I am a choreographer and dancer, but I stepped away from performing full-time and began graduate school in Mental Health Counseling. It has been one of the most amazing and yet difficult experiences in my life. Though I continue to be involved dance by teaching, choreographing, and assisting, I have not been fully active in the dance world for about two or three years.
I have always had issues with my body image, even when I was smaller in size, I could never see myself as God created me to be. The dance world is no joke, and makes no apologies for how they feel about your body. It is not only tough to get criticism from the people you work with, in an area you are passionate about, but it is just as difficult having this same issue pointed out by family and friends. I am thankful for those that did encourage and believe in me, as an artist beyond my body. I honestly did not see anything wrong with my size, but I began to believe otherwise, when it was pointed out that I did not fit the image of a dancer.
Right now I am the largest, in size, that I have ever been in my life, and I have a problem with it. I never really cared to dwell on my feelings about my weight, because I was too busy trying to dodge everyone else’s feelings about it. Today I feel that there is another place that God wants to take me that goes beyond my body.
Have you ever felt like you wanted to leap out of your own skin because there is something deeper and bigger happening inside of you? I definitely believe it is God calling me to look beyond my past so that He can transform me spiritually. My vessel must change as well, so that I can be equipped for the work of a new creature.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 English Standard Version).
If I am to be a body of worship, then I have to be strong in the Lord, not only in the mind and spirit, but also the body. My body has always been an after thought, but today I understand it differently. This is not to say that I am about to go on some crazy diet or do unhealthy things to get where I want to be…NO, NO, NO!!! I have done that for most of my life and it has not worked yet. What I am saying is that I will take care of this temple God has given me; I must treat it as a gift. I have instead, used my body instead as a shield of protection; it has been my armor, but lacking the covering of the Lord.
When we do not know people and all they have gone through, we tend to be offended by their behavior towards us, when it really has nothing to do with us. This armor (my body) that I have been hiding behind, did not just pop up out of the blue; it has been in the making for a long time. My perception of life has been focused on fears, abandonment, mistrust, hurt, and pain, which often to others, can come off as me trying to be controlling. Well they are right, I have been controlling because I have been trying to make sure that I do not get hurt. When people continuously point out behaviors while we are working through them with God’s help, it is tough to see progress because your mistakes are in forefront of your mind. I know this because I have done it to other people before.
Yes, I have often tried to control the actions, surroundings, feelings, and emotions of others and myself. I still have some fears about being vulnerable, affectionate, and loving with the people that are closest to me. What is crazy is that many people who know me have shared that I have a maternal and nurturing spirit. It is funny because I have wrestled with this for years, even though God has confirmed it on numerous occasions.
Sometimes we have to learn the hard way that if we focus too much on being in control and protecting ourselves, we are not able to see that God uniquely designed and created us to be a light for Christ. We are supposed to be bearing the fruit of the gifts and talents.
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away,” (Matthew 25:29, New Living Translation).
One thing I am learning the hard way is that I have to forgive to receive and be willing to receive in order to give. It probably sounds confusing but it is really simple; we have to let go of the people we have enslaved within our hearts so that we can make room for God wants each of us to bear, so that we can share Him with the world.
“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us,”
When we forgive people, we accept them for who they are and who they are not. This is difficult, because I believe that it calls for a level of vulnerability that we are not always willing to embrace; but now I understand that the confidence to be open in this way comes from trusting in the Lord. We should understand that we are covered by God and we can hide in Him because He is our ultimate protection. There is no one greater than Him to keep us hidden.
“But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide,” (Psalms 94:22, New Living Translation).
We truly have to ask God, even right now, for the gift of forgiveness, and pray that He would give us the wisdom to understand what we are to learn; so that it may become applicable in our lives to share with others. When we are hidden and abiding in Christ, we become a new creature; willing and able to walk in freedom and we are not bound to our feelings towards those who have offended us.
We do not have to hide in our bodies in fear anymore! It is time to get free!
Written by Francine E. Ott