Sarah, the one with the heart whose love knows no bounds, with the voice like rain, with the iron determination of an army, struggled to maintain a pasted smile across from me. She nibbled at her breakfast, using it as Play-Dough rather than sustenance, and told me of her latest diet. I knew this game all too well. With searing shock, I recognized the hunger in her eyes she wouldn’t let her body satisfy. My eyes searched for the non-existent “extra pounds” she was making an enemy of, but I found nothing. How could she possibly think she needed to go on a cleanse? The warning signs had been there. How could I have missed this?
And then although she was sitting in front of me, I saw her standing in front of a mirror, scrutinizing, punishing, hating everything that made her breathtaking.
Just like I do. It was like those anorexia illustrations they show you in health class, where the skinny person bores into the mirror only to find a grotesque, unwanted, too-much reflection. God, could this possibly be what she sees?
A fighting truth threatened to erupt inside of me as it churned with anger and fierce indignation. She had been hoodwinked—no—suffocated by a lie so encompassing, I knew she wouldn’t hear any humble words I would try to offer her.
I didn’t. In the throes, in the midst of this battle against your our imperfect flesh, we are blinded into justification. All offerings of truth are pity. Any concern for our health is proof of our discipline. Our ear canals are closed like the 405 in rush hour to anything that might cause our tower of self-deprecation to crumble.
As I tried to reach out to my drowning soul-friend, the vision suddenly switched. The girl staring Sarah back in the mirror was actually far smaller than the girl sitting in front of me. It didn’t make sense. Sarah was unhappy because she was desperately trying to become smaller. This vision seemed to illustrate Sarah’s achievement of her goal. What could this picture mean?
And a voice whispered, “Her life is supposed to be so much bigger than she realizes.”
The whisper washed over me.
The problem was not about trying to be skinnier.
The problem was not her unhappiness with her body.
The problem was she saw her life to be much smaller, much less important, much less purposeful than it was meant to be.
She was deceived to think that her earthly body would dictate the plans carefully knit together for her life. She thought by starving and running and sweating and punishing, she would be preparing herself for great things.
But the great things that required starving and running and sweating and punishing couldn’t hold a candle to the life that was supposed to be hers. Her life could not be fulfilled in any body but the one she was breathing, thinking, hoping and dreaming in.
She was sacrificing her time and very thoughts to shrinking. And so, she was not only shrinking her body, but her existence.
We live in a culture that screams in a broken-record type of way, “The body is the point.”
But it’s not. I’ve met far too many beautiful people with forgettable, if not ugly, hearts; and countless forgettable faces with souls on fire that made them unforgettably exquisite.
Your body can tell stories of where you come from: your heritage, your hobbies, your home. But your body can’t tell the stories of what’s to come. That catalyst is solely inside of you.
Next time you pass a mirror, would you have a conversation with it? I ask you to look at that reflection not with eyes that simply see, but with eyes that discern.
Ask yourself if what you see is the point; the climax of your story, the “X marks the spot” kind of discovery on a treasure map.
I hope you see that it’s not, but rather, your reflection is a means to your adventure, the story that will write itself on this world before you go.
With discerning eyes, see the vehicle that makes your grand exploration and discovery possible.
Join Stories Change the World this month in Mirror Conversations on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays for stories spun by storytellers who are passionate about redefining the body as a means, not the end.