Through His Eyes
by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
I’m not going to lie. I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank Word document for several minutes now, because I want to write this blog about anything other than what I’m about to write about. Seriously … anything. But, alas, nothing else is coming to me, and I suspect that’s because God has already laid on my heart what He wants me to write about.
Last April at our Count It All Joy event in Omaha, I spilled my guts about my lifelong struggle with food and, as a result, my weight. My ongoing struggle with food is another story entirely, and perhaps that’s something I’ll blog about on another day. Today, however, I want to discuss the weight side of that struggle and, more specifically, my battle with body image.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight. I haven’t always been “fat,” but I’ve never been “skinny” either. I can remember being teased ruthlessly as a child for being heavy. I have one vivid memory in particular of being taunted by my good friend’s brother. I can still hear him chanting, “Joy, the boy, the big, fat boy.” I couldn’t have been more than six or seven at the time. And although I wasn’t a petite little thing like his sister, I wasn’t huge either. And even if I had been, I certainly didn’t deserve the ridicule he threw my way.
You can repeat the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” until you’re blue in the face. I, for one, don’t buy it. Words do hurt. Sometimes, in fact, they cut like a knife, leaving scars long after the initial wound has healed.
I have realized for a long time that because of my genetic makeup, I will never be a size four. That size simply wouldn’t be healthy for a woman with my build and bone structure—and I’m okay with that. I, however, also realize that the size I am now isn’t healthy either. There is a healthy “in between” somewhere in there that I’ve struggled for a really long time to find.
I’m one of those women who has tried just about every type of diet, and I’ve even had some pretty amazing success. In fact, in 2011 I started a strict diet program that worked wonders, and I managed to lose 65 pounds. I can still remember the day that the number at the scale amazed even me. I swore on that day that number would NEVER go back up. I never wanted to go back to the “old” me.
For a long time during my weight loss journey, no one outside of my closest circle said a word to me about the weight I’d lost. I knew I had lost weight. I could see the numbers on the scale going down. I could hear the woman at the weight loss center tell me the number of inches I’d lost. I could feel my clothes fitting differently. And yet, no one around me seemed to notice.
You would think that wouldn’t matter to me. After all, I knew what I’d accomplished. I knew I was healthier. I knew how much the numbers had changed—my weight, my BMI, my fat percentage, my lean muscle mass. I knew I felt better. I knew I had more energy. I knew I could do things that I’d never dreamed possible. I knew, in my head, all of those things and more.
But—and this is a big but—when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see what I knew to be true in my head. What I saw in the mirror didn’t reflect all of those numbers or accomplishments. The woman I saw didn’t look like a woman who’d lost 20, 40, and then eventually 65 pounds. She didn’t look like a woman who was working out on an almost daily basis and enjoying it for the first time ever. She didn’t look like a size 14.
No, the woman I saw in the mirror was the same woman I’d always seen. The woman I saw was lumpy and awkward. She was overweight and desperate to be comfortable in her own skin.
As much as it pains me to admit it, that reflection in the mirror got the better of me. Over the next several months, my struggle with food won out over my desire to be healthy, and I gained back most of the weight I’d fought so hard to lose.
But you know what the crazy thing is? When I look in the mirror today, I still see that same woman—the woman in the mirror hasn’t changed for me from 2011 when I was at my heaviest to 2012 when I was at my lightest to today now that I’m somewhere in between. Body image is a strange thing, isn’t it?
I have swallowed my pride and shared my most vulnerable secret with you to be able to tell you this story:
Zach and I were able to spend the day together on Saturday—just the two of us. We watched movies, had a nice dinner, and enjoyed grownup conversation without interruption. It was a fabulous, lazy day. But there was one poignant moment that won’t leave me any time soon. Zach had his arms wrapped around me, and I turned to look into his eyes. And in that moment, I had the strangest, most wonderful realization. I realized in that moment that for the first time in I don’t know how long I didn’t feel like the woman I see in the mirror. I felt beautiful.
I looked in my husband’s eyes, and I saw his love for me. For one fleeting moment, I saw myself the way he sees me. And it was amazing.
But do you know what’s even more amazing? What’s even more amazing is the realization I had Sunday morning while getting ready for church.
When I look at myself, I do so with flawed eyes. I see myself the same way regardless of my outward appearance, because I’m doing it all wrong. I realize now, for the first time, that I will never see myself as God intended until I start looking at myself through His eyes!
Psalm 139:13–14 reminds each of us just what miracles we are: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I know that I still have a long, hard journey ahead of me. I know that I still need to overcome my issues with food through God’s strength and grace. I know that my road to a healthy me has just begun … yet again. But I also know that if I remember to look at myself through His eyes, I will see a much different, much happier person. I will see the beauty He intended me to be, and it has nothing to do with that woman in the mirror.