I haven’t been home in 2 and a half years.
My dad turns 70 this month. And so our family will make the trek from Baltimore to Johannesburg via Detroit and Amsterdam. To be back with these people. These people who were my first home.
We’re ordering gifts and getting new suitcases and planning all the family we want to see. But deep down, deep down I’m wasting my anticipation because it’s drowning in a self-conscious worry I wish I could turn off. Turn off like the dripping faucet it is.
Here’s the thing – this time last summer I was at the healthiest, fittest weight I’ve been in years. Then I faced some crushing book deadlines and I mainlined candy corn, cotton candy and other assorted forms of sugar to push myself through.
These are things a 40-year-old body does not recover from quickly. Or even slowly. It recovers verrryyyyy slowly. No matter that I signed up for a gym and am actually going several times a week. No matter that I’m cutting out the late night binging on French bread and brie cheese and Cheetos. No matter than I’m really really trying, the scale has been depressingly stubborn every morning that I step onto it and feel my heart sink with each pound I haven’t lost yet.
And my days are filled with self-beratement about my lack of discipline and why can’t I survive on less calories and why do I love food so much.
I’ve never had an unhealthy relationship with food or my body. I’ve loved both. Generously.
But somehow in the last few months that scale has become an angry voice in my ear. A voice that despises my thighs and my belly and speaks ruthless criticism at both. And I have listened. And tried really hard to obey.
And it’s sucked the life and marrow out of this lifetime trip home.
Today I woke up and decided I was tired of it.
I was on the phone with my dad and I told him about it. I told him we’re coming home chubbier than we would have liked and asked him to just take us as we are. My dad. My dad who is turning 70 and is fantastically health-conscious and runs 5 miles and is raising kids the same age as mine and who probably never binge ate anything in his life.
My dad. Man, I could feel the love unfurling across the miles of phone lines and into my ear – he said, we’ll love you just the way you are and we hope you’ll let us add a few more pounds on of all the foods you love here for good measure.
Listen, this isn’t about food or weight. Really. It’s about love. It’s about believing you are unconditionally loved. No it’s more than that. It’s about KNOWING you are unconditionally loved.
Do you know what that means? Let me spell it out for you the way I had to spell it out for myself:
Unconditional love = you are loved no matter what.
No matter what the scale says or your book review says or your performance report says or your passive aggressive relationship says or your bathing suit says or the voice in your head says.
You are loved beyond pounds or fit or style or perfection.
You are loved because YOU ARE.
Period. End of story.
You are loved because you were created by a God who IS love.
You are loved because it’s the DNA of the stuff you were made out of.
You are loved because it’s the blood that runs in your veins and the sway of your hips, and yes even the rub of your upper thighs against each other — love, love, love, left, right, swish, swish, love love love. Even in the sticky sweat of summer in places you wish weren’t sweating.
You are loved because it’s what pumps in your veins like a drumbeat reminder that this is your name and there is no other name than love, love, love.
Somehow between the scale and my favorite jeans that don’t fit this summer I forgot that.
My daughter was stroking my belly this morning and whispered into its curves – “I love this belly.”
And my dad said the same thing using different words on the phone this morning.
And my husband said it when he called to say he missed me while he’s traveling this week.
This throbbing harmony of how loved we are. If only we will listen. If only we will stop listening to our measuring sticks and scales and start listening to our promises.
For God himself has said, “I will never fail you or abandon you.”
But there are some voices that WE need to leave.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue on this journey to be healthy for my kids and for the calling God has entrusted to me. I will practice curbing my sugar cravings and leaning into better choices in my fridge and in my heart.
But at the same time I will leave behind the voices that are robbing me of the joy of that journey.
And I will practice being loved, more than I practice being careful what I eat.
And next week I will fly home to my South African people and I will revel in rusks and pancakes and boerewors and pap and koeksisters and a whole host of foods that taste like home. And I will not consult the scale for its opinion.
I will look into the eyes of my family and let them have the last word.
Because I already know what my Father has said:
And before I step onto a scale I will repeat those words out loud and let them be the weight that defines me.
PS: I’m not asking for diet suggestions or work out plans by writing this post. I’m just asking you to look at yourself in the mirror or on the scale and hear a voice that’s weightier than your weight. A voice that literally does love you — just the way you are. Amen?