It was a decision that I really did not want to make. I struggled with enough questions to write a book. Have I done everything that I could have done? Did I really really make an honest effort? Is there one more plan that I have not yet tried? I asked myself these questions after I had spent most of my life accepting every new fad and attempting to follow through with each new plan. I was dreading doctor visits, after all as nice as he was, he was always going to bring “it” up. I mean think about it honestly if you had spent the bulk of your life attempting to accomplish what so many had failed at, what would you do? Would you keep on, keeping on until heaven knows when you would just fail again? I certainly would not blame you for giving up.
Unfortunately, so many in my life did not seem to feel the same way. There were the relatives that I would see only once a year. I could see it in their eye’s and soon these words would follow, “If you would simply…” Heaven forgive me but I wanted to set my salvation on a shelf, at times and take them outside for a little fist fellowship with a side of have you got a clue? Truthfully, I am much to tender ever to hurt anyone so I could never indulge in fist fellowship. I remember as a child when I was being teased, kicked, slapped and made the but of every joke, I was advised to raise my right followed by a quick left and put that fool down. I could never even think about putting that fool down. I remember turning every check until I had blisters. You know Jesus said, “but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39. I was such a sweet child that when I was taught that scripture in Sunday School and from the pulpit, I took it to heart.
And then there were the gentle-hearted souls from the church who would say, Now you know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit…”. I always wanted them to describe the outside of the Temple. Especially the one that traveled with the Israelite’s for that long trek to the promised land. In case you don’t know the bible gives intricate detail about the inside of the traveling temple but the outside is nothing but a big white wall. They meant well, but that one fell flat with me and still does to this day. After all, why did it matter so much to God about the inside of the most important holy place for the apple of His eye, the Israelite’s? I believe that we get a big clue from the 16th chapter of Samuel. In this chapter, Samuel was directed by the Lord to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to select the new King. Upon arrival, Samuel is taking in Jesse’s son’s one by one. In verse six it says, “When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, surely the Lord’s anointed is before me” Apparently Samuel was very taken with this young man Eliab and had already made up the Lord’s mind for him. But God stepped in and shut him down because in verse 7 it says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Well, isn’t that a stunner, “man looks at the outward appearance.” Why do we get ourselves into so much trouble so very easily? God made a life-changing and Life challenging point here. Just like the temple that traveled with the Israelite’s and even the Grand temple in Jerusalem. So little was made of the outside that the traveling temple was nothing but a big white wall. But the inner workings of the temple are laid out in complete detail down to the finest point. So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ you can finally put to rest what is of most importance to the Lord. May I be clear, “the Lord looks at the heart.” We have taken so many years to learn this very basic lesson regarding what is essential to the Lord. Be prepared if you approach someone with that line of reasoning in mind, you know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Well, how is your heart? Do you carry any bitterness? Do you hold a grudge against anyone? Is there lust in your heart? Do you have a dishonest heart? Is your heart right with the Lord? Have you given your Heart to the Lord Jesus Christ? These are the matter’s that are of worth and value when it comes to the body and the temple of the Lord. I can safely say that God’s word has made clear what is most important to him.
Now that that point has been thoroughly discussed I will attempt to reveal what brought all of this about and why I made the decision that I made twelve years ago. In reading my previous chapters, you would be hard pressed to have missed what has caused me a tremendous amount of pain. To put it bluntly, I was fat. In fact, I was considered Morbidly Obese. As I aged, the problem grew with my waistline as I had more and more difficulty finding clothing that would fit me.
One of the issues that I still face today is that (heaven knows why) tailors assign a man’s waist size by his neck size. If you are a tailor and you are reading this, you know that this is a true statement and that it boggles my mind. Why on earth would you wrap a tape measure around a man’s neck to figure out what his waist size is going to be? Now, for some men, this works fine as they have large necks. But for me, I do not, and I have never had a large neck no matter how obese I became. This means that the collar on my shirt has to be oversized for my waist size to fit me. This is an example of how this affected me. I interviewed all the way up to the office of the store manager and lost the job opportunity. If you have not guessed it, it was because of my over-sized neckline. I bought brand new shirts with a credit card because I had these essential interviews. All of the interviews went exceptionally well until the Store Manager. At the end of the conversation, he told me that I was qualified for the position and that he really liked me, but appearance was of utmost importance. He went on to say that my collar was way too large and that was unacceptable. He could not imagine that I would be able to purchase the clothes that were necessary for the position. He was correct because of how men’s shirts are measured. Ultimately, I was given another ridiculous reason, but I knew that it really had to do with my shirt and how I looked. I was very hurt and frustrated because I really wanted the job and I knew that I could do it.
So, now you add my history of teasing, the increasing waistline with almost no way to cover it adequately. The hurt from friends, those within my church and family with words like “if you would just eat a little less and exercise a little more.” and you know the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit”, and “What are you doing with your Temple?” which is really a good question but for the different reasons. The loss of a job that I was qualified for and eagerly pursued. And of course, every time I sat on someone’s chair or couch I worried that it would fall out from under me.
I remember going to Promise Keepers with both of my Fathers in the early “90’s. Promise Keepers for those who don’t know was a men’s conference where men were given the opportunity to make a commitment to the Lord to set their lives apart for Him. I don’t mean (necessarily) for the ministry or the mission field although that certainly was an important commitment that many men made. It was more that men would stand up for the Lord and lead their families as Christ-like men to honor Him and raise up Godly children. These events were held in a large arena’s. The one I went to was held in the Pontiac Michigan Arena where the Lions play football. They filled the arena, and many men made commitments to become men of God and to honor him with their families and careers. Friday night we sat up in the balcony. I will call them the cheap seats. Trust me a little thin five-foot woman would feel very uncomfortable in these seats. Sandy’s Dad and my Father were average size. My father was 5’10 and 160 pounds. Sandy’s Dad is taller, and at that time carried a little more weight than he does now, so the chair was not comfortable for him either. I was 6’3 (who knows where I came from) and I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds. I was tall, so I carried my weight very well, but I was still extremely overweight. Really morbidly obese. After my Dad’s attempted to get comfortable (an impossible task) I sat down with one cheek slide slightly down in the seat. There was literally no room between rows and I ended up with my knee’s completely up in my mouth. I took this torture for about 15 minutes and then told my fathers that I was going to stand up above.
The event began at 6:30 PM (I think) and ended at 10:30 ish PM. Where I stood for the evening was a row above the balcony seats, and as far as I could see, concession stands sold Hot Dogs, Pizza and a variety of high-calorie snacks and of course the staple of the sports diet for those who were health conscious, Beer. As I stood there, I thought what idiot designed an arena that an obese beer guzzling Hot Dog eating sports addicted man could not fit in? You have to know these were the thoughts of a morbidly obese man, so I was not being critical of the fat man with a beer in one hand a slice of pizza in the other. My criticism was for the dummy who thought men like me would ever be able to attend an event where we could not fit in the seats.
As I looked up and down the row, I saw a whole lot of men who were up there for the same reason as I. On the main floor there were chairs. So that evening I knew if I asked my father-in-law, who was a time management expert (LOLouder!) to get us there early enough to find a seat on the main floor, he would. Of course, as much as I tease him, he accomplished his task very efficiently.
As we went from row to row on the main floor trying to get as close to the front as possible, I noticed that the chairs were…well, they were flimsy to say the best about them. The legs crossed over each other and were extremely thin. When we found our row, my Dad’s sat down, and I noticed that their chairs lowered to give with their weight. To say I was scared is an understatement. As I began to lower my body into the chair, it began to lower with my weight. The problem was that it did not stop lowering until it was mere inches off the floor. And if I shifted my weight, it made noises like it was going to meet the floor and in an untimely manner. I spent the day afraid to breathe and in fear worried that the chair would finally collapse and the rest of my weight would come crashing down. If this had not been true, I would have found the conference to be a marvelous blessing. They had the very best in preachers, teachers, singers and even a comedian. Everything about Promise Keepers was truly wonderful, but I could not let even an extra breath out for fear of what I would face while trying to pick myself up. Pick the pieces of the chair up and pick up what little of my self-esteem that existed before the fall.
This was one more time that I found myself in pain and anguish. Not physical pain, although I am sure if the chair had fallen there, would have been some of that as well. But the greatest pain was a result of how I looked at myself, how others looked at me and what it meant to be a morbidly obese man.
This began my long road to making the choice to surgically altering my body. At the time I had had Rotator Cuff Surgery, and it did not go well. It was supposed to be outpatient, and I ended up in the hospital several nights, so I was not that interested in another surgery. Also, everyone that I talked to said, “remember, it is not reversible.” That took me down a pathway that I really never should have been sent down. That thought milled around in my mind for a really long time until a light turned on and I thought, “What surgery do we want to reverse?” and if I were going to have it reversed why would I do it in the first place. Then another bulb lite up and I thought, “Perhaps I should pray about this?”
So I began to pray about it, and I met this beautiful lady (oh, not beautiful by this worlds standards, but beautiful) who had gone through Bariatric Surgery and had lost over 100 pounds. That in and of itself was not that impressive to me because I had gone through a Nationwide diet plan and lost in the first year 100 pounds. The kicker was that over the next five years while following their plan I proceeded to gain back about 45 pounds. At that point in time, I felt like a complete failure. My friend gave me the information and the doctor’s name, and after praying about it, I contacted the office and made an appointment. You have to jump through a whole lot of hoops when going through this office because they want to make sure that you are medically, emotionally and psychologically ready. As I moved through the appointments, I was impressed with how thorough, efficient and kind they were. I got to my 4th or 5th appointment, and it was with the psychologist. I was given a series of tests and told to go out and sit at the tables to complete them. I hate this type of test. Actually, I hate all tests. This type of test would ask you a question, and then you were to circle the number that most matched what you thought would answer the question. I have a terrible time doing this, and I will actually draw an arrow and write in 6 ½ or 8 ¾ because I cannot say that it is 6 or 7 or 8 or 9. Crazy I know but that is just how I am made. When the results came back, it told them that I probably would not follow their guidelines and I would be difficult to work with. Anyone who knows me knows that I would follow everything down to the slightest detail.
I was told that I would have to make an appointment with a psychologist to be evaluated to see if I was a good candidate for the surgery. I was devastated as one more time I had failed, and they would not do the surgery that I had prayed about and was convinced was best for me. On the same day, the next appointment was with the Bariatric surgeon. When he came into the room, I was a wreck and very discouraged, to say the least. The doctor was tall and very thin, almost too thin. He smiled and was friendly, but I was convinced that he was going to judge me. The opposite was the truth. He spoke out of the kindness of a heart that loved and belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me that this was just a little blip and that I would soon return. He was right.
Without hesitation, I beat a path over to a large local hospital that specialized in mental and emotional issues. I made an appointment with a doctor. On the first appointment, he asked me loads of questions. I did not know it but he was actually evaluating me to see if what they were saying was true. He was friendly and kind, I liked him. At our second appointment, he explained that there were hundreds of tests like the ones I took. And every one of them would provide a different answer or solution based upon how I answered them. Now you know why I hate these tests. He said that organizations like the Bariatric Surgeon’s office did their best to select tests that would give them the greatest result for their concerns. He told me that upon his evaluation that I was of average intelligence and that he was recommending me because in his evaluation he saw no evidence that I would do anything other than what they were requiring. He said that he saw in me a pleasant manner and a personality that would fit well with the prospect of the surgery.
Now all of those positive things that he said and my mind stopped with the sentence, “That I was of average intelligence.” I read and reread that sentence and found myself somewhat offended by the fact that he thought that I was only average. After some consternation and submission in prayer, the Lord said to me, “And you thought that I created you brilliant?” And then I started to laugh and said out loud boy am I ever full of it. I put that aside and now my mantra is, “Average at best!’ so I focus more on who He is and less on who I am.
With that set-aside, the ball started rolling really fast. After a few short months and my submission to their requirements, I was scheduled for surgery. The last hoop was the insurance hoop. The doctor’s office submitted the paperwork, and I was after several weeks expected to receive a letter that would either say that I was approved or denied. At the time I was in Sales, and I had won an award that included a cruise to the Bahama’s for two. I was thrilled, and as we were loading the car to leave for the airport, I went out to the mailbox. Of course, the letter was there, and we were to leave shortly. I thought should I look at it now and possibly ruin our cruise or should I leave it on the kitchen table. I vacillated some and decided to open the envelope before I even told my wife what was in my hands. Well, the cruise was fantastic, and we had a wonderful time. And the surgery was approved by the insurance company.
So at this point, all of my focus has been just like the focus of those who teased me, those who said: “if only I” and those who missed the point when they stated that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If only they understood what God intended when He said, (as all of us should) “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The focus of all man is the outward appearance. It is nearly impossible to get away from this focus.
All of our fashion, movies, sports and even the diet industry especially the diet industry focuses on the outward appearance. The challenge of the believer is to be different from this focus in everything. The only focus the believer is to have is one of abandoning all and everything to the savior who by the Holy Spirit is transforming your life. So, yes, when the individuals who approached me saying, “If you would only eat a little less.” they were focusing on the wrong thing. The individual who approached me saying, “You know that your Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” missed the point because they did not understand what was important to God and what God focuses on. And even me when I pursued Bariatric Surgery I was focusing on the wrong thing.
You see God cares about our physical condition and yet allows the sin that causes illness to invade the body of the man who is in the greatest of shape. God cares little about your curves or how many miles you can run each day. But God cares passionately about your character and how you treat others from day to day. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38 to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” and in loving your neighbors as your self, you take excellent care of yourself. You do everything that you can to build your body up. Jesus tells us to do the same for our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone we see.
The apostle Paul speaking to the believers of his day in Ephesians 4:29-32 as well as to us today said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I pray that this is what I learn from day to day and yet I fall continually and speak words that I wish I could take back. I walk all over another’s feelings because what I think is more important. Paul said that we should speak, “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” Wow! Do I practice this on a day to day basis? Do I even practice this word on a weekly basis?
The world we live in, the dieting world cares little about any of what is genuinely “helpful for building others up.” As lights in the midst of darkness, we must step out from under the world’s standards. Our calling is “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.
It is hurtful when we feel that we are being attacked. There is hurt and pain in the approach of an individual who dwells on what our outside or outer appearance holds. Can and should we hold on to the hurts of the past and if we do will we suffer pain? I can answer an affirmative on that one because I still struggle with hurt as a sixty-year-old man. Hurts from my childhood. Voices and words that have long ago faded. Long ago they forgot what they said to me. Long ago they forgot how the hurt me. Long ago is where long ago should be. In the past and forgiven. “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32c
This is my challenge from day to day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I believe that this is the only way that we will find forgiveness and become forgiven by those we have offended. Our Savior was our guide, and he gave us the first commandment to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, my hurting friend this means forgiving what seems unforgivable. This means loving enough to say “It OK” and mean it. This means not carrying the hurt from long long ago but letting it go by the power of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that I live this and that you may live it too.