While I kept silence, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Psalm 32: 3-4
After my mother passed away 10 years ago, I decided I ought to read the books she’d be ashamed to know that I hadn’t read yet. If I keep it up, I can live with dignity in the shadow of a mother’s legacy as warrior for the written word and university professor. On the list was, of course, the Bible and I’ve been at it for a few years now. Just finished the New Testament and in the middle of Psalms. A mere 920 pages left to go.
U2’s Bono loves the Psalms and passages often become the cornerstone to his lyrics. Having read Psalms 1-31, I still hadn’t found my rock anthem. Though, when I got to Psalm 32, I came across a line that did speak to me. For context, it speaks of God’s ability to forgive our sins and protect us from troubles. In exchange for that grace, we are admonished to acknowledge our wrongdoings and not cover up our iniquities. Lastly, we are to trust that God will honor his promises if we stop hiding in our “silence” and come clean. The above quote is raw, immediate, corporeal.
For the first 40 years of my life, I was quite overweight. It was a lifetime of chronic shame, disgust, and frustration. Surely I tried gyms and brief diet regimens, but I never truly committed to healing with any legitimate plan or zeal.
Then one day I was shown a way to eat and live that actually did bring about REAL weight loss. I lost over 60 pounds in 6 months. It was a rigorous, yet extremely effective food plan that took out all sugar, flour, alcohol, and unlimited quantities. After staying devoted to that way of life for 18 months, I decided I could relax my behavior and reintroduce the items I had been avoiding. That was 7 years ago. I have since fallen into a routine of eating healthfully during the weekdays and allowing myself modest amounts of sugar, flour, and alcohol on the weekends. Nothing crazy, nothing out of control. And I exercised fiendishly 5-6 days a week.
From an outside perspective, one would say that I looked fine. Yet, during those 7 years I gained about 30 pounds back. Full of fret and concern, I tried to tell myself all sorts of stories to excuse the gain. “I am exercising so it must be muscle weight. Maybe a little extra weight was OK. Maybe no one notices. ‘Normal’ people eat far worse than I do and they look fine. Why can’t I? It’s the small trade off to enjoying sweets and alcohol.” Lots of internal chatter. As much as I tried to excuse it all away, though, I was very worried. The wolf of weight gain was chasing me through the woods and it took a toll on my mental health.
All the while, there was a voice in my head trying to whisper wisdom. Namely, to put down the sugar, flour and alcohol and reclaim my hard earned weight loss. Again and again I’d make the commitment to heed this voice and, yet, I could never follow through. The failure, the frustration, and the disappointment. Ugg. The mental strain weighed three times the actual weight. I knew I had to stop and truly listen, truly heed that calling. And I knew that voice to be the Divine. The gentle, encouraging, yet honest voice of God, the Divine.
It wasn’t until I read that line in Psalm 32 did I realize how hard I had tried to suppress the voice of wisdom speaking. In a sense, ”keeping my silence” and my mind and body literally groaned in response. Last November, I finally surrendered myself to this Divine calling and put down the offending foods once again. For how long? I don’t know. All I know is that the moment I truly listened, got honest with myself, and turned to real action, that wolf was decidedly off my trail. What a relief.
When the relief overcame me, I hadn’t even lost any weight. It was the relief that I was no longer at war with myself. My actions had become unified with my inner thoughts and desires once again. My spiritual, physical, and mental grounding was once again intact and living the solution.