Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random Life Lesson # 6 Old Men Are Not Always Wise

I moved to Dayton, Ohio to pursue my career in education and leaving the church where I had given my life to Christ and friends who were more like family, spent the first three years in the strange city trying to understand why Christ separated me from every support system I had. To my surprise, I found that Christ’s reason was that He was calling me into music ministry. My start was fraught with missteps, sorrow and loss and my own low self-esteem made launching a music ministry a terrifying adventure.

Instead of casting my cares on the Lord, I allowed situations to strangle my faith and paralyze me with fear. Instead of finding comfort in Jesus I sought comfort in food. In six years I gained seventy pounds! Last winter, bundled up against the cold I arrived at church and found I couldn’t get out of my car. I had gained so much weight and with my coat on I was stuck behind the steering wheel. “This is straight crazy!” I thought, “My life is outta control, I gotta get it together.”

Thus began a journey of dealing with my past and fears, learning to submit my will to the Lord, to say no, to eat right, to exercise, in other words, learning to die to my flesh and walk in victory. Weight loss was easier in my twenties then now in my thirties, but the Lord keeps encouraging, telling me I can do this if I allow Him to fulfill my desires. Sometimes submission is easier said then done, especially after a rocking church service where I’ve worked up a sweat getting my praise on and everyone wants to fellowship at Chili’s to complete the night. But I wrestle weekly with the scale and was pleased that after a year I’d lost fifty pounds! Feeling proud, self esteem skyrocketing; I should have been prepared for what happened next.

The morning after that wonderful weigh in, I got dressed, put on make-up, looked in the mirror and thought, “Girl, you look good.” I knew I was cute, feeling good, not vain, just satisfied with “me” despite the pounds still left to lose. Heading out the door I took my cute self over to Brook View Senior Residential Community where I give concerts for the elderly who always attend in great numbers when I visit. Walking in I was greeted with waving and laughing, one woman said, “I saw you on TV this morning!” Coupled with the thrill of my shrinking body and the amazement that someone was watching the cable access channel I began the concert, singing my heart out.

A skinny, elderly man on a walker came in, I’d never seen him before, but he was singing along and praising the Lord. As the concert drew to a close I gave out CDs, and gave one to the elderly gentleman who accepted it cheerfully. While chatting the elderly man asked me why my CD was called, Everything. Not wanting to drown in a past of sorrows I explained that I had been desperately in love with a man I had wanted to marry but unfortunately he didn’t feel the same way. In the midst of my crippling pain the Lord asked me if this man was everything to me, or was it Him, the one who had given up His life for me. It was this experience that led me to write the song, Everything, and it was this song that my ministry was founded on.

After giving the abbreviated version of the most painful time of my life I intended to sing one last song, but before I could begin the elderly man asked, “Did he not want to marry you because of your weight?”

Pausing to think about his question, I didn’t know how to respond, he’d rendered me speechless. At the time I was being rejected I never stopped and said, “Hey man I love, do you not want me cause I’m a big girl?” Maybe I thought it at the time but the concept of him not wanting me because of my weight seemed strange. Secondly, if I began to ponder that question, if I did not take that thought captive right then, my new self image would have smashed and cracked like thin ice breaking from someone’s weight, and I would’ve found myself cold and broken again. But that wasn’t an option; I loved myself too much at that moment to be buried by somebody else’s fatty issues if they were from my past or sitting in front of me old enough to be my grandfather.

I looked at that gentleman and said, “I don’t know why he didn’t want me. At this point it doesn’t matter.”

He replied, “You’re a beautiful woman, if you lost weight you’d be a stone cold fox.”

His words caused an uproar! Those little old ladies who faithfully attend each concert started to berate him, telling him to keep his opinions to himself while informing me that I was perfectly fine. I knew that this was a test. Was my self esteem anchored in Christ, did I see myself as He saw me or was I going to crumble because this old man implied I wasn’t good enough because of my size and I had probably lost the man I loved because I simply was to fat?

That old guy kept talking, “Skinny, just my preference.”

To the amazement of all gathered I started to laugh, “That’s your preference, but sometimes we have our minds made up about what we don’t want and we miss the blessing that the Lord has for us. I’m happy and beautiful.” That elderly man got out of there as fast as his walker could carry him. Those lovely ladies admonished me not to pay him any mind, I was beautiful and by the way had I lost weight? Bolstered by their acceptance I confided that I had but I wasn’t going tell that old man that since it didn’t matter to him, I’d lost weight but I still wasn’t good enough in his eyes.

I knew then that I was finally at peace with myself. I had passed the test and seen myself as Christ did, fearfully and wonderfully made. I came to understand that there will always be people I’m not good enough for because of their issues, but I’m always good enough for Christ. I understand now, like I never have before, that Jesus loves me just as I am and being fat, well the truth is my weight does not define who I am.

Maybe it’s true that there have been men who have not chosen me because of my weight, but if so, were they God’s best for me if they did feel like that? I deserve God’s best, as do all men and women, fat, skinny, with acne, braces, big lips, dark skin, light skin, short, tall, poor or rich. I’m finally at peace and being at peace gives me the courage to change, not so I can get a man, but change because it is what’s best for my life, ministry, health, and my relationship with my Lord.

I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right wellPsalm 139 Verse 14 (King James Version)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Naima....that had to be quite an experience. He'd better be glad that you were saved. And he'd better be glad that you were a volunteer there and not one of the workers who were being paid to care for him. Elderly man or not, I have female cousins and in-laws who would have loosened the wheels on his wheelchair...greased the bottom of his shoes...slipped laxative in his milk and then pulled the bed pan out of his reach...

    Not me. I wouldn't have done this. But I know people who would.

    Cousins and in-laws.

    But not me.

    For real.