself as God sees me.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you, and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a price for you. So use your body to honor God.
2 Timothy 1:7 – God’s spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The spirit gives us power, love, and self control.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork (poema, masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 139:14 – I will give thanks to you, for I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well.
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t work according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
1 Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.
Thank you, God, for revealing how you see me, for reminding me of your power of love, and for speaking so clearly to me. You created me beautiful, wonderful. My body is a gift, a miracle, your Temple. You seem though eyes filled with pride and love. I am so thankful for this body you have blessed me with. It serves me well, allowing me to move, breathe, love… It isn’t perfect in the eyes of the world, but it is in your eyes, and to serve your purpose. I will do my best to treat it with kindness by feeding it nourishing foods and moving it with exercise to keep it limber, finding my comfort tin your, and in my conscious decision to honor you and your Temple through healthy habits. I am not perfect, and I know I’ll make mistakes. But you don’t require perfection. You love me as I am, and that is all the motivation I need to keep pushing forward and letting you be my comfort over everything else.
Thank you for you blessings. I love you. Amen.