Back in 2000, I was living in Montpellier, France for a semester. I had timed my visit to be there in the fall of the year, mostly to miss sorority rush (I know, that's almost sacrilege in the deep South, right? But I hated having to pick some girls and leave others out, and I was really happy to miss that process). One weekend, a few of my new friends and I decided we would take the train to Barcelona for a few nights. We had heard that it was lovely (this was true!) and we thought it would be a fun getaway. Very quickly, I discovered that these "friends," whom I really had only known for a number of weeks, and I were not on the same page as far as traveling. I wanted to tour the museums and eat at the local restaurants. They wanted to go to the Hard Rock Barcelona (why??!!) and the nightclubs and casinos. So, that meant that I spent most of the weekend wandering around alone. Which, normally, is no big deal to me! I'm an only child and naturally independent. I've probably seen as many movies alone as I've seen with someone and had as many meals in restaurants solo as with friends. However, Barcelona is known for its petty crime. Apparently, some of the world's most talented thieves make it their home. I had been warned to be careful and to keep my valuables close to me during the trip.
I thought I was doing my due diligence, as I locked my Ralph Lauren wallet (a gift from my parents, one of those wallets that is exactly the perfect size for your money, cards, etc.) in the front pocket of a large book bag. My credit cards, my passport, my keys to my apartment in France, my train ticket to get back into France, pretty much EVERYTHING I had of material value was in this pocket.
I will admit, I let my guard down. On a peaceful Sunday morning in late October, I was in the most beautiful little cafe on Las Ramblas, where the outside is all covered in gorgeous mosaic tile. I ordered a pastry and a fresh juice, and when the server called my number, I stood up and walked to the counter - about 10 feet from my chair - to pick up my order, leaving my book bag just beside my chair. Literally a few seconds was all it took. I turned to walk back to my seat, and that book bag was G.O.N.E.
I felt a cold chill and my heart sank as I realized what had happened. Thankfully, God was, as He always is, completely sovereign in that situation. There was a lovely Canadian couple there who helped me find the Barcelona police department, where I made my report, and listed out all the things that had been stolen. The police let me call my parents to tell them what had happened so they could cancel all the credit cards (this is NOT the call that you want to get from your 20-year-old daughter in the middle of the night ( 9 am Barcelona time is middle of the night US time) - "Hey Dad, um, I'm in the Barcelona police station . . . ). My friends loaned me money for food until we were back in France, and apparently it's not such a big deal to cross the border without a passport if you've been in Barcelona - they see a lot of theft so as long as your police report lays out that your passport was stolen, you'll be permitted back into your country of residence. Whew!
It was one of those experiences where you think, "Wow, I thought that would be the worst thing that could happen to me, and now it happened, and I'm okay!" Character-building, to say the least.
But the most interesting part of the whole experience happened about five months later, when I was back home in the States. Over Christmas, I had asked my parents for a new wallet to replace the stolen one. They suggested that I pick one out and then they would reimburse me. Well, I looked and looked but couldn't find anything I liked, so I asked them if I could just keep looking and purchase a new one after Christmas. My mom's reply to this was a surprising: "Oh, well, I'm just going to pray that you get your wallet back!"
I thought she was being ridiculous, if we're being honest. I told her that God had much better things to do than to bring me back my Ralph Lauren wallet. Which was stolen. In Barcelona. Months earlier. I felt like He would think it was a totally stupid, materialistic request, and He had WAY more important prayers to consider.
It didn't phase my mom at all. "Nope! God's gonna bring you your wallet back. I'm praying for it! You just watch."
Flash forward to March, when I was at my parents' house for spring break. There was a knock at the door, and I opened to find a special delivery.
That's right! It was a package from the Barcelona Police Department. With my wallet!!!! All the credit cards were gone, but I even got back some of my student ID cards and my old passport (which I had already replaced). Of course, I ran upstairs to tell my mom, who wasn't surprised at all. "I prayed about that! I knew you'd get it back!"
So what in the world does this story have to do praying about the body you desire?
A whole lot!
Yesterday morning I was reading in James 4 about submitting to God. Verse 2 says "You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God."
I started thinking about this in the context of desire for a particular type of body. For example, there have been times in life when I wanted to be leaner, and that has caused a lot of stress on my friends and family. When I was struggling with anorexia, I was absolutely obsessive about workouts and strict food regimens. Staying thin was much, much more important to me than having healthy relationships. And no matter how thin I got (103 pounds at my lowest), I still felt that I wasn't getting what I wanted. So I'd keep on striving, and making life miserable for myself and anyone who tried to get close to me. But the verse didn't make complete sense to me in light of my experience with wanting a certain body type, because actually I was praying about it. Every day. Multiple times a day. My near-constant prayer was, "Dear God, please don't let me gain weight." Even after I was out of treatment and had gotten to a physically healthy place (if still mentally disordered), I was praying that I wouldn't gain weight.
But it wasn't working. Over the course of less than a year, I packed on nearly 80 pounds by binging, all the while praying that God would let me get my thin body back.
So what gives?
Look at the next verse, James 4:3. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
Aha! Now it makes sense. When I was asking for my thin body, why was I asking for it? To honor God? Not hardly. Honestly, I wanted men to find me attractive. That was the main reason I wanted to be thin. I also wanted other women to think I was beautiful and compliment me, or even want to be like me. It feels gross to even type that, but I think it's pretty human. I bet I'm not the only one who has wanted people to think I had it all together. So, sure, I was praying that God would give me a certain body type, or even that He would "make me healthy," but my motives were all messed up.
You know when He began honoring my desire for my body to change? When I began honoring Him with that desire! When instead of focusing on how my body would look to the people around me, I began focusing on how valuable I was to God and asking Him to let me see myself the way that He sees me. Completely different perspective. And that's when weight started dropping off. Not completely effortlessly, but steadily and without a whole lot of strain and drama.
So back to the wallet . . .
If I had prayed for the return of that wallet, I'm honestly not sure that it would have come back to me. I would have been praying for it because I thought it was pretty, it held all my cards perfectly, and it was a nice gift from my parents that had some sentimental value to me. Eh, not really "bad" motives, but not very spiritually-minded.
My mom, on the other hand, was praying for that wallet to be a sign to me that God cares. He cares about everything that touches His children. Even little things like wallets. So, her prayers were effective. Her prayers were that I would be shown a little piece of the glory of God in the return of that wallet. I believe that her prayers went to God's ears and caused the miraculous return on that wallet from halfway around the world. That experience made a huge impact on my faith journey. I have a few others that are similar, and I hope to share more of them with you, but this is a good beginning.
So, when you think about the body that you desire, are you placing that before God? What's your motive if you want to gain weight, or lose weight?
Is it to get that hot guy at your gym to ask you out? Are you hoping to make the other ladies in the Junior League jealous at the annual charity dinner? Is it to get in shape so you can wear that provocative dress in the hopes that your boss will notice and be gently persuaded to give you that promotion? If it's any of these, I'm gonna let you know that you are thwarting those prayers for the body you desire. Those things are pretty much the definition of "wrong motives."
On the other hand, do you want a certain body type so that you'll have more energy for your family? Be able to do some extracurricular activities that your spouse loves? Serve better or in more capacities? Honor God with everything that He's given you, including your body? Those are motives that God hears when you pray.
This week, as you set your intentions for your exercise and nutrition goals, ask yourself some tough questions about the body you desire. Place your desire before God and ask Him to give you right motives. He knows we're human - He made us! However, He is faithful to purify us and conform our desires to His, when we are willing to listen to Him and accept His grace. He transforms, motives, desires and bodies. Keep Him at the center and He will work out what your body grows (or shrinks) to look like. And it will be more beautiful than you imagine!
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Be so blessed,