“Ah yes…” He said as he looked at me, smiling. “It is because you are very fat.”
I half-grinned as my heart sank. And my eyes dropped to the dirt floor of the hut we sat in, avoiding the glances of my friends. My mind raced over the words he just uttered. Very fat. No words any American would ever dare to say to your face. And he was using them to describe me, without hesitation, in answer to my question of why he thought I was the oldest of my friends.
He stepped out to grab the rice and beans that women in his village had spent all day preparing for us. My friends and I sat in a momentary silence.
“I am so sorry he said that, Courtney.” My friend Joe said, wanting to comfort me but unsure of how.
I shrugged. “No, it’s fine. Really. I’m secure.”
And I wasn’t lying. I was okay. Somehow, by the grace of God, the fact that a Ugandan man thought I was older than my much thinner friends because I was “very fat” was okay.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He noticed. My weight was not something I could be immune to.
But he didn’t treat me differently. In fact, in his mind, he never said anything offensive at all. He wasn’t aware of the tension he left in the hut or the discomfort felt by my friends that someone they loved had just been called fat to their face. His words were not spoken with hate.
Why was this scenario so different in the bush of Africa? Why would this whole situation be different in America?
After eating, we left the village and walked on the dirt path to the road to head back towards town. I walked beside a Ugandan girl I assumed to be around my age.
She was beautiful. Not rail-thin. Average weight most likely… with a thin layer of “cushioning”. She walked tall… confident in her steps.
And the word “fat” was brought up again.
So I asked her the question that was circling in my heart and in my head…
“So here… is it better to be fat or thin?”
She looked at me, perplexed. “I do not understand your question.”
I tried to rephrase. “You know… do people like fatter or thinner people better?”
She shrugged and smiled “It is not one or the other. It is not good or bad. It is from God.”
I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
How could being called “very fat” NOT be a bad thing?
My American mind, brainwashed by the “need” to be thin – the “worship” of having the body of a Victoria’s Secret model – the striving to be toned and lean and tiny, was rattled.
There’s a lie I can’t seem to escape. A lie that my head knows isn’t true, but my heart holds on to with everything. I believe I would be better if I were thin. I believe I will be worth more, valued more, wanted more, pursued more, loved more if I am what society insists I should be – a size 2.
I have never been a size 2.
So here, I fight this unattainable standard; this ultimatum that I will never be the best I can be UNLESS I lose weight. That I will never step into the fullness that God has for me UNLESS I lose weight. That God will not allow a man to pursue me UNLESS I lose weight.
But this lie… it doesn’t match up. It is the one thing that doesn’t fit inside my secure heart. The heart that knows I am loved and accepted and treasured by the King of Heaven. The heart that knows where my worth can be found. The heart that wants more of God more than anything else. The heart that knows that striving will get me no where in the Kingdom of God.
This lie is trying to make room in my heart – trying to crush its way into my theology – trying to make cracks in my cemented foundation of grace – trying to change how I view the character of God.
This semester I have strived. I have tried to stay on top of working out. I have eaten more vegetables than ever before. I have started taking multi-vitamins. I’ve traded my 2% milk for Almond Milk. I’ve attempted to drink as much water as possible. I’ve saved drinking soda for special occassions.
And I haven’t lost a pound. In fact, I sometimes feel like I’ve gotten bigger. And I am living a significantly healthier lifestyle than I was 2 or 3 years ago.
I have no conclusion for the end of this post. I am in process. I am in the middle of breakthrough. But there’s something significant that God is breaking off.
And I can’t help but think that it’s not my weight that He wants me to change.
It’s my heart.
It’s how I see a skinnier Christian woman and think she has more inheritance in the kingdom of God than me.
It’s how I look at the woman in other people’s engagement pictures and think “That’s not what mine will ever look like. My arms are too big.”
It’s how I see instagrams and blogs filled with Jesus-loving people who are fit and full of a paleo diets and wonder why that’s NOT something my heart is passionate about.
It’s how I think there’s something wrong with me that I have absolutely no desire to run a half-marathon.
Our journey’s are as unique as our figures.
And I think I, for one, should stop comparing. And just be.