By: Jennifer Spoelma
Like many women, body image insecurities have played a major part in my story. My sophomore year of college, I started recognizing how my obsession with my body, and all the things I thought were wrong with it, was inhibiting my life. When I spent time with girlfriends I was only half there because my mind was consumed with comparing myself and self-doubt. When I was alone, my thoughts spiraled downward quickly. I knew that I needed a change in my heart and my relationship with myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how to.
I practiced the discipline of “taking every thought captive.” Every time I noticed my harsh self-talk or caught myself comparing my body to someone else’s, I stopped myself. I asked God for forgiveness, and asked him to renew my mind. This was a very humbling process—it was outrageous how many times a day I needed to ask for forgiveness and a renewed mind.
As the days, weeks and months went on, I began to see progress. Even though I felt slow to learn, it was evident God was at work in my heart and in my life. Looking back on that time, I now see how hard it was for me to accept God’s grace for the mistakes I kept making. In my head, I knew he forgave me, but in real life it was so hard to believe. I felt like I was nudging close to the limit of how many times God would forgive me for the same sin.
My slowness to accept God’s grace came from a place of fear and doubt. I was afraid that if I accepted God’s forgiveness, and the freedom that was supposed to be found in it, but then ended up slipping into the same sin again, it would somehow disprove God’s power—maybe even his existence. St Augustine describes this doubt eloquently in his Confessions as he contemplates the faith involved with accepting grace, and ultimately, healing. He writes,
“But just as commonly happens that a person who has experienced a bad physician is afraid of entrusting himself to a good one, so it was with the health of my soul. While it could not be healed except by believing, it was refusing to be healed for fear of believing what is false.”
I wanted healing, and I wanted freedom. In a heap of tears on my dorm room floor, I told God I’d trust him. The sweetness of God’s grace astounded me. I felt his love for me, even when I was still so messy. Since that time, my knowledge that God’s grace for forgiving sins doesn’t run out, has become bona fide belief.
But what has really surprised me was discovering God’s grace isn’t just for after we sin or make mistakes. Instead, God’s grace is a gift we are given to live in at all times. It’s his grace that protects us from choosing sin in the first place, and it’s his grace that gives us strength to stand against temptation. His grace is what lets us see the world with a bigger perspective than the right here, right now. Accepting God’s grace changes everything. If you are in a season where you’re struggling with a pattern of sin and repentance, take heart. Even when it hurts in so many deep ways, it’s forging a dependency on God that will pay tenfold dividends down the road. Keep going to God and asking for forgiveness—his grace won’t run out. You can trust him on that.
The current trials you are facing aren’t the end of your story. Stories are about a journey. They’re about the process of moving from point A to point B, and the experiences and transformations that take place along the way. You don’t need to have it all figured out right now, but what you can do is start valuing the unique story you’ve been given by God.
Discovering your story is powerful because it is essential to living life intentionally. When we are able to identify a common storyline in our lives, it brings everything into perspective. We are able to see the trajectory of our lives, and seek knowledge and wisdom accordingly. This helps us make decisions that align with where we hope to be: in one year from now, five years, twenty-five years, and beyond.
Finding confidence in your story starts with believing in your worth and trusting that God has a greater plan for your life than you could imagine. It requires taking all of the pieces of life—the messy ones alongside the pretty ones—and reconciling them into a cohesive whole. It’s a process that takes time, intention and hard work. The stories we share say a lot about us, but also a lot about where our hope is. My hope is that my story points clearly to the glory of God. How about yours?
If you want to learn more about my writing and my new book Tell it Well: How to Discover, Own and Share Your Story Well, check out my Kickstarter campaign and help me launch it!