Hello Lovely Ladies! Here is the fourth and final installment of the Fan the Flame series. In part one – we looked at some of the things that hinder our confidence and then in parts two and three – we looked at strategies to start to rebuild our confidence.
As you read what Erika is sharing below – I want you to look for how she is using some of the strategies I mentioned in parts two and three. Specifically – investing in herself. You will see other things as well – subtle maybe – but there.
As truths tumbled out of his mouth, I felt like the stitches were being ripped out, and the crocheted blanket that was my life began to unravel rapidly. Through the process of trying to put my life back together over the past 6 months, I am now starting to gain clarity on the lies I had bought in to.
Lie #1: I have to take care of myself because God may fail me
When I was 7 months pregnant, my husband asked me for a divorce. He said he never loved me. He denied having an affair and blamed me instead. I stayed and worked on myself. I found out much, much later that he lied.
If you had asked me at the time, I would say I relied on God.
I still think that is true to a degree.
But after my husband’s recent disclosure, I remembered a long-ago (18 years!) conversation I had with my sister. It went something like this… “I have done everything God has wanted me to do. I was an obedient child, neglected, and thrown away by our parents. I am a good wife and mom only to be rejected and blamed again. I need to have a backup plan.” (As in – I need to take care of myself because God isn’t getting it done and has disappointed me).
My backup plan was food. It was there to comfort me tangibly. Every time my husband would gaslight me (manipulate, blame, lie), act in (stare at me blankly, sleep versus connect, avoid being home), act out (although I did not know any of these terms at the time) I turned to food. Living in a world not understanding what was really going on ratcheted up my anxiety level. Food was like a warm cocoon, making me feel safe and secure. The problem is, its positive effects were short-term while doing long-term damage.
My physical health declined.
I have learned over the last couple of months that my vow—the backup plan—was harmful. That despite how it may look, God was ALWAYS there waiting to tend to my broken and wounded heart. I had to be willing to trust Him MORE than trusting the comfort of food. The short-term benefits of turning to food to numb my feelings pale to the long-term damaging health effects. Not to mention that food can never fill the hole that only God can.
Lie #2: If I were thinner, my husband would not have had affairs.
My husband repeatedly told me if I was thinner, he would be more attracted to me. He even went so far as to buy literature that supported the claim that men are designed by God to desire a thin wife.
I bought into it.
I spent many years using unhealthy techniques to lose weight to make him happy. I would lose significant amounts of weight for a while, only to gain it back, especially as my husband became increasingly absent in our marriage.
When I found out about his numerous affairs in May, I was sucked into the lie again, but thankfully not for long. This time, I realized that my weight is NOT a source of his addiction. No matter what I weigh, my husband would have still made the same choices.
I went back and looked at photos from the time that the first affair began, and I was shocked. In the photo was a young woman not who he had conjured, but a woman who was healthy and fit.
Seeing that picture and knowing how many times he (falsely) rejected me, sent me down a path of freedom. No matter how fit I have been (or not been), my spouse has never been satisfied. I was able to separate his unrealistic, unhealthy, unattainable lustful ideals from my intrinsic value as a person God lovingly designed. I no longer feel pressure to chase after my husband’s skewed vision and am able to stop berating myself. The figurative weight of trying to measure up was lifted.
Two months ago, I began a weight loss journey with the assistance of a weight loss coach. It is NOT for my husband. It is for ME– to be a healthier ME, and to honor and trust God completely. It has been challenging. I am learning to manage stress better, get more sleep, drink more water, only eat what my body needs, and telling my emotions to take a back seat (more on that in a minute).
This requires INTENTIONALITY.
There are times I fail, but as I make more successful decisions, it gets easier to make the better choice.
Telling my emotions to take a back seat does NOT mean stuffing them for good. It requires me not to eat at that moment and set aside time to work through the emotions. Using tools such as digging deep and identifying where the feelings are coming from, praying, journaling, listening to praise music, exercising, talking with a friend or accountability partner, and recognizing success.
When I crave carbs to cope, I choose to eat a radish instead. Radishes work for me because they are crunchy, and the process of chewing is satisfying. The peppery flavor wakes up my taste buds, unlike the mindless swallowing of ice cream that leaves me feeling drained.
For me, using food to cope results in weight gain and muscle aches. I have not entirely done away with carbs; I just do not let them reign my daily food intake. Most importantly, I have learned that no amount of cardio or kale or carbs is going to heal the pain. Only God can do that.
What about you? Have you ever felt that God has disappointed you? Have you struggled with Him not showing up the way you expected? Like me, have you believed the lie from your spouse, society, friend, or relative that if you were thinner, your partner would not have had an affair or struggle with addiction?
A little about Erika – she enjoys listening to audio books, working on jigsaw puzzles, and mentoring people with cerebral palsy.