I’ve been encouraging you to step outside your comfort zone and try new things, because you never know what wonder and joy and pleasure are waiting for you.
But I’ll be honest. Sometimes what you find outside your comfort zone isn’t very easy.
Oh, the Horror
My husband and I had done five new-to-us sexual activities this year. One of them was nekkid pictures. Mostly, these involved close-up shots and one absolutely lovely picture of me in the shadows. Last week, my oral sex article was posted on The Marriage Bed. What better way to celebrate than oral sex, right? I pointed out to my husband that our digital camera had a video feature, and hey, wouldn’t that be a fun thing to watch afterward? It’s practically the same thing as the pictures we’ve already done. Right?
So we videotaped, which was New Thing #6. After we were done and put back together, I transferred the video from the camera to the computer so we could watch it together.
Oh, the horror. We both sat, jaws dropped, squirming (from embarrassment, not arousal) as we watched our bodies do what they do so well.
They say the camera adds ten pounds, but I’m pretty sure it must be at least fifty. At least.
My husband and I are both overweight. We know that. We are used to seeing each other’s large naked form. But sitting there together, each of us seeing our own naked bodies when our stomachs weren’t sucked in and we weren’t looking into a mirror from just the right angle? Ouch. We agreed to delete the video and never ever watch it again.
But it got me thinking about my body, which was already on my mind from some reading. I looked back at Pearl’s OysterBed’s recent post on fitness that is part of her 2013 Sex Drive Transformation Challenge. I was reading threads on a couple different online discussion forums about body image and health. I’ve been reading a handful of books on Christian marriage, and several of them talk about fitness and sex.
Coming on the tail end of all that reading, watching the video of me in my abundant nakedness certainly didn’t help. And then I was at the doctor (my raging UTI is back) and had to step on the scale. I did my usual “each of my shoes weighs fifteen pounds” joke, but even that didn’t prepare me for what I saw on the scale.
Several months ago, I wrote, “God plants. Right in front of me, He puts in place things I need to see, consider, remember, pray about, learn from.” Looking at the scale, I thought, Here we go again. Okay, God. You have my attention. Now what?
Dig, I hear. So I do.
The First Layer
How did my body get this way? Well, there’s the obvious—eating too much and exercising too little. As much as I’d love to lay my body’s shape on my pregnancies, the truth is that I was on this path before they were a twinkle in my husband’s eyes. In fact, I was on this path before I even met my husband.
And that heads right into the first layer I uncover. I was raped in college. I’d already developed a habit of being promiscuous, and one night I got drunk and was coming on to one of the guys at a party. I woke up to him inside me and me screaming. I passed out again and woke up in the morning to the same thing. I later asked him why he’d done it….his response was, “You had a good enough body and weren’t too fat.”
Having a good-enough-and-not-too-fat body was enough to get me raped, so it was time to change that. I remember a few times when my clothes would start to feel tight that I would think about getting more exercise, and I would flash back to that night. So I’d go get new clothes instead.
When I met my husband, I was much thinner than I am now, but I was not in good shape. He loved me anyway. The fact that he loved me despite how unattractive I thought I was told me that he either a) loved the real me, or b) didn’t have very good taste. And yes, that affected our marriage bed in various ways for years.
Working through this first layer involved me working through my rape and some of the ways it has affected me over the years. I realized that uch of this is work I’ve already begun to do. Although I still have some difficult moments, I no longer feel that the rape is front and center in my life as I once did. The first layer isn’t very substantial at all anymore.
But putting on the weight is just part of the story.
The Second Layer
Putting on weight was a protection against rape and being a temptation. Even as I grew comfortable and confident in my marriage and became less concerned about being raped again, I made no effort to lose my weight.
And this is the second layer I needed to work through. Underneath the weight was a part of me that doesn’t trust myself. While it is not my fault that I was raped, my behavior and appearance that night certainly didn’t help prevent it—and if I hadn’t been so promiscuous at that time in my life, I wouldn’t have dressed or acted the way I did.
As I began to see that I was healing from the rape itself, I also saw that my marriage wasn’t a happy one. I craved my husband’s emotional attention—and I worried that I might be vulnerable to temptation. If another man showed me any attention, would I be able to resist? Did I want to resist? What if that promiscuity that had caused me problems in college was still there, hidden under layers of fat? I was terrified I might learn that I was still that person. I couldn’t trust myself not to follow down the promiscuous path again. Instead of being afraid I might tempt someone else, I feared that someone might tempt me and that I was too weak to say “no.”
As I dug through this layer, I realized that I’d done much of this work already, too. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been—and so am I.
The Inner Layer
Over the past few months, I have dug deep enough that I’ve gotten to the bright and shining person I am beneath all these layers. I am stronger now because I am with God in a way I never have been before.
I’ve done some hard work and dug deep inside myself. I can shed those outer layers of protection because I no longer need them.
And now I understand that I am ready to work on that physically as well as mentally and spiritually. I’m scared, because I know it will be hard. But I’ve worked hard before. I know I can do it again.
Strong Enough and Brave Enough
When you step outside your comfort zone, sometimes you discover a world of pleasure and joy. And sometimes, you discover yourself. Be brave enough to see what is there. Be strong enough to face what you learn. When you take a leap of faith and are brave enough and strong enough to tackle what you find there, hold onto God’s hand. It might not be easy, but with God at your side, you’ll be okay.
Cheesecake image courtesy of savit keawtavee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net