Shaping Your Identity

By Connie Kuykendall

Photo by Dreamstime

“I lost 140 pounds and my identity.” Such a testimony would have heads scratching if Nutrisystem or Atkins used it to tout their products, but it happens to be my before-and-after story. I dropped half my size by eating healthier, walking five to seven miles a day, despite chronic daily migraines, using fitness apps, and clinging to God every step of the way. After that long, painful, joyous journey, I lost and found my sense of self.Some days, I thrilled at the size 6s in my closet where there had been 24s before. Other days, I had no idea who I was anymore. I would hear “You look amazing.” “So beautiful.” “A completely different person.” “You’ve lost that heavy girl look.” “I like you now that you’re slim.” “Don’t lose anymore, you’re too skinny.”

When someone told me I looked amazing, a scrambler ride of conflicting thoughts spun in my head: First, I said, “Thank you! I’m so grateful!” Then, I would fistpump and agree, “You’re absolutely right. I’m amazing. I worked hard.” But wait . . . I was already amazing 140 pounds ago. That “heavy girl” earned a 4.0 in college, passed the Bar exam, and published an award-winning book. Finally, I would wonder, “Why, when I’m more confident than ever, do I still look in the mirror and feel like a failure?”

Guys would check me out now, like “How you doin’?” check me out. I was equally breathless at the attention and irritated that I was invisible to them previously. But when they gawked and walked away, they left me believing that my weight was never the obstacle after all. It was just me all along. The problem was the real me—whoever she was.

This is why weight loss is so hard to achieve and maintain. It’s not fried Double Stuf Oreos. It’s how your brain and the people around you react to change. When your eating, exercise, and habits change, everyone must adapt to the shift in status quo. Your mind and loved ones may respond with pride, fear, happiness, anger, or jealousy. They may encourage and praise. They may try to sabotage your efforts. It’s like the yellow brick road opens up for you, but you must walk past the wicked witch and heckling munchkins to reach your goals. Oh, and the road is paved with mirrors that are cracking and caving in beneath you.

When the ground shifts, and it will, you need a firm foundation to catch you when you fall. God is that foundation. Only He determines your true value and worth. If you’re in the throes of an identity crisis, you can feel peace because He is the source of your identity. He knows the real you and loves you. Always has, always will.

When the woman with the issue of blood reached out to Him, He asked, “Who touched me?” although He already knew who she was. She was a part of Him. His healing flowed instantly and completely to His daughter. He knew what she needed and He gave it to her as only God can.

If you are waiting for another human being to do that for you . . . ain’t gonna happen. You might be saying, “If only she would tell me how beautiful I am, I would believe it.” Or, “If he would just love me, I would love myself.” You don’t have to fear what your friends and family will say or not say when you gain or lose or regain 200 pounds, when you’re lying in bed all day because you’re sick or tired or depressed, and when the “ugly” scars or wrinkles make you turn away from the mirror.

You don’t have to worry whether the right man will ever love you because He already has. When you desperately desire to find the real you, look no further than the God who created you and searches for you as the Shepherd seeks a lost lamb.

If you feel unloved, rejected, unsure of your purpose or future, embarrassed by your past, He will meet your needs right now, right where you are, as He did for the woman with the issue of blood. After all, He lovingly knit you together in your mother’s womb. If you’ve ever tried knitting and nearly strangled yourself with plush Merino wool yarn, try casting on in a dark room with skin, bone, blood, hair, breath, and soul.

God did all of that just so He could be with you. He counted the hairs on your head. His thoughts about you outnumber the 500 quadrillion grains of sand in the world. Trust me, God knows who you are. And He knows you are amazing.

To discover the shape of your identity, read Luke 8:43-48, 12:7; Psalms 139 (NIV).