The realization that a quarter of the year has flown by already forces me to take stock of the last three months. I haven’t written a single blog post because every other aspect of my life has been crazy busy. But I’m still here and still writing (and re-writing) my story day by day.
I am a healthy sceptic of New Year’s resolutions. I think they are too ambitiously made and too easily forgotten. But I decided this year needed to bring changes in my well-being. I was tired of being tired. I prayed my Father in heaven would show me how to end this sadness and brokenness that has been defining my body, mind and soul for far too long. I want this year to be the year of healing.
I have tried so many remedies for this brokenness that I was at my wit’s end. I decided to begin with my body – the part of me that stares back at me from the mirror every day. I’ve been trying to eat healthily and exercise regularly for many months without seeing any results, so I went to consult another doctor to have a check-up and seek advice. To be fair to this doctor – I placed all my hope for healing on this examination. I wanted her to diagnose me with some disorder that could be fixed by popping a pill. Instead, she told me everything was perfectly fine and that there was nothing wrong with me.
I barely made it to the car before bursting into tears. How is this possible? Did she see me? Did she hear me? It took a few hours for me to realize that getting a healthy diagnosis is actually a blessing. But it meant I was back at square one.
I realized I needed to dig deeper – I needed to examine my mind. From experience, I have known for a long time that a person’s physical health is a manifestation of your mental and emotional health. If my physical markers were normal then the problem must be with my emotional and mental health.
I was recently introduced to BodyTalk – “a natural healthcare system, which is designed to work with, and support, your body’s own natural ability to repair and restore itself”. I have been for a few in-person sessions. As a healthcare professional, I struggle to make sense of the science of healing through the techniques of a stranger tapping and talking to my body. What did help me tremendously, and I can highly recommend, is an online course called Formula for Calm presented by my BodyTalk practitioner.
The Formula for Calm course consists of four to five weeks of virtual group sessions, recorded videos, study guides and practice sessions where you learn how to examine stressful and traumatic situations in your life. The process involves you identifying any trigger event that caused anxiety, breaking it down into the facts of the event as well as your emotions around this trigger. Then you evaluate each aspect to determine whether your experience of the trigger is true, false or uncertain. This process must result in the most important step – you make a new choice about this trigger and change the story you tell yourself about this trigger.
This has been life-changing for me. Everything that happens to us in our lives is filtered through our subjective lens informed by previous experiences and the stories we tell ourselves about these experiences. In his book The God of the Garden, Andrew Petersen quotes his counsellor: “I’ve never met anyone who could correctly interpret their own childhood.” This is not only true of our childhood but also of our adult experiences. If like me, you are prone to anxiety, then you can easily fall into the trap of becoming overwhelmed by your subjective experience.
Since I started this course, I have thought of many childhood experiences that framed my perception of myself and my place in the world. I generally had a very happy and blessed upbringing so I can only imagine what it must be like for children from difficult backgrounds to reflect on these internal stories.
Allow me to share one example of an early story: One of my first piano exams was at my music school with my own music teacher. As a young over-achieving perfectionist, I had practised hard for hours and days to get a good grade. When I arrived at the time of my exam my teacher was still busy with the previous student. I immediately assumed that I either missed my exam or that she had forgotten about me. I burst into tears! I thought I would never be able to play my exam and all that hard work would be wasted. Furthermore, I believed my exam must be less important for her so she forget about me. As a ten-year-old, I was already desperate to prove myself to the world and now I had missed this opportunity. When the teacher was finally done with the other student she called me in for my turn. She asked if I had been crying and I made up a weak lie about having allergies.
This desire to prove that I am good enough and worthy of love and belonging has been a life-long battle for me. Every potential friend that rejected me, the less-than-perfect-A report card, the fact that I did not get accepted to medical school and that I was a late bloomer with romantic relationships all became neon signs pointing to the fact that I must be unworthy.
As I mentioned, I grew up in a loving home with many blessings and privileges. Over the last few years, I have come to understand that this desperate need to feel worthy goes much deeper than my family of origin. For reasons that will take me a book or two to unpack, my young heart believed that I needed to earn love and affection – especially from Jesus.
Andrew Petersen’s words cracked me open:
“The gospel broke through because it isn’t just about the fact that we’re fallen – that part’s easy for me to swallow – it’s about the fact that we’re perfectly loved. And that’s the part I have a hard time believing on a minute-by-minute basis.”The God of the Garden, Andrew Petersen
I’m finally beginning to surrender to the wonderful truth that Jesus already loves me, just as I am. He chose me and died for me.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners… For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.Romans 5:8,10
There is nothing I have to do to earn his love. Yes, his love should change me and how I live my life, but I don’t need to work for this love.
When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.Romans 4:4
The truth of His love is the New Choice I need to make on a “minute-to-minute basis“. This is my new story.
The unrelenting, undeserved love of Jesus is what can free me from the pursuit of perfection because I will never be perfect, except through the work of Jesus, not my own.
But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:22-23
This love of God stops me in my tracks, forces me to take a deep breath and kneel in humbling gratitude.
You might wonder what does all this have to do with my health?
The answer is: Everything.
I can accept that all the trauma and heartache that has happened to me in the last few years is not because of God’s lack of love for me. If I don’t follow my eating plan perfectly and don’t lose all the kilograms I want to lose, I am still loved by him. If I never become a mother and society doesn’t have a place for me – Jesus still loves me. My Father approved this path for me. He is working it all for my good (Romans 8:28) so that I can live with Christ forever.
Jesus loves me and nothing can change that (Romans 8:38-39). Changing this story into a fundamental truth that informs my “minute-by-minute” perspective is a continuous choice, a battle against all the old stories I know so well.
“Love is his glory, and his glory is our joy. He keeps the story going till its magnificent end. Until then he keeps the ache blooming in our chests with every hammer blow of beauty, keeps us hungry for the wedding feast with every eucharist, every gathering of the saints. Even in pain, death, and danger, he keeps our ending safe as houses in the promise that the sorrows now is a countermelody to the impending trumpet blast of joy.”Andrew Petersen, The God of the Garden
Jesus loves me. He loves you too.
Just as you are.
I hope this song blesses all the recovering perfectionists:
You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you
Be kind to yourselfBe kind to yourself – Andrew Petersen