My wife and I were in the U.S. for Christmas 2019 and extended a bit as the Lord opened doors to share in churches. Then, Covid hit. Two stranded 40-somethings lived with Dad & Mom for ten months. On the upside, we had blessed time with family and were honored to serve the U.S. church.
On the downside, I gained about 45 pounds (20 kgs). We men have a tendency to blame our wives when something goes wrong. Except the occasional grilled cheese, my wife is the cook. She was quick to bring Christmas 2019 photos to my attention, proving that I was still fit then and that the weight gain began in the U.S… “not on her watch”. As much as I have tried to find someone to blame, I haven’t been able to nail anyone down (haha).
I do not know what all played into the weight gain, but allow me to take a stab for the sake of conversation:
- I scarfed down hefty portions of Pennsylvania cravings that cannot be satisfied in Asia.
- Part of it could have been the difference in climate and food (processed vs. natural).
- Part of it could have been the meetings that accompanied that period of ministry – ex. meeting a pastor for breakfast at McDonald’s and another one at a pizza shop for lunch.
- Social eating with family amid varying degrees of quarantine certainly played a role.
- Times were disappointing and uncertain for everyone. We had no control over what might happen next. I found comfort in and made an idol of food – tried to siphon security and satisfaction out of grease and sugary icing.
Bottom line: I ate way too much.
In early October, we got biometric screenings in prep for return. I weighed 267 lbs (121 kgs) and later maxed out around 270 lbs (122 kgs). See actual results below.
Prior to this, the most I had ever weighed was roughly 225 lbs (102 kg). Previously a swimmer, if anyone insinuated I was fat, I knew they were kidding. My friends and I always joked about being fat. And there I sat at 42 years old… officially classified as “Obese”.
As a church, we look down on those of us who struggle with unwanted homosexual temptations. We make them feel ‘less than real men’, as though they will never quite measure up… at least ‘until this thing is fixed’. While the Lord pushes the ex-gay to witness (humiliating truth – 2 Cor 12:9-10), the church warns through fearful actions that telling the truth (ex. that ‘I am not a finished work… and neither are any of you’) will incur penalties.
But have you ever heard of a church confronting a member living in active gluttony, perhaps to suggest he attend fat camp or to politely coerce assignment of an accountability partner? No. Despite the self-destructive impact on his body (temple of the Holy Spirit) and risk to those who follow suit, few would dare confront a member living in active gluttony. Gluttony is above reproach in many of today’s churches. In fact, some who actively practice it are exalted to the highest levels of church leadership.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…“ Galatians 5:22-23
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” Matthew 7:15-16
The weight gain was truly a health concern. At times in bed and while bending down to tie shoes, I struggled to get my breath.
How Satan Works:
When I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. Much of my ministry is 1-on-1 testimony-sharing designed to point people to Christ. It certainly is not about me, but it is about what the Lord has done for me. Case in point:
‘… I nearly followed homosexuality to my death… BUT GOD…’ The takeaway is – ‘What Christ did for me, He wants to do for you, if you are willing to repent and fight to follow.’
Listener then glances to the witness, who is roughly the size of a compact car. Standing there obese, it would be difficult to convince someone that I am set free in Christ and trusting the Lord. Rescued from near death, I should be an example of gratitude and trust.
Let’s examine this scenario from a spiritual warfare perspective. Through fear and anxiety, Satan provokes us to remove trust in the Lord and find comfort in an idol. After we are hooked and enslaved, he steals credibility. Through shame and guilt, he then confiscates the boldness required to effectively deliver the message. Ultimately his goal is to deactivate the witness and render the ministry null and void.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21
Don’t let him win, brother! Fight forward! (Eph 6:11-17)
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Every professing believer is an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). People look at you and me and assume we are what Jesus is like. We are walking testimonies and must take that reality seriously.
The Lord understands us, is gracious and merciful. Although every move we make will not be perfect, our mistakes are opportunities to lead by example in repentance. We are works in progress and should not be so hard on ourselves. Start every day new. (1 John 1:8-9)
The Turning Point:
The Lord let me go for a while and then began to convict. After all He has done for me, I knew this would be nothing for Him. Reflecting back on deliverance from a gay lifestyle and what was required of me, I remembered that the hard part would be the habit changes.
Since a cardiac scare in my teens, I have consistently worked out in some form or another. When the gym was closed, I hiked up the hill behind the house and did pushups. It seemed like the weight gain crept up on me all of a sudden. I began to view it as a test, a challenge.
Born-again believers have a great advantage in these battles – the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” Acts 1:8
These are the steps I took in Christ:
- Prayed – repented and asked for help in weight loss.
- Fasted lunches pretty regularly.
- Continued the same workout (sit-ups, bench press & running/jogging) regularly. Like daily Bible reading, I keep exercise simple and sustainable over the long term.
- Increased running time from 10 minutes to 30 minutes.
- Cut down on meal portions and late night eating. Allowed for leeway on the weekend.
There are a couple of advantages to trying to lose weight near the equator in Cambodia. Gyms generally are open-air. After about five minutes, sweat pours. At open-air markets, unprocessed fruit and vegetables are readily accessible.
Considering height and big bone frame, my healthy weight is around 215 lbs (97.5 kgs). Today I weigh in around 225 lbs (102 kgs) and would like to lose up to 10 more pounds.
A friend once suggested, ‘When I am going through a trial, I ask the Lord – ‘What are you trying to teach me?” I think that is excellent advice.
Obesity is very common in my country, and until now, I could not relate to the struggle.
If we have not stepped into someone else’s shoes, it is difficult to relate and feel for them. We have a tendency to lose patience and just want the problem solved. We imagine, ‘How in the world could anyone get into that situation?! He/She just needs to < fill in the blank >!’
But now I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless, ashamed and discouraged… like this mountain is too high to climb. I know it’s not as easy as people think to lose it. I know it’s a battle.
Hmm… If only condescending pastors were given a daily battle with homosexual attraction that they cannot get rid of… If only their natural heterosexual attraction were removed for a time so that they could feel like a shell of a man… Maybe that would reduce the arrogance I have experienced in Christian circles.
“For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy…” James 2:13
Aren’t you thankful that the Lord is more merciful than we are? From this trial, I feel that the Lord instilled greater sympathy / compassion for others.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-14
Christ refines us in the fire. Praise the Lord for grace (giving us what we don’t deserve) and mercy (not giving us what we do deserve)!
“My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2