“In the deep pit opened by your humility, let penance bury your negligences, offenses, and sins. Just as the gardener buries rotten fruit, dried twigs, and fallen leaves at the foot of the very trees which produced them. And so what is useless, what was even harmful, can make a real contribution to a new fruitfulness. From the falls learn to draw strength from death, life.” Josémaria Escriva
Living here in Beijing has truly proven to be an amazing experience in which God has asked us to break away from our comforts, learn a brand new language, accept trials with joy, and blessed us beyond measure with friendships and surprises that we could not have foreseen. It has also been a great time for enriched reading from amazing popes, saints, and faith-filled authors that inspire me to deepen my intimacy with Jesus and to take full advantage of this time alone with Him. It has been about a month since I began begging the Lord to use any means necessary to make me holy, and I am now very aware that He intends to do just that.
As I have mentioned previously, I have been known to be a proud “athlete” and have a need to consciously shake off my extreme competitiveness even in games like Taboo or checkers. So while playing in one of our softball games with friends from RCIA, keep in mind this is not a sport I claim to be particularly good at, we were short players and I was placed in the outfield. Long story short, I am standing praising the name of Jesus BEGGING Him not to let anyone hit it to me since I had completely missed the last two hit in my general direction, and attempted to shake my nerves as I ran for the fly ball that was headed my way. As I was running towards the direction where I thought the ball was headed, I raised my glove high, immediately was blinded by the sun, lost the ball in the air, felt it smash into my shin mid-stride, and then simultaneously kicked it to the 2nd baseman. (I am very coordinated.) As my shin began to take the shape of the softball and turn from a light pink to darker shades of purple, I realized that this was the Lord answering my prayers in His very unique fashion. Thank you, Lord for all the many ways You humble me.
Now, four weeks post-injury, after every attempt to get back into my regular routine of physical activity, I am still nursing my shin and ankle and have now, because of my stubbornness, been banned by my Physical Therapist ‘Sister-friend’ from any sort of physical activity that requires me to be on my right leg. She believes that my healing may take up to two months. Never in my life did I expect that being restricted in this way would hurt me as much as it does. But this has been a sure indication of where I cling to worldliness and comforts.
As many women sadly can relate, for years I have loathed my body. Society, and my own mind, filled me with lies that I am not skinny enough, toned enough, or shaped in a way that is beautiful and because of this, I am therefore, unworthy. I of course purchased stock in these lies and allowed them to consume my thoughts for most of my teen and all of my college years. I was the girl who lived in the gym, refused to eat “bad” foods, and punished myself when I felt I had consumed too much. Even when I was in great shape and at my smallest, the relationships in my life were failing and empty so I took that as a reflection that I still was not ‘good enough’.
When my conversion took place and I began the first healthy relationship that my heart has ever known, I attempted to allow Jesus to love me where I was in that moment: lost, broken, and alone. But these wounds of self-destruction and hatred for what I now realize is the gift of my body, still run so deep. God had to physically take away my ability to play sports and my nightly workout routine, in order for me to truly break away from where the devil still has hold of me.
Books like The Way by Josemaria Escriva, which I am convinced was written for me, have opened my eyes to all the ways that I am still attached to the world. Although I profess a faith that says that we are no longer of the world, but are children of God, I walk carrying a heavy suitcase of ‘stuff’ that weighs me down and keeps me from keeping pace with our Lord. After Josemaria’s challenge of detaching our minds and hearts from these distractions that lurk behind every corner, I have really tried to narrow down where I am sneakily being deceived and pulled from Him.
1. Pinterest: I have deleted my ‘boards’ that were focused on my body. I had over 300 workouts pinned on this board, that I was convinced would make me beautiful. (I kept the actual account because this is the greatest hub for recipes that keep my roommates and my heart very very happy.)
2. Facebook: I have temporarily deleted my account because I find that this giant time-waster is also an avenue of self-criticism and longing. I look back at old pictures of myself remembering my prime or dissecting the areas of my body that still needed work. I also can look at others’ lives and become envious of what God may have blessed them with: this job, that relationship, their travel, time with family, etc.
3. Food: Lord knows I BEG Him to allow me to fast for the right reasons. Fasting and prayer is listed in the bible with frequent regularity and I have a great desire to mortify my flesh in this way and to no longer remain a slave to my desire. I now am just more intentional with my prayers, attempt to change my mindset, but still have a lot of work to do in this area. I attempt to fast and feast with the Church, commemorating days of celebration with my brothers and sisters around the globe. (Awesome discovery: I found a program called “Light Weigh” that focuses on rewiring your mindset on food and your body with a focus on your relationship with Christ. It is the first I have seen of its kind!)
4. Theology of the Body (TOB): There is honestly not enough space in this blog for me to describe my ardent love for the Theology of the Body. This has been the greatest instrument in my conversion that has opened my eyes to the beauty of life with Christ as a creature of this earth and has revealed what true love between man and woman should really look like. It has helped me heal the wounds of my body, given me hope for the future, and washed away society’s stain on things like Marriage, children, and femininity. I have read countless books on the topic, listened to talks by Christopher West, and now am watching videos online through Newman Connection called, The Rich Gift of Love. Believe me when I say that TOB is truly incredible and life changing. http://www.newmanconnection.com/institute/courses/rich-gift-of-love
5. Time: The great healer is absolutely time and trust. For years I thought that waiting for anything was inactivity and futile. Now, I realize that it requires active trust in the Lord’s provision in His own perfect timing. Christ has pulled the weeds, sown the seed in more fertile soil, and now I must allow for them to take root, absorb the light of the sun, and become stable and secure.
Josemaria also says that absence and isolation are trials for your perseverance. Holy Mass, prayer, sacraments, sacrifices, and the Communion of Saints are weapons to conquer in the trial. We must take hold of these tastes of heaven that have been gifted to us by Jesus and allow them to become our food for the journey in this life. I challenge you to take a look at your own lives and see what lies are lingering around you. The movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the people we surround ourselves with can pump our subconscious with cheapened truth that pull you from the beautiful life that God desires to give you. Do not believe the lies, tear yourself away from the distractions, and allow Jesus to give you your worth. You are worthy, you are loved, and you are beautiful. I think we all need to begin to believe it.
Please pray for me as I pray for you.