I may look on the outside like an incredibly healthy fit self-disciplined individual. Some of this is true. I am physically fit. I wear size 4 clothing and love to eat healthy foods. But my motive for being fit and eating well is just as selfish and self serving as the individual who is wearing plus sizes.
During the summer before my seventh grade year at school, I started falling when I did cart wheels in the back yard. My mother evaluated my back. The verdict was in. The genetic curse of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis had been passed onto me too.
One of my older sisters had received this diagnosis with a severity that warranted bracing when she went through puberty. Having been well versed in her daily routine wearing a Milwaukee Brace and frequent trips to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA I wasn’t too concerned that my time had come too.
But looks were deceiving. My condition deteriorated much worse than my sister’s. In fact, the severity of my curve bordered on the line of where surgery was warranted. Now that I wasn’t up for.
Having a metal rod surgically placed in my body next to my spine for the rest of my life wasn’t on my bucket list. If this were done I would no longer be able perform flip turns at swim practice. Would the rod rust and deteriorate in my body over time? How long would I need to stay in the hospital and miss school? Would I be stretched out with weights in traction prior to surgery? How could I survive the cast when I passed out in the cast they molded on me in order to design a Milwaukee Back Brace for me?
The surgeon took the conservative approach to try bracing first. Whew! But I knew that I had better comply with wearing it and completing the accompanying physical therapy if it was going to work in order to keep my out of the OR.
Wearing the brace didn’t hurt once I got used to in ~48 hours later. However, there were discomforts like, if I ate too much food would back up my esophagus because there was no room for my stomach to swell. And then others like sitting in a car cut off the circulation in my legs because of how the girdle fit so tightly. Few understood what my needs were and even less bothered to listen to learn and find out. Many projected their fears onto me and jumped to conclusions.
Often feeling misunderstood felt painful and lonely. But, I found strength because I heard a voice say, “Everyone is on the outside of the brace. But I am on the inside. Because you gave your heart to me and asked me to come in as Lord. I will be here with you and understand.”
This incredible comfort and odd brace also protected me from the many wiles of adolescent experimentation. Boys feared me. The popular girls could no longer be bothered. The sweet girls who attended the community Bible church invited me to their youth group. At least they would socialize with me and shared somewhat of the heart lordship business I had entered. But as time wore on, those girls busied themselves in high school with their boyfriends.
I adapted. I busied myself with sports, music, leadership training, and a rigorous academic load. I no longer needed the brace, but I noticed that pain re-appeared. In my mind I replayed the advice my doctor gave at my last visit. “Stay physically active and keep extra-weight off.” So I returned to my daily physical therapy.
As I’ve aged I added more exercises to protect my elbows and knees from injuries due to sporadic tennis play. The results? I look and feel great. But my point is my motivation isn’t that wonderful, much less pure. It’s still self-serving or preserving.
We live in a culture that glorifies image. Images can be empty and vain. They usually aren’t what they seem at all. Let’s stop judging books based on their covers and take time to “read” or get to know what’s really going on inside. And most importantly when we do read, keep in mind that only the author knows exactly what he/she intended when he/she wrote. Our interpretations are simply ours. Let’s own our responsibility for this and stop projecting onto others what we think or feel.