Bread, Wine, and Finding Freedom.

Liz: “I’m in love. I’m having a relationship with my pizza. You look like you’re breaking up with your pizza. What’s the matter?
Sofi: I can’t.
Liz: What do you mean you can’t? This is Pizza Margherita in Napoli, it is imperative to eat and enjoy that pizza.
Sofi: I want to, but I’ve gained like ten pounds. I mean, I’ve got this. . .right here in my tummy, you know this. . .what’s it called? What’s the word for it?
Liz: A muffin top. I have one too.
Sofi: I unbuttoned my jeans like five minutes ago just looking at this.
Liz: Lemme ask you a question, in all the years you’ve ever undressed for a gentleman–
Sofi: —it hasn’t been that many.
Liz: Alright. Has he ever asked you to leave? Has he ever walked out, left?
Sofi: No.
Liz: Because he doesn’t care. He’s in a room with a naked girl. He’s won the lottery. I’m so tired of saying no and waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before. Counting every calorie I consumed so I know exactly how much self-loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese; I’m just through with the guilt. So this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to finish this pizza and then we’re going to go watch the soccer game and tomorrow we’re going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.”
— Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

This excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love is the only one I remember. I’ll explain why.

It was the summer of 2015, and I was on my lunch break at work. The heat had cast its hideous spell on Los Angeles already, and I was famished. I logged out of my computer and headed out to grab some food. As soon as I started my car, the mental game began. You know the one...when the innocent question, “What do I want to eat?” turns into, “What should I eat?” It had been months since I started my get-hot-for-my-wedding diet, aka don’t-eat-a-damn-thing diet, so I resolved that a smoothie was best. I was proud of myself. Or was I? No, instead, guilt jumped into the passenger seat, and told me, “If you have anything other than a smoothie, you will gain weight, and you’ll have to make up for that mistake.” This inner dialogue had been going on for months, but no one knew. Worse - I didn’t think it was as bad as it was. My pure desire to get in shape for my wedding had turned into a tight grip on control.

When I was a child, I would jump, and play, and explore, without a care in the world about how I appeared. Anyone else? My body was my rocket and food the fuel to blast me into one adventure after another. No calorie countingNo shame. No fear. I just lived, and allowed food to be an innocent part of that life. Yet, somewhere along the way, I got the idea that a thigh-gap + perfectly toned arms + a hot bikini bod = beauty. Self-love was no longer based on my integrity, joyful spirit, grit, loyalty, honesty, or who God said I was. This reality desperately needed to be confronted, but I had kept it private - passing off control and fear as good intentions to stay “fit” and “healthy”. I used head knowledge to normalize my struggle, and I allowed harmless compliments to fuel me further. 

That was until this particular lunch break.

A dear friend had called me as I was leaving work, and invited me to her apartment for some lunch she had made. I felt anxious about not having a smoothie, and my mind began to wonder about what was in the meal she had prepared. I arrived, and my eyes wandered to the table. She had beautifully arranged a brunch setup: syrup, butter, milk, waffles - the works. She squealed with pride and excitement, “Waffles for lunch. Who doesn’t love that, right?” I looked up and faked a smile, as the panic grew in my chest. We sat down, chatted for a bit, and began plating. As I cut my waffle, she stopped me.

I looked at her. She looked at me. And in that moment, I knew that she knew.

She was Liz. I was Sofi. 

Tears welled up in my eyes, and she softly said, “Let's talk about it.”

I opened my mouth to explain the problem away, and she gave me her look. This friend has a menacing look that communicates she is doing the talking and you are not. 

“Here’s the thing, Tor. You are good and worth loving - not because of what you eat or don’t eat, and not because of how you look. I sense that you’re afraid of what food will do to your concept of beautiful, and I love you too much to let you go any further. This isn't what God wants for you.”

This isn't what God wants for you.

Her last sentence silenced me. This was one of the first times in my life when I had decided that I didn’t want what God wanted. They say that the same mistake made more than once becomes a choice. And I had made mine. Looking a certain way had become more important to me than embracing the defining, and completely freeing words of my Creator:

  • “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 4:7)

  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (2 Corinthians 6:19-20)

  • I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

She prayed for me as I cried in my chair. The Holy Spirit had been speaking to me, and I had been ignoring him. I was relieved to give in. As we prayed, an incredible thing happened: my darkness was brought into the light, and in its exposure, it changed. What the Enemy meant for shame turned into a grace story. I will never forget that moment and the many moments after, as I rediscovered freedom. God gave me his perspective for my body, and I began to live fearlessly again. My eyes were finally off my thighs and back on people, and God’s purpose for me. Not only that: food was no longer an enemy, but a friend.

As Liz so perfectly put it: “I have no interest in being obese; I’m just through with the guilt.” 

It’s the middle of July as I write this, and the Bay Area breeze is whistling through my little apartment. A lot of things have changed. I’ve just finished setting up a date-at-home for Reed, who will be home shortly. What’s on the menu? Veggie pasta, crusty bread with goat cheese for spreading, and a bottle of deep-red Merlot. All the “bad stuff”. French music is playing in the background and my kitchen smells like heaven on earth. Not a single thread of fear or worry has slipped through my mind. I’m free. Free to eat, free to live, and freed by Christ to love his perfect image within me. I've learned invaluable lessons on what it means to show up for people, and I am more convinced than ever that God's truth changes things.

Now...for the most important part of this story. 

It’s time for our waffle lunch.

It’s time for you to like what you see and love what’s inside. To go on living with zeal and joy, not allowing comparison or fear to rob you. It’s timeSo stick this love letter on your mirror, come back to it when you forget, or print it out and crumple it into your pocket.

Dear Friend,

You are worthy. The God of all of this is in love with you, and designed you with care and deep affection. He sacrificed everything so that you would know your worth. Your frame, shape and look is purposeful - meant to tell the grand story of creation. You will always be beautiful. But here’s the thing: beauty isn’t the point. The point is using our bodies to get to those who are lost. The point is being strong, smart, and compassionate. The point is living with an eternity mindset, one of urgency and selflessness. Fix your gaze on the lost world before you, and set things straight. Live it up. Wear a bikini. Jump in the ocean. Go on a hike. Eat some pasta. Drink some wine. Laugh obnoxiously. Take a nap in the sun. Work out when you want to, but don’t punish yourself if you don’t. Don’t give guilt a voice. When the rest of the world is doubting themselves, look them in the eyes and speak the truth. Give yourself pep talks. Go hug someone.

But most importantly: remember that at the end of your life, you won’t regret eating the waffles...but you will regret not living free.