Polaroids of Promise
“Christ is my firm foundation. The rock on which I stand. When everything around me is shaken, I’ve never been more glad; that I put my faith in Jesus ’cause He’s never let me down. He’s faithful through generations. So why would He fail now?” — lyrics from the song Firm Foundation (He Won’t)¹
Monday, May 16, I stood on the summit of a mountain, and the words above began bellowing in my AirPods. Sweat dripping off my face, I caught a glimpse of one single yellow flower — a sign of life in this dusty barren place. I opened my Bible and read these words:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” — Revelation 21:4–5 (Christian Standard Bible)
I was “the big kid” from fifth grade through high school, and the truth is I don’t have many memories of my childhood where I wasn’t overweight. I can vividly remember hiding food in my room, devouring desserts like they were essential to my survival, and even once receiving a gift that makes me hate aspects of Christmas to this very day. My weight was never discussed in my memory, but the shame that that “fat kid” hid was even heavier than the weight I was physically carrying.
Over the years, I tried my hand at sports but felt that I didn’t belong. I wanted to lose weight but remained trapped by chains of pity, embarrassment, and the hiding of hurt. Of course, there were also the dreaded birthdays and holidays laced with recurring prayers that I would not get clothes as presents. After receiving the pants that did not fit one too many times, I expected to be embarrassed. It started getting more demanding to find defense mechanisms outside of food in those years. And those years, although there are also many unforgettable memories, are primarily polaroid snapshots of someone who felt unworthy.
Jump ahead many years, and I am an adult man, a father of three. Nervous at any mention of a pool party, never singing on a stage without a jacket, and dreading any event where we would be wearing t-shirts. The love of an extraordinary woman surrounded me, but I had officially stopped looking in the mirror and lived trapped in prison. I am sure this reads as weak to some, but I’ve spent so much time processing the lies that I am weak that I genuinely write these sentences with great confidence knowing that others will read this and find their freedom in being “real.” No more masks. No more.
The end of December and the first part of January brought all of these feelings and the shame they were hiding to a breaking point, and I found myself in the office of a fantastic counselor (two, to be honest). I began to see that I had used food to hide. I was hiding from myself and awakened to see that transparency was essential to thriving. I would binge to cover the shame, yet the bingeing brought more shame. I was trapped in a cycle of lose/lose. Sorry to be Donald Downer; just sharing my truth. Those days were rough.
As I began to recover and heal, I did something normal to many but foreign to me; I joined a gym. I wanted to work my body physically the way I was working my mind and spirit. No fad diets or gimmicks. Just Jeremi, a great podcast/playlist, lots of sweat, authentic confidence, and a path of honesty laid before my fantastic family and me, which began at home. I was getting healthy, soul, mind, and body.
The first several days (weeks) seemed like misery. I could barely walk and could scarcely lift an everyday household object due to the weight lifting. I often thought it would be easier to give up; however, I meant business. I was starting to feel good by March. I had energy and felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger when I would lift. (Who knows, maybe one day.) In addition, I started running and began training at a local 200-step incline. I was charging ahead, having two goals, and I wanted to share a secret; I accomplished them both today.
Goal One: Read the Bible in 90 days
During my adult life, I’ve had the privilege to lead many people in the awareness of who God is and what He has done. The truth is, God has blessed that work, but within the last several years, I regret to say that I’ve not read the Bible and sought God as much as I believe essential to a healthy forward relationship with Christ. Beginning in February, while I was peeling back all of the layers that needed attention, I decided I would read the Bible through in ninety days. No other plan but soul care and ultimately hearing from God. Over these months, I’ve laughed from scriptures that illuminated some crazy sermons I’ve listened to; I’ve cried, realizing the weight of my sin and feeling a grace that transcends my understanding.
Most importantly, I fell in love with The Trinity all over again. What other God says, “I love you!” to his people and shows them repeatedly with mercy new every day, like the sun’s rising. Today, I finished the entire Bible reading at the summit of goal number two. Goal One (check)
Goal Two: Climb the Manitou Incline²
I wanted to accomplish climbing the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs, CO. The climb is 2,744 steps with an elevation gain of 2,020 ft from beginning to end. The base elevation is 6,530 ft, and once you reach the summit, you are at 8,550 ft. There is an average grade of 41%, with the steepest grade of 68%. The difficulty level was extreme, but I knew that I needed something radical to get to where I was going. So today, knowing I had my final pages to read, I climbed those torturous stairs to read the last words of Revelation from the top of the mountain. Today, I climbed the Manitou Incline (check)
Climbing that mountain today, I was reminded of our relationship with Christ. If you know him at all, you understand what I mean when I say the higher we rise in the Lord, the more we discover his beauty. All around the creation he made. I saw animals and tiny drops of rain. I felt the wind and recalled words from my favorite theologian, Walter Brueggemann³.
“Blowing the world out to nothing to abundance … Blowing to make things new that never were.”
Those words are more prophetic than anyone would ever understand. Today and the last few months have been God’s divine way of making things new that never were. I am healthier today. I have lost 40 pounds. I officially look in the mirror again, and I feel amazing. I have accomplished two major goals and won’t stop. PS — I have a new goal (a secret for now).
Sometimes it is easiest to hold on to who we once were, where we have been, our past, the stories we tell ourselves, and maybe even the things we cannot undo. Often as believers, this most objective truth comes from our ruthless holding on to ourselves, leaving no grip left for us to hold on to Christ. We want to be made new, but we try to do it within our understanding and abilities, which is where the enemy takes unending delight in our humanity. Our enemy wants us to be shrouded in shame, arms crossed in insecurity, and drowning in anxiety. But Christ wants us to walk in the newness of life and friends; trust me, walking in this newness is better than dwelling in the muck of other realities.
“Immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in the highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” — Ephesians 2:4–7 (The Message Translation)