Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Cultures (with Kristi)

fivequestionsonCultures

with Kristi Rice

1) Describe your experience in other cultures and the attitude toward/relationship to body image you observed there.

Bob and I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is a region plagued by extreme poverty, but where the people are resilient, loving, and often hopeful in the midst of their daily struggles. Disease, hunger, and even malnutrition are common.  There seems to be a pretty clear distinction that people who are larger (weigh more), tend to be those who are more well-off economically. Among the population in general, people admire and envy people whose bodies are larger – because usually they perceive that those people don’t have to walk everywhere or are able to eat meat or rich foods more often. People generally prefer to have a little ‘cushion’ on their bodies, perhaps so that they have some ‘reserve’ in case they get a sickness that causes them to lose weight.
 
During our first year in Congo, we spent one month in a rural area to focus on language learning. We did a lot of walking in hot weather during that month and by necessity ate a lean diet. We had no intention of losing weight, and did not even realize that we had until our Congolese friends expressed concern and dismay upon our return to the city. “You’ve lost so much weight!”, some would say, “That trip was too hard on you.” They wanted to feed us well so that we would return to our former ‘healthy’ weight.
 
Congolese tend to be conservative in how they dress. Women (married women, especially) have at least two layers in their skirts, and wearing shorts would be considered nearly obscene. Yet, sometimes they also seem to have an open-ness and acceptance about their bodies that surpasses ours. Sometimes when we visit someone who has had surgery, they are eager to show us the wound, even if it might be in a less “appropriate” spot. Congolese are also not inhibited to comment on someone else’s body – “I wish I could be fat like you,” is one phrase that we have heard said. We have tried to observe and learn so that we can respect their culture well and live within it.
 

2) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

I find that in one sense I am more conscious of my body because of the frequent comments from friends or strangers about my body. If I have been away for more than a week, people who I greet on the street are likely to make an assessment like, “You’ve gained weight! Must have been a good trip.” Or “Did you get sick? You’ve lost weight.” Often, we will hear both paradoxical perspectives in the same day, so we’ve learned to laugh and not take it seriously. Yet, the Congolese perspective has made me less self-conscious about my body size also. I have learned to appreciate being healthy more than having certain image. As white people living in an African country, we are often stared at, scrutinized, and touched simply because of the novelty of seeing a foreigner up close. So – it really helps to be comfortable with who you are!
 

3) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you relate to others?

I feel a greater sense of freedom in relating to others. Joining the Congolese in their culture of being frank and open about our bodies seems to help me be more “real” in other aspects of the relationship. Last year I shared with Therese, a Congolese friend, about my embarrassment and annoyance when people on the road would make comments (sometimes shouting comments) about my body as I was jogging. Therese laughed, shared her own even more humiliating experience, and told me I should not let it bother me. Those shared experiences are so encouraging and helpful!
 

4) How has that relationship/attitude affected your spiritual life?

Living in Congo, where we are daily confronted with people who are hungry, sick, or desperately poor, has prompted me to be grateful for the simple, basic things in life, like being able to choose the food I eat or walk up the stairs. I am grateful that God made me the way he did…in my case, it is much more valuable for life in Congo that I don’t have food allergies than that my body were thin or beautiful. The nudge to be grateful as well as the openness about body image in Congo has enriched my sense of who I am as a creation and daughter of God. In spite all of my faults, sin, and stumbling, I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Reiterating what I have learned to appreciate about Congolese culture, take a risk with being open and honest –with yourself, with others, and with God. And be grateful … for whatever your body looks like and the way God created you to interact with the world.
 
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What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

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Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Exercise (with Eric)

fivequestionsonExercise

with Eric Hall

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with exercise. If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I started exercising when I was a sophomore in high school.  I think I mainly started to become more attractive to women and to feel better about my physical appearance.  My exercise habits have changed over time depending on how busy I have been.  In 2007 I exercised for around 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.  In 2009 I ran 7 days a week.  I still exercise but it usually last around 1 hour each time and it happens around 3 times a week.

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

It has helped my self-confidence when it comes to my looks.  I have had compliments about my muscles.  That always makes me feel good.  Right now I am still in pretty good shape but I am very aware of unwanted fat on my body.  At times that fat makes me feel less secure about my appearance (I know this is unhealthy).

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

It has given me conversations with others that exercise.  I know to some girls it has made me more attractive.  At least from their comments that is what it sounded like.  It has also taken me away from spending more time with people (I will talk about this more in questions 4).

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

At times my exercising habits have become an obsession.  I refused to spend time with others because I HAD to get my exercise routine done.  I, one time, made my family wait an hour after they had driven 6 hours to come see me because I HAD to exercise.  This was extremely unloving and very selfish.  This was a sin, so obsession with exercise negativity affected my spiritual life.  But…I do believe that as a follower of Christ I am to be a holistic person.  This means I should try and be as healthy as I can be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I do believe it honors the gift that God gave us, our bodies, when we exercise.  But as I mentioned, exercise can sometimes become an obsession, which is unhealthy and sinful.

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Exercise, but within reason.  Don’t let it become an obsession.  I do believe that it can be a way to honor God, which is great.  I also do not believe that it is wrong to also do it to make yourself more attractive to yourself and others.
 
Ocean Me 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Dating/Singleness (with Anonymous Girl)

fivequestionsonDating/Singleness

with Anonymous Girl

The post below is a deeply vulnerable and honest response to the five questions.  Because it is a little longer, I included an excerpt here with a link to the remaining questions. You won’t want to miss the end!

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

In high school, I fell in with the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “True Love Waits” crowd, of my own volition.  I dated a boy for 6 months, but we never kissed.  (Years later, he came out as gay, but that wasn’t a shock.)  In college, my idea was that I wanted to be friends with a guy before I started dating him.  I had serious crushes on a few guys, but they never seemed interested in me, and I wasn’t too concerned about dating.  Dating was only for when you were actually interested in getting married and had time to invest in such a relationship, and I knew I wasn’t ready for that in college.  
 
Post college, my time opened up dramatically, and I was really mad at God that I wasn’t dating anyone.  I thought that was a perfect time to meet someone, date them, and then get married.  Nothing else in my life was working, so couldn’t God at least throw me a bone on that front and let me meet my husband?!  I went through some serious depression (due to a lot of issues), and eventually started my life moving in a better direction, with more hope.  Still no one worth dating came across my path.  From time to time, someone VERY interesting to me would appear, reminding me that somewhere out there, there IS someone interesting whom I will meet and marry, at least I hoped so!
 
At 25, I moved to California and developed a huge crush on a new acquaintance.  Who two months later started dating my polar-opposite roommate.  And two months after that, they were engaged.  I was hurt and disillusioned, figuring that I obviously didn’t have a clue what kind of man could ever be interested in me.
 
Since then, my perspective on God, on life, and on love has changed drastically.  This helped me to understand better what kind of a man I’m looking for, and that someone who previously I wasn’t interested in could actually fit me well.  I tried eHarmony for 4 months and was bitter and angry that none of the men I was interested in messaged me back, and only men I was clearly NOT interested in messaged me.  A year and a half later, I tried another 4-month stint on eHarmony with a much more open mind.  If the profile interested me at all, I initiated conversation, and anyone who messaged me I replied to, even if I wasn’t the least bit interested in them.  I at least got one coffee date out of it, but nothing more.  
 
At 28, I had my first kiss with a man who was a friend of mine, and I FREAKED OUT.  We remained friends, and 6 months after the kiss, we finally talked about it, and realized that maybe there was something real between us.  I dove head first into that relationship, learning a lot about how relationships work (it was my first since high school, barring a few looking-back-that-was-a-date dates). But just a few weeks in, he got a new job in a city 6 hours away and we knew that was a closed door. It was definitely the right decision.  I know we could have made a relationship work, but it would have been a LOT of work, and we probably aren’t the best complement to each other.  But I learned a lot about myself, and had a lot more confidence in myself that I was actually attractive to someone, and that I could actually be a good girlfriend to someone!
 
And then, 6 months after that, I started dating a very good friend of mine.  We had been pseudo-dating for 6 months, spending a lot of 1-on-1 time together, doing somewhat romantic things.  Most of the time we were hanging out, I looked around and realized that anyone who was watching us would think we were on a date, but we weren’t.  He finally asked me on a “date date”, and I was thrilled. I really liked him, and was excited that something that felt so natural and started with the foundation of a close friendship was actually panning out into a real dating relationship!
 
I was so excited, I told my 20 closest friends.  I had a LOT of confidence in the relationship because we already knew each other so well.  I knew he was a keeper because it would take us at least to the 6-month mark to learn something about each other or the relationship that we didn’t already know.  We even talked about how awesome it was that we started out as such good friends and that was the perfect foundation to build a future together.  A few weeks into the relationship, he asked if I wanted us to be a “couple”, which I readily agreed to.  One week after that, he said he “wasn’t feeling the romance of the relationship”.  I was floored, and we haven’t really spoken since.  He was kind about it, but I’m still very confused why, if he wasn’t actually attracted to me romantically, he asked me out to begin with.  That was several months ago, and while I miss his friendship and the time we spent hanging out, I don’t really miss him.  That’s probably a sign that maybe we weren’t right for each other, anyway, but knowing that doesn’t make me any less lonely.
 
I think the hardest part is that in my life, I have some professional ambition, but the only thing I KNOW I want out of life is to be a wife and mother.  When everything else is confusing, it is really easy to focus on that one aspect of my life, and blame God for my being single.  I don’t necessarily regret the freedom I’ve had, nor do I want to trade places with my friends who are already mothers.  I just wish I were a step or two closer to that being my own reality. I’ve had seasons where I’m very content being single – having the freedom to drop everything and go out of town for the weekend, or extend a business trip for a few days of vacation.  But there are other seasons where all I can think about is finding my husband.  I scan the pews at church, looking for cute men of an appropriate age, then checking out their left hands and being disappointed that “all the good men have been snatched up!”
 
So I don’t really know what to do about all that, except trying to keep an open mind, a grateful heart, and a full schedule so I don’t sit at home and mope about how lonely I am.  🙂
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

 I’ve never been an overly girly-girl, probably as a reaction to the fact that I’ve never been the “hot” or “cute” girl, and being 5’9″ and 200 pounds, I’m bigger than average.  I’m usually okay with that, I am just acknowledging that it takes a certain kind of man to find someone with my body shape and size attractive.  I don’t believe I’m ugly, I’ve just come to terms with the reality that I’m not a stunner, either, and that looks do matter to men, to probably a greater extent than they do to me.  (Just about any man in the -2/+10 year range who is 6’3″ or taller is attractive in my book!)
 
I had a season in the post-college stage where I thought my gender was invisible. Read the rest of this entry

A Year in Review

I’m proud to guest post today for my good friend Tammy over at Live, Laugh, Love. She asked me a few questions about what life has been like recently compared to the previous year.  Thanks, Tammy, for the opportunity to reflect and share!

Here’s a little excerpt below. Be sure to click on through to read the rest at Live, Laugh, Love.

1. Where were you one year ago from today? And how did you see yourself in a year?

A year ago today, I was married just over a year and living in Santa Barbara less than a year. My husband and I were still looking for a church community, and I had been unsuccessfully applying for jobs in the area to supplement the part-time work I was already doing from home.  I was still recovering from an intense season of burnout and had just undergone a series of medical tests to rule out any medical contribution to my extreme and prolonged fatigue.  I would have described myself as tired and isolated but also as a happy newlywed.
At that point, I couldn’t summon the energy to project into the future very far and could not imagine what would come a year from then.  I knew I would still be married, and I hoped we would be moving on to a different area of the country–preferably one with a lower cost of living and a different community/church environment.  The energy I did have I put into building my blog platform and shaping my voice at Holistic Body Theology Blog. I alternated between feeling invested and successful at blogging and feeling drained and like I was wasting my time.  Sometimes I felt ready to close it down altogether because I wasn’t getting the return I wanted for all the energy I invested in writing.

2. Where are you today? What has actually changed from where you saw yourself?

Today I am in a very different place… Read the rest at Live, Laugh, Love!

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Food (with Jenn)

fivequestionsonFood

with Jenn

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with food.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I have always loved food…the variety, the possibility, and the flavor.  However, my experience of eating food has not always been pleasant.  Ever since I was a baby, I have had digestive issues–meaning I had pain and discomfort often after eating.  Until I was 25, I thought there was nothing I could do to change my digestive issues besides medication remedies, and they often didn’t work.  
 
When I was 25 I began dating my husband who was gluten free.  As we often shared food on dinners out or I cooked gluten free to accommodate his dietary restrictions, something funny happened… I began to feel better! This began a journey of learning that what I eat, affects how I feel.  Five years later, I found  and have stuck to a diet that has brought me complete healing–the Paleo Diet.  No longer do I fear pain when I eat–and that is an amazing gift.  Some might say being on a such restricted diet would be too hard but it has opened my world in learning how to cook well and understanding the relationship between my health and food.
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

As I have experienced physically healing, my body image has become more positive.  My body looks completely healthy now.  I rejoice in that and thank God!
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

I find myself more passionate to educate and help others learn the importance of diet and nutrition.  As others in my life have come to realize a specific diet would help their health issues, I share my story and resources that I’ve gathered.  And while I once began my recipe blog simply to keep my recipes organized, I now write to give encouragement to others that eating Paleo is possible and yummy!
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

I attribute my physical healing to God.  I prayed for years to be healthy and He has answered those prayers. 
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Reach out to others going through similar journeys, search online for support and resources, and seek the Lord’s strength and encouragement through it all.  Also, if you are interested in the Paleo Diet, check out my blog at: jennsartofeating.wordpress.org.
 
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Exercise (with Megan)

fivequestionsonExercise

with Megan Gahan

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with exercise.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I started out working in gyms, where I trained women of all ages and abilities. Everything was very focused on pounds lost and inches trimmed. My clients would stare at themselves in the mirror, pinching ‘fat’(actually skin) and moaning about their need to lose 20 or more pounds. I remember being stunned at how disconnected they were with their bodies. Losing 20 pounds would have put many of them in the underweight range. Not surprisingly, I critiqued myself harshly during those years. Clients often choose their personal trainer based primarily on appearance, not qualifications (kind of like how you wouldn’t choose a hairdresser whose hair you didn’t like). I would emotionally tear myself apart when the buffest and fittest trainer got chosen over me again. It made me feel very inadequate.  My relationship with exercise was one of necessity.
 
But I wanted so much more. I wanted to help women see themselves and dig into their emotional issues. I wanted to talk to them about self-worth and body image and Jesus’ view of His precious daughters– not just perfect push-up technique (which, incidentally, is also very important).
 
Eventually God led me to a position with Mercy Ministries, a residential faith-based program for young women wanting to overcome life-controlling issues: eating disorders, self-harm, addiction, and abuse. I ran the fitness department and delighted in putting together a well-rounded fitness curriculum. One that incorporated the physical, emotional, and spiritual elements of exercise.
 
My relationship with exercise changed as I worked with the young women in the program. I began to show myself more grace. I started giving thanks to God before my workouts. I was grateful for my body’s abilities and capacity. I also asked God to keep my mind free from comparisons and harsh self-criticism. I wanted my workout to be an offering to Him. That’s what it’s meant to be.
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Working with women who struggled deeply with their body image forced me to be very conscientious of my own. I became aware of how often I allowed negative self-talk to narrate my day-to-day life. I began calling myself out on it, because I needed to walk the talk. In modeling a healthy example for the girls, I also stopped working out for the wrong reasons. If I was having a bad day, or I felt fat, or I felt I needed to work out because I had just inhaled a Costco sized bag in Mini Eggs, I didn’t compulsively reach for my cross trainers. I went to God first. He became my first line of defense, my healthy coping mechanism. I am the first to admit that fitness is a great stress release. But it shouldn’t be your only one. It definitely isn’t the most essential one.
 
My relationship with my body took another turn when I wrote A Love Letter to My Body, where I confronted all the dark, ugly words I had spoken over myself throughout the years. It was extremely difficult, but deep wounds began to heal as my fingers flew over the keyboard. I knew I was much closer to seeing myself as my Creator saw me. 
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

I will not tolerate ‘fat talk’ in any conversation – not from myself or my friends. I address it right away because I know how damaging it is. 
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

I used to speak such hate over my body that God couldn’t get a word in edgewise. When I finally allowed His still voice to speak love and beauty over me, it changed my spiritual life drastically. I wasn’t calling God a liar anymore. I wasn’t calling his workmanship junk. It’s hard to have a relationship with the One who created you, a relationship built on trust and gratitude, when you’re railing against Him for making your thighs too big.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Don’t hold yourself to a standard that doesn’t exist. If you feel like you have to work out, or you feel guilty when you don’t exercise, that’s a flashing neon sign that you’re headed down a dangerous path. It’s very easy to slip into obsession with fitness and pass it off as ‘getting healthy’ in this day and age. They are not the same thing.
 
For those wanting to begin creating a better relationship with their body, I would highly recommend writing a letter to yours. It is the most transformative exercise I have ever done. After I wrote mine, hundreds of women joined me.  To read through some of their journeys, go to www.shelovesmagazine.com and click ‘A Love Letter to My Body’ at the top right hand side of the page.
 
meganphoto
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Cultures (with Matthew)

fivequestionsonCultures

with Matthew Knowles

1) Describe your experience in other cultures and the attitude toward/relationship to body image you observed there.

I have lived, worked and studied in China since 2009. The first thing that comes to mind is Chinese people are envious of foreigners figures. The girls all want to have white skin, protruding noses and double-skin eyelids. Many even go as far as skin whitening and plastic surgery to achieve these changes.
 

2) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

I like being tall, but I hate when a billion Chinese people call me tall everyday.
 

3) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you relate to others?

I get annoyed more easily because I’m tired of hearing the same words out of everyone’s mouth.
 

4) How has that relationship/attitude affected your spiritual life?

It’s made me frustrated more, depressed some, angry often, and overall pulled me away from God.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

I need the encouragement! … But really, have anchors in your life. Get out and refuel when needed. Iron sharpens iron.

matthew

 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Pregnancy (with Emily)

fivequestionsonPregnancy

with Emily Feig

Emily’s guest post below is a beautifully written narrative incorporating throughout her story the answers to the five questions on pregnancy (find them here).  Because it is a little longer, I included an excerpt here with a link to the remaining narrative. You won’t want to miss the end of the story!

Becoming a mom has been the most amazing, wonderful, challenging, painful, and sanctifying process, even more than becoming a wife. My husband is the most amazing man in the world, and the blessing of being married to him is more than I can find words for. I learned so much about God’s love through him and through being married to him. But it didn’t change or affect me the way becoming a mom did.
 
Before we even started trying to conceive, I spent a great deal of time praying about it. I turned my desires over to the Lord and asked Him to make my desires match His. I know for so many people it can be a long and painful path, trying for years with no success, and for others, they are trying not to conceive and find themselves pregnant but not ready. I knew I had to trust God’s timing and asked that He give us a baby at when it was His perfect timing, and to help me be content with His timing.
 
We had been trying for 4 months before we conceived. Interestingly, I had peace the first 3 months before testing and with every negative result, but the early morning hours on the day we found out we were pregnant, I was laying in bed, clinging to the daydream of a baby, knowing that my hopes may soon be dashed, but wanting those last few minutes of enjoying what might be. The test was slow to turn positive. Both my husband and I were pretty sure it was not, and my heart was much more disappointed than usual. We continued getting ready for the day, but right before the 5 minute mark, we looked again and saw the faintest positive. My husband was not convinced and suggested we try again the next morning. But I knew. The whole day my body buzzed with nervous energy, my hands shaking, my emotions pent up with no release. Since we were both at work, we had no time to talk or process it, and my husband still wanted to test again to be sure. After another positive test, we were eager to celebrate, and talk, and plan, and enjoy our baby, treasuring the secret until we were ready to share.
 
Everyone had an opinion about pregnancy to share with me. Some women went on and on about how much they had loved being pregnant, how beautiful they felt, how much they loved and missed feeling the little kicks, and how they enjoyed all the attention that being pregnant had brought them. Others recalled how horrible their pregnancies had been, how much it had distorted their bodies, how ready they were for it to be over.
 
For me, I fell somewhere in the middle. Read the rest of this entry

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Exercise (with Anonymous Guy)

fivequestionsonExercise

with Anonymous Guy

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with exercise.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

Consistency is my challenge. Exercise perpetuates more exercise for me and inactivity perpetuates more inactivity. Staying somewhere in a healthy middle ground by exercising a few times a week is the toughest. I’ve gone weeks where I exercise 12-14 times for the week and then I’ve gone through a couple weeks where its hard to do anything.
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Body image is largely a control issue for me. It’s been something I could control and when things have been beyond control in life, my mind has thought “well at least I can control how the body looks” and that anxiety is projected outward to the flesh. Being conscious of this idea has helped to be healthier and more moderate, though past emotional damage will always pervade my mindset in some way.
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

 If I am not confident in my body, I am not confident. My mind goes into ultra-introvert mode and I feel a sense of embarrassment being around others. Shame is a nasty attachment that maladaptive mental habits can create and perpetuate. What I act like on the outside is always a picture of how I’m processing internally.
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

When shame abounds, grace is the last thing I want to accept because something inside me tells me I’m not good enough – that I need to earn it. Of course, with my theological understanding of God, I know better… but the emotional and the rational/intellectual absolutely wage war between each other sometimes and that can adversely affect my overall being and spiritual life. 
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Learn to love yourself. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard, but, instead, a standard that is one of integrity, health, and happiness – and accepting of the grace offered to us. Body image is never ever a primary issue… but it’s symptomatic of other things happening. If you ever feel not-so-confident physically, look beyond that at your mental and emotional workings. And remember that Jesus loves models as much as the chubbiest of chubby people. Grace is as far away as we allow it to be.
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Dating/Singleness (with Stacey)

fivequestionsonDating/Singleness

with Stacey Schwenker

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I was single throughout high school and did not date or have a boyfriend until college.  Then I went through a long string of boys that felt very back-to-back (2 of them were and some could say I was not honorable to one guy as I began a relationship with another).  When I began seminary, at the age of 25, I began what has been a long period of singleness.  Through this time I have pursued both wholeness/healing (actively seeking counseling and other ways to emotionally and relationally grow) as well as my vocational goals (mostly in ministry).
 
At my current age of 31 and three-quarters, I have mixed feelings about dating and singleness.  Mixed mainly because some days I feel consumed by how horrid the situation is and I am convinced that I shall be alone forever.  While other days I feel calm and collected and convinced of how wonderful I am and how wonderful God is, so that surely I shall not be alone forever.
 
I question whether my personality, past, or theological achievements (obtaining a Master of Divinity) make me unappealing to men.  Yet the desire to share life with another is just enough hope to continue to pray for a partner and believe that God will bring me someone (if that’s even good terminology…).
 

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Again, mixed feelings.  Mostly I put a lot of effort into my body.  Not in the sense that I obsess about it and try to look amazing, rather it’s quite the opposite.  I listen to it and try to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  I care about its well-being and taking care of it.  I put more energy into becoming a person who seeks after God and can be a fair friend than I do about my physical image.  Even so, I have deep and ugly fears that my body is something that is keeping men away from me.  I don’t pluck my eyebrows and I have thicker thighs. 
 
My thoughts about my body have come from a complexity of stories melded together.  Most likely I came to the current story from three main places.  First, is with my family and how I learned to value myself with a body.  There’s definitely an overtone of being thin that is present and my father is regularly ridiculed by and in front of the entire family for being overweight.  It’s taken a long time to fight judgmental voices that became a constant in my head and plagued me with most outfits and certainly every hair-do. 
 
Second, is with my boyfriends.  Depending on the day I’ll tell you that I’ve had 3 or 4 significant relationships.  Two of them were great and celebrated my body with generosity and complete embrace.  One of them seemed great but turned out to be more selfish than loving.  The other one was kind of a jerk the whole time and rejected me regularly.  It became a game of seduction where I sought to be a master.  Even now I am struggling with the repercussions of feeling continually unwanted and unwelcomed by any prospective man.  As if I am too much or too little.  Mostly it feels like both at the same time.
 
Third, is how my body has changed over the years.  It’s been 7 years since I’ve dated anyone and my body is not how it was then.  Honestly, I worry about not being attractive and fight against the lie that this has been causing my singleness.  I feel more and more comfortable in my skin.  Yet somehow men do not come to me.  What’s a woman to do…?
 

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

There isn’t enough space on this computer to adequately answer this question!  I will say that I am completely conscientious, honest, and present with everyone in my life.  I strive to love and honor them.  I strive to admit when I am wrong and make amends.  I am weary of my need to attach to someone (I’m a co-dependent) and have to fight hard to have balance and health in my relationships.  Though, I do fight hard.  I’m not flippant anymore and I am willing to work.  Mostly, the affects have been positive.
 

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

I’ve certainly experienced a lot more growth.  Honesty does that.  I’ve let God get closer than I could have imagined.  And I also see how much further I have to go.  Because I write weekly (and publically) about this aspect of my life – relationships and spirituality – I’ve spent a great deal reflecting on it. 
 
And I see things to be so inter-connected.  I consider my motivations and the larger networks at play in my life.  For example, I can’t think about dating without thinking about how busy I’ve let me life become, the I consider my vocational dreams, then I think about my ability to trust God, then I consider patience, and then faith verses works, and on and on.  Ultimately, the more I consider the more peace I have and the more I feel God’s presence. 
 
Perhaps the greatest benefit has been being peeled back like an onion in the presence of God.  I feel more known with God since I am actively writing about my singleness and wondering where God is in all of it.  Though, it doesn’t take away the questions, loneliness, or fear entirely.  But it does bring more meaning to my life and a greater calm.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

We must be patient and never lose hope.  God is a creative God and will bring us unexpected things.  We can knead the dough we’re given and see what will rise. Invite Him into where you are.  Reflect on what you are doing.  We have the potential to do so much, right now!  We must not let any lies or fears get in our way.  I truly believe that when we pursue Him, He will grant us the desires of our hearts.

 

Crazy Hair
 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

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