I was sitting at the computer desk nestled into the corner of my mother’s kitchen eating a bagel smeared with cream cheese. I was recently engaged, fresh out of college, and living back at home for a few months until my wedding day. Halfway into a big bite of said bagel, my mother walked through the kitchen just long enough to announce that I better stop eating like that if I was going to fit into my wedding dress.
I weighed 115 pounds at the time and had no real reason to be concerned about fitting into my dress. From the time I was 12 years old, when my mother had issued her first warning about watching my weight, I had suffered through years of practicing anorexic behaviors followed by years of uncontrollable bingeing and self-hatred. Her abrupt warning at age 12 made me feel anxious and fearful. This time around, it made me mad because I had come to understand the power of those words.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Although my mother wasn’t maliciously trying to hurt me, her words had opened the door for a lot of strife in my life. Her words influenced where I would find my worth and value as I fought through my teenage years, womanhood, and motherhood.
Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters, we have to teach our girls to love who God created them to be, just the way He created them. It starts with us! We have to model for them what a healthy relationship with body and food looks like. In order to do that, we have to work this out within ourselves first. If you openly berate your body parts and talk about the enormous guilt you feel after eating a donut, the little women in your life who are watching you will mimic your behavior. The world will tell them soon enough just how inadequate they consider them to be, but you and I were not called to live according to the world’s ideals. We have to teach our girls what their Creator says about them, so when the world attacks, they have God’s Truth to stand on.
But thank God for His endless grace, Dear Sister! You see, even though my mother’s words may have been hurtful, God’s ability to heal is greater. What the devil wanted to use to destroy me, God has instead used for His glory. I don’t harbor any hate or un-forgiveness towards my mother. I know that her words and actions were often a reaction to her own brokenness and hurt. If you have said things to your daughters or sisters that have been hurtful or unhealthy about their appearance or eating habits, God can restore that if you seek Him. All is not lost. I promise. That is the beauty of His grace.
One way to start the healing process for yourself and for those little women in your life, is to start speaking truth to yourself. For years, I would often stand in front of the mirror on days I felt fat, examining myself, over-analyzing everything that was “wrong” with my figure, from every angle. I would think some very unkind things about myself. Please do not do this. If you can not think of anything nice to say to yourself about your amazing body, try one of these things: either don’t say anything at all, or say something positive about yourself that has nothing to do with your appearance. After all, you are more than a body. When the Bible tells us to focus on what is lovely and pure and to watch our tongues, that includes how you speak to yourself. And if you are having a bad day, stay away from the stinking mirror!
One thing that has been helpful to me in changing the way I think about my body, has been to repeat these truths to myself:
1) No one is thinking about my appearance as much as I am.
2) People are more concerned with the way I make them feel when I am with them, than
the size of my pants.
3) I am beautiful, loved, and accepted because I am His daughter, not because of what I look like.
I have to constantly remind myself to hold onto truth; to keep it in my back pocket like a worn out tissue, because I never know when I will desperately need it.
If I could say something to that 22-year-old girl waiting to be married, bagel in hand, I would tell her this: Sweet girl, you are more than how you look. You are valuable because you are a daughter of the King. Don’t waste your thoughts and words obsessing about a body that will fade away. Use your words to speak life into yourself and the people with whom you will cross paths.
Praying you will know the power of your words and use them for His glory.