Jan 5, 2017

In Good Faith: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

In my January In Good Faith column, I write about the potential pitfalls of New Year's resolutions and the importance of God-centered affirmation.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

This time of year is lousy for one’s self image. 

Part of this is self-inflicted. I mean, someone had to eat those last dozen Christmas cookies
(Yeah, no one's winning anything here)
before they went stale. And no on wants rancid egg nog taking up valuable shelf space in the refrigerator in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. So you’ve stepped up to the dessert plate and done your heroic duty by taking one for the Yuletide team.

Part of this is stress-induced eating. Fortunately, we can blame this on spending time over the holidays with our somewhat dysfunctional families. How do you cope with over-bearing in-laws who have stayed beyond the requisite three days? Why, stuffing your face with pie, of course.

Part of this is societal pressure. Cookie swaps? Yes, this is how you ended up with 10-dozen different varieties of Christmas cookies including, but not limited to, gingerbread, meringues, sugar cookies, chocolate bourbon balls, etc.

Part of this is due to re-gifting. Besides the same fruitcake that’s been passed around the neighborhood for the past decade, people actually do give tasty, calorie-laden items that you want to keep. And consume. Because they’re delicious. And you don’t really have time for dinner since that tree won’t trim itself!

All of which, combined with those Facebook memes depicting broken post-holiday scales, don’t help anyone’s self image as they prepare to ring in the New Year. Which is precisely how all the local gyms stay in business (“New Year, New You!”).

What gets lost in this body-shaming, resolution-making time of year, is that God loves you precisely as you are and for who you are. Whatever you look like, God already loves you with reckless abandon and nothing you do or don’t do can change that. If your 2017 resolutions include eating only whole grain, free-range kale and running a marathon every day, God will love you just as much as if you resolve to watch every show ever released on Netflix. 

Now, I’m not saying this in a Mister Rogers “I like you just the way you are” kind of way. Sure, that’s affirming and it’s important to hear this message, especially at times when our self-esteem has bottomed out. But God isn’t just a nice guy in a cardigan sweater who feeds the fish and brings you into the Land of Make Believe. 

God loves you for who you are even as God seeks your transformation. God loves you even though there are things that God would like nothing more than to help you change. 

What do I mean? I believe God loves me even as I am being invited to be less judgmental of others, more gracious in my offline and online interactions, more open to those who differ from me. God encourages our transformation to be kinder and more open and more accepting and more compassionate. For Christians, this means “taking on the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians. 

So, if you have made resolutions as we begin this new year, remember to be kind to yourself. Yes, God seeks your best self but God already loves whatever self you have to offer. And this is something that tends to get lost amid our frenzied annual period of self-shaming.

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