20 || Burned and Beautiful
Carol is one of my dearest friends. We work for the same organization. So, she was a familiar face long before I ever got to know her. Whenever we would pass each other in the hall, she never said hi and wasn’t very responsive to my attempts at being friendly. When Carol was transferred into the office I worked in as our Administrative Assistant, I got to know her better. It quickly became clear she was full of insecurities and very hard on herself. As she got comfortable with the people in our office she became less reserved. Her laugh was contagious and when she smiled her whole face lit up.
Since Carol was a co-worker, normal protocol would have been to keep things on the surface and not discuss anything too personal. Yet, I was compelled to get to know her. As we learned more about each other we discovered we had many of the same hurts and struggles even though we exhibited them in different ways. However, we both struggled with not being ruled by our fears. Consequentially, Carol had created many self-imposed barriers to hide behind for safety.
Struggling with weight was an issue Carol had since she was very young. It became a part of her identity. People made insensitive and cruel remarks which she internalized. When she was only two years old, there was a horrible accident. Her nightgown caught on fire resulting in severe burns. The incident was so traumatic that the doctors and nurses told her she was lucky to be alive. Carol wasn’t so confidant that was true. She distinctly remembers the day she became too weary to fight the onslaught of lies being shoved at her. She couldn’t see God as a loving Father. If this was what He’d intended for her, how could He really be caring or compassionate?
I’ve had the privilege of getting to watch as God has met Carol in the middle of her pain and brought restoration into her life. He began taking the lies she had believed and replacing them with truth. As healing came, the protective walls she’d built began to crumble. Carol could finally see God’s preservation of her life. As she reflected over her life, she became immensely grateful. She was learning about her true worth as God’s child. This healing even began to manifest itself physically. Her relationship with food changed when she began relying on God to meet her needs. It has been amazing to watch this transformation and to walk with Carol through this journey.
Abby: Could you elaborate about the day you stopped fighting the lies you’d been told?
Carol: On a cold day in November of 1999, the attack from the enemy was different because the lies seemed true (you are dumb; you are stupid; and there is no help for you). I had grown tired of fighting, so I accepted the lies and the hurt, as well as the shame. I wanted to hide and simply not deal with it. I realize now it was the enemy trying to destroy me. I can now say surrendering to the lies was the biggest mistake of my life.
One day, a small voice spoke to me and said, “They are not your thoughts until you accept them.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I am a witness that God’s word is true. After years of hiding and listening to the lies that day I decided I was tired of hiding. It was time for me to find out the truth. I began to pray and ask God for changes in my life. He heard my prayers. I began to recognize small changes. As I began to open more of myself to God, for him to work on and within me, the more changes took place in my life.
Abby: How did the burn accident affect how you viewed yourself?
Carol: I always thought negatively about myself because of the burn incident. The accident left me with very low self-esteem. I identified my self-worth and my beauty through this accident. God revealed to me that my accident saved me from a worldly life. Yes, I am different because it; but, I am blessed to be alive to share God and my story with whoever will listen.
Abby: Describe the journey you’re on now and how you’ve been able to conquer the weight?
Carol: My journey is so exciting because I have a new way of looking at life. I am not afraid to talk to others like I use to be. Before, I always thought I would say something dumb and would be laughed at or made to feel my thoughts were unimportant. I am a work in progress. Some days those old thoughts try to return, but the Holy Spirit quickly reminds me, “They are not your thoughts until you accept them.” I listen and move on!
Abby: How do you feel about yourself now?
Carol: I feel good about myself and have made some changes in my life. I started my journey to lose weight in 2004 after I tipped the scale at 494 pounds. I had gastric bypass surgery. I thought that would be my cure all. However, it was not. I thought, “I do not have to do anything because the surgery will take care of everything.” Nope, I lost 83 pounds; but I went back to my old eating habits and soon gained 30 pounds. back. I decided to take an active part in getting healthy. I started walking and I joined a local gym. Once I made these changes I started losing weight again (Thank God!). I realized I felt so much better when I was regularly working out. It relieved a lot of my stress. To date, I have lost 288 pounds and counting.