"Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness... What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 6:17-18, 21-23
I remember a time that used to be devoted to working out -- a time when every spare moment was a chance to do another set of abs or leg kicks or pushups -- a time when a spare hour was undoubtedly devoted to a quick run or weights or yoga.
It wasn't an option for me. It was a must.
I was enslaved.
Now? Well, there's a marked different in my mindset. There are many times I could work out, but I make a different choice -- to read or to write or to pray or even to do chores (which, oddly enough, I tend to find relaxing). I no longer feel enslaved because... well, as I've said before, what's the point? What will that one extra set of abs do? Where will that extra pushup get me? I'm all about being healthy, but part of being healthy is (for me) sometimes choosing not to exercise. For me, it is a sign of my old self -- the old ways -- the former chains. I was obsessed with being perfect for a variety of un-holy reasons. So, healthy goes beyond the body and into the emotional and spiritual realms.
The biggest thing for me right now is the fact that I don't even have to work through anything to achieve this non-exercise-body-perfect-obsessed reality. I'm just suddenly finding myself here -- as if I somehow stumbled along a worn-out path and found myself face-to-face with a new me -- a new reality -- a new life.
Where I am standing along the path, a very distant and dim but oh-so-familiar voice whispers in my ear, a familiar drone: "....you could exercise right now -- flatten that tummy out, you know..."
If I were to respond, I might say something like, "Why? There are so many other things I have not yet done today that bring me so much joy," or maybe just a simple, "Nah -- I just don't feel like it. Go away, voice."
But the glorious reality is that I barely have to fight it away, because the voice is just that soft -- like a far-off memory trying to force its way back into existence but failing miserably because it's starving. I simply haven't been feeding it. And it's dying.
This is extraordinary -- to suddenly find myself in this place -- and this realization coming from a girl who, merely two years ago or less, found it hard to focus in a worship service because I was bemoaning the fact that she wasn't as skinny as she wanted to be.
...I remember one such service, consumed perhaps by guilt -- for eating too many calories, as well as for not focusing on God -- feeling like I was being eaten alive -- oh, God! -- I remember it so well, and crying out to Him -- "Father, just save me from this life of filth and lies! I don't want this any more!" -- all the time wondering why I couldn't just let go of it.
And when did I let go, exactly?
It wasn't just a moment, was it?
It wasn't as if I could just make the decision and snap out of it, right?
It was years of striving and falling back -- of countless tears and obsession facing me in the mirror -- of being utterly consumed and worn-out and emptied -- of crying out to You day after day, moment after moment -- every time I caught glimpse of my reflection to boast or cringe at my profess -- it was each moment I brought it to You -- the painstakingly slow culmination of "Help Me's!" until suddenly, one day, I realized it just hasn't been an issue at all.
And it has taken an effort of new vocabulary and speech on my part -- of choosing not to indulge in skinny or fat talk -- to myself or to others.
And this small deliverance -- well, small to most, but huge to me and my life -- makes me think of the ways I ought to curate (as Megan of Sorta Crunchy puts it) my thoughts towards others awaiting deliverance. For who am I to point a finger and say, "Fix this part about your life now -- it has no part in the Kingdom of God and you just need to let it go and move on"? How can I say that to anyone after a 10+ year battle with body image as an idol (and still some residual scars that ooze up every now and then)? What kind of husband would Elliott have been if the third or fourth or fiftieth time I was crying about my body issues, he had just up and left and said to me, "You know, I told you to just let go. You didn't listen to me and I'm done giving you chances"?
Instead, he offered advice and support and prayer for years, perhaps with no end in sight -- no promise or hope of a resolution -- and he stayed. How much more will God stay with us through our struggles? And how could we, as children of the living God -- walking images of our Creator -- ever point a finger, scoff, and say, "Just get over it"?
No, friends. That is not the way of our Father.
We need to stay.
We need to remain with each other.
We need to remember that true deliverance is in the hands of the Lord.
I can't pretend that it happened overnight, like we always want and expect deliverance to happen. Sometimes it will only take a moment in in time -- sometimes it takes many moments -- perhaps even 30 years of growth and then a few years of ministry and then three days to overcome -- and then perhaps the rest of time-as-we-know-it -- yes, sometimes it takes a long time to witness true deliverance.
But it will come.
It will happen.
And sometimes, just moment by moment.