In our house when we were growing up, we had the all too familiar poem framed on our wall called Footprints in the Sand. A beautiful story of a man who goes through life with Jesus by his side, but in the man’s darkest times, he only sees one set of footprints in the sand. He says to Jesus ‘why would you leave me when I need you the most?’, Jesus responds to the man and says, ‘during your times of trouble, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you’.
As a young girl, I used to be verbally abused by my dad. He would call me horrible names, insult me, mock me and make me feel completely and utterly worthless.
As well as being verbally abused, when I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with a spinal condition called Idiopathic Scoliosis. This basically meant, that gravity was continually pulling my spine out of alignment.
Over the years as I grew up, my relationship with my father worsened, as did my spine. By the time I was 16 I no longer had a relationship with my father, my parents were divorced, my spine was 55 degrees out of alignment and my prognosis, was that by the time I was thirty, I would have chronic spinal arthritis, as well as heart and lungs problems – this if it wasn’t treated could be fatal.
My body image and self-esteem were in a terrible state. I didn’t love myself or my body.
I thought of myself as disgusting and worthless from all my dad’s hurtful words, I stopped eating because I hated my body, school became a drag, I started to rebel against my beliefs and eventually I started to hate God.
I hated my life and everything in it.
Things started to get better when my mum met my step-dad. He saw how broken I was and helped me get my life back on track
He invited me to attend his church – an upbeat, happy clappy, Pentecostal church, and so I went. That night, I recommitted my life to Christ.
Next came the most amazing encounter with God that I have ever had. On a youth camp, I received prayer for healing for my spine and IT WORKED! My spine was straight for the first time in ages.
Following being healed, my life changed dramatically. I became more focused at school, I started to love God, I stopped rebelling against my beliefs, I slowly found my appetite again (this happened after mum threatened to take me to hospital and have a nasal gastric feeding tube!) and overall, I started to love my life and love myself.
2 years later when I was 18, I had a check-up at the doctors. Since my healing I hadn’t had a doctor’s appointment to confirm it. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, my healing wasn’t a success and on the 9th of December 2014, I had to have surgery to fix my curve.
Post-surgery my life has been better than ever and it’s all thanks to the love of God. Although not successful, I took my encounter with God as Him showing me that He loves me.
This year, 2019, is 5 years since I had my surgery and since then I have accomplished many great things. I graduated from school, I moved countries from Australia to England, I got married to the love of my life, I have been blessed with 2 amazing families; my own and my in-laws, I have a job that I absolutely love, I go to a church that I can proudly call my home, and I have friends who are like family.
I have grown so much since my battle with body image began, and although there have been times where I wanted to give up, God carried me through and got me to where I need to be. Unfortunately, my relationship with my dad was never fixed, and sadly on January 8th, 2018 he passed away after an 8-year battle with cancer. But in God’s strength I was able to forgive him for everything that he did to me.
Having overcome this issue, it is my prayer, for anyone struggling with body image or self-esteem issues that they too can defeat this demon. Three bits of advice that really helped me were:
1. Always stand firm in your identity with Christ. Knowing this as your foundation of who you are, will strengthen you and help you daily.
2. Don’t let anything define who you are. God made everything in his image and said that it was good! Regardless of our flaws, we are GOOD!
3. Take time for yourself to heal, learn and grow. YOU are important, and it is essential for your wellbeing that you allow time for this.