From the Body to the Heart

From the Body to the Heart

1707 1280 Nathaniel Lee Hansen

Two weeks ago, one of my pastors preached a sermon about how God is after our hearts. I’ve listened to my share of sermons on this topic, but this sermon was, without a doubt, the best one I’ve heard. In fact, I’ve been “chewing” on it ever since.

Among the many meaningful statements he offered, this one is perhaps the most crucial for me: “God gets to our hearts through our bodies.” This statement was in the context of explaining that Christianity is a way of life in which we follow Jesus with our bodies and that “the things we do, do something to us.”

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I’ve been thinking about my body for a while now. Weeks, months, years, decades.

But when I think about my body, I become uneasy. I think about my appearance, I think about my weight, I think about what I’d like to look like, and I think about what others think about me.

“God gets to our hearts through our bodies.” True, yes.

What does this mean for someone like me? What does this mean for me, someone with an eating disorder?

(I know what gluttony is, believe me. I know it’s listed—repeatedly—as a sin.)

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When I clutch that “extra” flesh above my waist, I know that is doing something to me.

When I stare at skinny guys, I know that is doing something to me.

When I binge, I know that is doing something to me.

When I make myself complete strenuous workout to “atone” for my binging, I know that is doing something to me.

When I deprive myself of food while my stomach rumbles, I know that is doing something to me.

When I do these actions, I am giving myself over to distortions. I am allowing these destructive actions to do something to me.

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When I feel lonely, I run to food.

When I feel bored, I run to food.

When I feel stressed, I run to food.

When I feel worried, I run to food.

When I feel joyful, I run to food.

When I feel “fat,” I run to food, because it seems as though my efforts to be skinny again (as I was when I was 17) will never be realized.

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My eating disorder competes with the Creator of the universe for my worship. It doesn’t “win” as often as it used to though. There is hope. There is healing.

But then, what will I do, what actions, can give God space to change my heart?

Walk away from the refrigerator when I’ve already had dessert and instead walk toward my wife, toward my kids.

Play my piano when I feel lonely.

Pick up the pen and notebook when I feel stressed.

Kneel beside my bed and speak my worries to God when I am worried.

God gets to the heart through the body, yes, and so I will commit to actions that allow for this lifelong transformation.

 

 

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I’m a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. My chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press (2014). My work has appeared in Christianity and Literature, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Blast Furnace, Driftwood Press, Whitefish Review, The Cresset, Midwestern Gothic, and South Dakota Review, among others. I currently serve as an assistant professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I also edit Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and direct the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival. When not writing or teaching, I run, read, play piano, listen to music, and play disc golf. My greatest joys are my wife, my son, and my daughter. I was born in southern Minnesota, but while growing up, I had little interest in the Plains and opens spaces. A stint at a rural state liberal arts college in southwestern Minnesota, as well as grad-school stints in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, altered my interests. @plainswriter, plainswriter.com, & www.facebook.com/plainswriter

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4 Comments
  • Food was my go-to as well. I was bulimic in my late teens and into my early twenties. Food and body image had me in bondage for most of my life. I found freedom through Jesus. This doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted or that I don’t mess up. It’s just not the “every single day battle” that it was. It’s like what you said, “My eating disorder competes with the Creator of the universe for my worship. It doesn’t “win” as often as it used to though. There is hope. There is healing.”
    I’m praying that there will be freedom for someone reading this. Bless you for your courage.

  • “What actions can give God space to change my heart?” That speaks some ( uncomfortable) truth right there… food issues notwithstanding. Well said, Nate.

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