I have struggled with my weight since I was a very young girl. I went from having what others called “baby fat” to being “chubby” to “overweight” to “obese.” This isn’t a place I wanted to be, but I am. To be very honest, I haven’t weighed under 200 lbs. since elementary school. I have experienced the whispers, name-calling, stares and looks of disgust. I’ve heard the cruel and hateful words. People think when you are overweight, somehow the fat covers your ears, but it doesn’t. I’ve heard numerous times, “She has such a pretty face – it’s a shame she is so heavy.” In high school, a male student who I honestly thought had befriended me asked if he could write in my yearbook. I let him write in my yearbook and he gave it back to me saying, “Better Luck Next Time, Fats”. Another problem for me was, I was a young girl who was well endowed. It if wasn’t my weight they were talking about, it was my breasts. The guys would call me “Jugs”. Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a teacher who invited my friend and I to his house because his wife was going to be out of town for the weekend. Apparently he thought if I couldn’t get a date with anyone else, I’d want to date him. Wrong! I always said that the only good thing about going back to my class reunion was that others would have gained weight, became bald and lost their teeth. As life has gone on I have come to realize that the saying “sticks and stones can break your bones, but names will never hurt you” is a lie. The words we speak to or about someone have the power to destroy them or the opportunity to encourage them to keep looking up. Don’t get me wrong, I did have lots of good friends, but somehow it was those few bad ones who I somehow allowed to define me.
Trust me, I have tried hundreds of times to lose weight, only to fail time and again. I’m sure I have tried every diet on the planet, but somehow I end up staying the same weight. I have prayed asking God to take this from me. I have written for years about this journey in my life, and here I am at 53 with the same struggle, except I am older and wiser now. You see, I’m not the only one who has ever had to deal with a thorn in my flesh. I just happen to have an outwardly obvious one, and I admit it. Although there aren’t many people honest enough to talk about the thorn in their flesh, the apostle Paul talks about his:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
I have this thorn, my weakness, but it is one of the elements which has shaped me into the person I am today. Without it, I wonder if I would be as filled with compassion and empathy for every human being. Would I be able to love and see people as God sees them? Would I be vain, conceited and condemning toward those who are different than me? Would I understand the power of forgiveness, or my own redemption by Christ’s death on a cross for me?
I don’t know, but I do know this. It is because of my thorn I am kept in a state of humility. It is because of my thorn I have been given the ability to teach, preach and relate to the broken-hearted. It is because of my thorn God has given me a keen sense to know when someone is hurting, feels alone or needs some encouragement in their life. It is because of my thorn I understand what it means to walk with those who feel the heaviness of their own thorn. It is because of my thorn I praise God because whatever I have to deal with in this life is nothing compared to living in eternity with Him.
This doesn’t mean I have given up, or that I don’t want to lose weight and be healthy. I will continue to battle my thorn, just as Paul did. I will continue to do 5ks even when people look at me like “What is she doing here?”
Thorns are miserable things. They hurt. They make you bleed and cry. They make it difficult to hold onto anything. However, my thorn is what makes me hold on to Jesus even tighter. I don’t know what your thorn is, but whatever it is, use it so Christ’s power may rest on you! When God’s strength works through your weakness, the “Jesus Glitter” deep inside you becomes the sparkle that others need to see.