There was a time, not so very long ago, that I was known for flowered shirts.
Lots of flowered shirts.
It became something of a fixture at church – the big guy in the flowered shirt, playing the bass.
I also was known for my rings – big honkin’ silver ones that I made my own self. At least one on each hand, sometimes two or even three.
This was all in the season of life where I was over 400 pounds. Closer to 480 before January 2009. Since then, as most folks know, things have changed. A lot. My most recent weight was 230, but that was a trip to Mackinac Island and some 25 mile trike rides ago, so it might have changed again. I’m going to stop by the office soon to get an “official” number, just so we know how things are going. Goodwill is my favorite designer label (with Eddie Bauer being a close second, when I can get to a factory outlet), and wearing Under Armour makes me laugh every time I put it on.
(makes my wife and dog weep, but that’s another story…)
The flowered shirts are hanging in the basement. We made one attempt to sell them, but no takers. I’d like to get a placemat sized potholder loom, and turn them into placemats – I think that’d be a cool reminder of where I came from.
Most of the big honkin’ rings have been cut apart, their stones saved and the silver sent off to be refined. They gave up their existence to help pay for my new trike, Big Blue, and I’m grateful.
So the question that came to mind this morning, while taking Vicki to work and me to my North Office (spelled B-I-G-G-B-Y) is, “where have all the flowers gone?”
Why do I feel no desire to go find / buy / obtain replacements for my flowered shirt wardrobe? I’ve looked at a couple at GW, but had no real desire to try them on or purchase them. I don’t find myself missing the big splashy patterns, nor longing after the eye-bleeding colors.
I don’t “need” them. That’s honestly what I think about them now.
As for the rings, I could go down to the bench and make some replacements in my new ring size, but I don’t feel any desire to do so.
I don’t “need” them.
I don’t color my hair anymore. Friends remember my red tones, that actually were very close to what my hair looked like when I was a boy. I even have a box of color at home, but have no desire to use it. No “need.”
Besides, my hair has its own ideas these days. Let me say it in public – no, it’s not a perm. It decided to go Chia Pet all on its own.
As always, my writing is where I trot stuff out to take a look at it in the physical world, and sort through the baggage. So, what did I “need” this stuff for, and why don’t I “need” it now? You would think a 480 pound man wouldn’t want to wear a big ol’ flowered shirt. Kind of like hanging a sign around my neck saying “HEY! LOOK AT THE FAT GUY!” The ring bling? The red hair? Same deal.
Theory #1: My mom told me (drilled into me, truth be told) that “fat people can’t wear bright colors. You can only wear dark colors, so that people won’t see how heavy you are.” Yeah. That really works with my personality, right? I’m so shy and withdrawn that just blending into the background is what I’m all about. I used to wear the most colorful, obnoxious shoes I could find, just because that was one area where she couldn’t tell me not to wear bright colors.
So, perhaps the adult still dealing with SBS (Spoiled Brat Syndrome) sees the flowered shirts, rings and hair as his rebellious hour come ’round at last. And there is some truth to that.
Theory #2: I wear such things to convince the world that I’m perfectly fine with my size. I’m not ashamed, I’m alright. I’m still a child of God, gifted by Him in so many ways, and I can serve Him even at my huge size.
This too has some truth in it. Actually, this is the one I lean toward, probably because I’m in denial about the whole SBS thing.
But underneath these was a layer of horrible self-image, depression and self-loathing that fueled the fire. Trying to find something, anything to hang on to, to be proud of, to prove that I’m alright. Looking for someplace to hold on to, a place where I could feel alright about me.
A place not to hurt.
It’s the stereotypical Jolly Fat Man, laughing and smiling on the outside, deeply cut and bleeding on the inside.My bandages were made of red hair, silver rings and flowered shirts. I wrapped my musical gifts around me like armor, the one thing I could be proud of. A little, anyway.
Was I worth any less in the sight of God at this time? No.
Did Vicki love me any less in my huge days? No – she never once resented having to take care of me all those long years.
Did my friends revile me because of my weight? No.
But I did. I couldn’t believe God’s love because I couldn’t accept that anyone could love something like me. I was terrified that Vicki would come to her senses and realize how unfair it was to be shackled to a horror like me. If I stopped playing, being useful to others, then I’d lose the one reason I had left for people to “like” me.
God intervened, at the exact right time. In His horrible mercy, He swung the wrecking ball, taking my job. There went one of my only reasons for getting up in the morning. My joy in worship – gone. One of my only reasons for going to church. For a few months, I went quietly insane, with no hope.
And still He waited, jackhammer in hand. The demolition was not done yet.
If you’ve read my story, you know what happened next. The foundation was swept clean when my old life was cut away on March 30th, 2010. My chains were shattered, and I was set free. Grace poured out in such abundance that it truly left me speechless.
And along the way, He said “see yourself as I have always seen you, my son. See yourself as redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. You are gifted, you are Mine, you are worth it, and you will point others to Me.”
Am I worth more in God’s eyes at 230 pounds than I was at 480? No.
Does Vicki love me more at 230 pounds than she did at 480? No.
Do my friends accept me more at this size than before? No.
The only thing that changed is how I see me. I am redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. I am gifted, I am His, I am worth it, and I live to point others to Him.
I don’t need to wear flowered shirts, big silver rings, or have red hair. God wiped the slate clean, reset my odometer to zero, and re-wrote my history. The only thing I need is Him.
Got any flowered shirts? Huge rings? And issues underneath, holding them up? Dear one, YOU are redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. You are gifted, you can belong to Him, and you are worth the price Jesus paid for you.
And God loves you. Right now. Where you are at, whatever baggage you carry, with things wrapped over your eyes, blinding you and muting the pain.
You don’t need that stuff anymore. You just need Him. Mercy, grace, love – all waiting to be unleashed when we say yes to our Father.
Give us what we need today, Lord, for today. Let us rest in the truth that You have already placed the steps ahead in our path. We only need to walk today’s way, and leave tomorrow to You. Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.