"I hope you don't hear this the wrong way, but I'm really proud of you."
This is what a friend said to me last Saturday when she came over for lunch. We talked about many things during those two hours, but that's the phrase that stuck to me. I've been thinking about it ever since.
She was affirming me for changing the way I eat. For changing the way my family eats, actually. And for making other, healthier lifestyle choices (taking supplements, choosing organic, trying my hand at growing vegetables (still no tomatoes but my fingers are crossed!), removing plastic containers whenever possible, and more).
(For a great article on the whole plastic container issue, click here.)
It's hard for me to receive that affirmation. In part because I resent it. There. I said it. I hate the fact that choosing health is such a polarizing issue. That, if you add words like organic or naturopath into your daily lexicon you suddenly conjure up visions of love-bead-wearing hippies. I don't like being lumped in with a group in such a generalized way, based on preconceptions and misconceptions, especially when I don't identify with that group in many, many ways (but, of course, I do identify with that group in others...damn those generalizations!).
I also resent it because it's true - the implication behind her words...the truth that making the change took guts, took repentance actually. I resisted choosing a healthier lifestyle for many years out of sheer stubbornness, I think. And pride. I only made the choice when I had to make the choice - when my doctors were telling me that the only way to get better was to eat better. When God Himself was telling me to "eat well".
Isn't that the way it always is? In our gross, yucky, fleshiness we fail to do that which is clearly best for us. (For an ancient version of this same concept, check out Paul and Romans 7: 18-20.) And then, when we finally make the choice, it's really hard to admit that we resisted making it in the first place. To walk humbly. We'd rather pretend like we knew it all along and walk about with our peacock feathers prancing about us.
At least, tell me I'm not the only one?!?
So here I am, stuck in the middle between the past and the future, in this present of transition and affirmation. My friends who made the choice before me are proud of me. My friends who have not yet made the choice are supportive, inquisitive, respectful. No one seems to be judging me, yet I still feel judged. What is that? Why am I so fleshy?
I do not have an answer to that. I can't sum this post up in one pithy point. But I can go back to where I started and finish with this: with the amount of change I've walked through in the last ten months, I've realized one, very key thing about myself...I need affirmation.
I don't just want it. I actually need it.
I believe that to be true. That's why when my dear, sweet friend affirmed me for making the lifestyle/food/whatever-you-want-to-call-it change, her words sounded like a voice-over while the whole rest of our conversation faded into white noise in the background.
That's why I don't feel safe around doctors that only want to discuss facts but never give feedback or encouragement reflecting the hard choices I'm making to choose life, to walk in health. They may be helping me, but their help is only so effective because what I actually need is more.
That's why God talks to me. And I mean in a real, live, audible voice. He knows that I need to hear Him speaking actual words that build me up and spur me on. (He may speak to you differently. In fact, I'm sure He does - because He knows what you need.)
This revelation of need, not just want, has really helped me in the past few days. It has helped me "frame the view" as a gardener or interior designer might say. In other words, I will make different choices based on this revelation about myself. I will actively seek out people and situations where affirmation abounds.
To put it simply, I will choose to get my needs met, and I will refuse to remain in places where they're not only not getting met, but where they're actively being denied.
I don't say this out of selfishness. I say this out of balance (which is what this whole healthy-living thing is about to me anyway). I say this out of love: self-love and love for others. (Why would I want to continue demanding something from someone who is so ill-equipped to give it, setting him or her up for failure and us up for bitterness? Better to move on with grace and seek spaces of love in my life...love communicated in a way I can understand.)
And I say this out of a desire to love better. If I cauterize the places of bitterness I allowed to grow where I did not get the affirmation I needed, I can remove diseased flesh and create space for healthy humanity to replace it. I can heal and recover in such a way as to operate more fully, being able to give out more graciously, from more of an open heart, ultimately needing less in return and really loving the way He loves.
So anyway, this post may seem a bit random, but there you have it. The intersection of the practical and the metaphysical via Holy Spirit revelation. He made me this way, and I need to honor it. I want to honor it. That is my spiritual act of worship. Amen.
Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria again this week.