Words from my heart
KIN-120, my Concepts of Wellness class, meets every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9:00 AM. That means Julie, a classmate and new friend, brightens my every Monday, Wednesday, Friday with her sweet smile. But on the first Friday of October, Julie’s smile vanished the minute we started chatting about Lab #4, a reflection paper on the results of our Body Mass Index test (due that morning).
“I HATED this Lab,” she said. “Why?” I asked, surprised by the sudden shift. “I’ve been working so hard at being healthy—running and eating right—but according to my BMI results, I’m considered almost obese!” Julie had written her paper the night before through burning tears, trying to convince herself that her worth didn’t depend on a BMI number.
My heart broke as I listened. I knew too well about the impact of a number—the number on my bathroom scale began controlling me in high school. Eating disorders connived their way into my life during college. It took years of hard work for me to climb out of that dark abyss . . . it took God to save me from the hopelessness.
Julie and I weren’t able to finish our conversation once class started, so I wrote her an impassioned letter reminding her that her value was NOT based on a BMI number, waist-to-hip ratio, or scale reading. I reminded her that her value was based on being a beautiful daughter of God. And most emphatically, I wrote, “Your BMI does not define you . . .
IT DOES NOT DEFINE YOU!”
Two weeks later, Julie and I had a chance to finish our conversation over lunch. She shared that no homework assignment had ever brought her to tears like Lab #4. It had dredged up a painful past of never feeling “skinny enough” or “good enough.” And because Julie had been a dancer, she knew just how to put on a “dancer’s smile,” the perfect smile for pain to hide behind.
During our long lunch, Julie not only shared her struggles with body image, but also “a whole truck load of other things,” as she put it. The longer I listened, the more amazed I became by this courageous young college student. One thing was clear . . . through it all, Julie still had hope. I commented on that fact, and how important it is to have hope.
With a gleam in her eye, Julie slowly brought her hand out from under the table and stretched her palm across the blue-marbled top. I couldn’t believe it—HOPE tattooed on her wrist. “I got the tattoo to remind me that my hope is found in Christ alone,” she said. “No matter what circumstance, struggle, or pain that I might be feeling in the moment, I am reminded that God’s plan for my life is so much larger than anything that I can see now. He is my hope.”
I was deeply touched by Julie’s story, and asked if I could share it. “Of course,” she said (thank you, Julie). As I worked on this post, I remembered an article I wrote over twenty years ago about my struggle with eating disorders, and how I found my value in God’s love. I thought Julie might like to read it and found an extra copy. When I skimmed the article, my eyes fell on the last sentence:
“It’s wonderful to know there is hope.” Ah, I wonder if God had a gleam in his eye when I read that.
Yes, there is hope . . .
My article, “No Longer Carrying the Weight of the World” was published in 1991 by The Christian Leader, a publication of the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.