Ghosts in my head… again

DS and TPC are taking opposite sides of this battle, and I think it’s weird.  It shouldn’t be a battle… it’s just seasons of life and the abilities/handicaps they leave us all with.

DS’s link TPC’s position

So let’s talk fitness, beauty, vanity – and living your life for Christ.

Somewhere along the line as a Christian woman, I picked up the idea that doing things in which I delight, especially if those things are temporal in nature, is sin.  THAT’S NOT TRUE.   Can they be sin?  Yeah, sure.  Anything that gets between you and God or prevents you from loving your neighbor is sin.  Personal conviction, please.  But temporal enjoyment is not, in itself, sinful.  If it is, we need to all go become monks.

The ghost in my head thinks that the only thing I should do as a Nice Christian Lady is stay home with my kids until they’re out of HS, then volunteer at church (preferably) or work a boring job until retirement.   Helping other Nice Christian Ladies is okay.  Working to earn an income – a real income, not pin money – isn’t okay.  The ghost in my head thinks it’s okay to be pretty… as long as I’m not TOO pretty.  It’s okay to look nice, as long as I don’t spend much time, money, or effort on it.  It’s okay to be good at my work, but it’s not okay to put myself forward.  It’s okay to be fit, but I should get there by spending 30 minutes/day walking my dog… anything else is a bit extravagant, really.

But that’s a ghost in my head, not Bible.

I’m going to rattle off my own history here… I’ve always been the strong one who sucked at anything cardio, but could endure.   When you’re in your 20s, you take endurance for granted.  You have such an amazing recovery rate – even if you do something way out of your norm, in a couple of days you’re totally back to normal you.  It’s like that endurance was on the shelf, just waiting for me.

Then I had a couple of semi-bedrest pregnancies, which left me with a terror of getting tired.  I thought about explaining what happened when I got tired, but I’m going to spare you… 🙂  Let’s just say that it was immediate evidence that I needed to rest, stat.    Logically the terror shouldn’t have lasted, but logic isn’t always the thing, you know?

And then a few years after that… I broke my foot in half.  Oh yay, no more hikes for me.  No impact stuff.  Depressing.   I worked out to tapes, intermittently.  Got stronger, but it wasn’t that dramatic.

And then, a bit more than a year ago, I found crossfit.

Yes.  It’s expensive.   Yes, we get way too excited about it.   No, I don’t wear nearly as much clothing down at the box as I’d wear to a normal gym.   Yes, three times a week means I’m tired, a lot.  It has a cost.  43 ain’t 23, no way, no how.  Recovery is a haul.

BUT IT’S GIVEN ME BACK MY JOY IN LIVING IN THIS BODY.  I can do stuff!  I can lift the dog easily!  I could run … well, without the foot.  My endurance is back!   I can do things I couldn’t even do when I was a kid – in a few weeks I’ll have my handstand (so close, so very close) and I now row a faster mile than I could run in high school… substantially so.

I’m not skinny yet, that takes diet as well as exercise.  I’m the same weight as at the start, substantial body comp changes have taken place.  My blood pressure is down.  My cholesterol is down.  My energy is up.  I’m not THRILLED that my weight will involve not eating as much as I like, but whatever.  Entry fee.

Is it vanity when I post progress pix?  Maybe a little, let’s be honest.  But mostly inside what I feel like is a little kid who’s bouncing up and down saying, “didja see?  I did the thing!  Look how I’ve changed!”  It’s delight.

That.Is.Not.Sin.  That’s a blessing which I am enjoying.   Does everyone have to enjoy such a blessing to be a good Christian?  No.  that’s prosperity gospel nonsense.  But I’m not a bad Christian either.

And when I get excited because I nail an outfit, or get the makeup right… is it sin to delight in what God gave me that I’m taking better care of?  Is it?  To be pleased?  To have some fun?  Is it sinful to want to be very very good at what I do professionally – and make money doing it?

Vanity is a sin.  When I was 15 and hiking my boobs up and my shirts down so DH would snap out of the fog and pay attention to me, THAT was sinful.   Picking out a good color and choosing styles that allow me to be taken seriously?  Not sinful.  Enjoying being pretty, wearing pretty clothes?  Not sinful.  It’s childlike fun.  At least for me, it really is fun, and yes – I’d be happy to give a good twirl if you have little girls who need to ooo and ahh.

Delight isn’t a sin.  Fun isn’t a sin.  Being healthy isn’t a sin.  And pursuing those things isn’t sinful either.

Of *course* we have to take care of duty before pleasure, and of course others come before ourselves.  Duh, we’re committed Christians here.

But we’re allowed to enjoy what we were given, and take care of it.

Life cycles vary.  The reason I’m having so much fun is that I know what life is like without a body that can do the things my body can do now.  I am so very appreciative, so grateful.  It’s not easy – it hasn’t BEEN easy.


Delight isn’t a sin.  And the ghosts in my head who say that it is can bite me.


16 thoughts on “Ghosts in my head… again

  1. The Practical Conservative

    Eh, my position is basically yours. When I read the post and comments and reblogged, it did not strike me that the people there, including the OP held such a position. Like I said on my blog, the fat Christians I know are also physically active, just not at a level that could get them down to trim weights. But they do move and carry heavy things regularly, mostly not in a formal exercise program is all. Something is definitely better than nothing on that front, and people can get scared out of the something by the kind of aggressive program people with more youth and leisure frequently promote.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I know. Not everyone wants to join the CF cult with me… 😀 And I *am* a fat Christian. Balance and grace – it’s okay to say things are good but not essentials, or that they’re good but you can’t have all the good things at one time.

  2. Maeve

    I was thinking about this after reading TPC’s post. At some point, I allowed myself to be convinced that ANYTHING temporal/secular in nature was by definition sinful. What a grim world view. This led to me having to re-evaluate whether or not I was still a Christian if, in fact, I DO enjoy red nail polish, pointy-toed high-heeled shoes, coloring my hair, and reading massive amounts of pulp fiction and have come to the conclusion that He doesn’t give you extra brownie points if you hate everything that’s pretty, fun, makes you laugh, or tastes good.

  3. Cassie

    You have such a knack for explaining things Hearthie. I always enjoy reading your posts and comments. 🙂

    Oh, and I agree with what you wrote here too.

  4. sarahsdaughter2

    I love Crossfit though I no longer go to a Crossfit gym. I did for a year and a half and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can tell you sincerely that it was a time in our marriage where I literally needed to get strong. RLB’s back injury was so bad that I had to do the heavy lifting around the house. It was extremely helpful that I was strong and Crossfit did that for me. At the same time, the dopamine release after a WOD kept me going back for more. Having a woman 10 years younger than me come in for a tour, watch me doing “Grace”, and ask the trainer if she’ll ever be as strong as I was – kept me going back for more. 🙂 Seeing obese, once sedentary, individuals come in and exhaust themselves with an empty bar kept me going back. Then there were the trainers – just fantastic! So enjoy the cult – I completely get it.

    My love for being physically strong, for a woman, has been taken on by my daughter. She just texted me two days ago a picture of her Deadlift PR – it’s the same as mine currently. (I’ve PR’d more but lost 70 pounds off of it since I stopped lifting 5 days/week). While of course she looks amazing physically, I hear her elation when she succeeds at lifting something heavy around the house. It’s about more than how she looks – though that’s part of it and she will represent her husband well with her physical beauty, it’s about capability and it’s rewards.

    1. sarahsdaughter2

      Adding to that, though it’s not the topic (the original linked article annoys me, Christians nit picking other Christians for not Christianing right…I don’t even waste my brain space for that anymore), anyway – I reaped huge benefits from Crossfit but one that I didn’t was sustained weight loss. I lost 17 pounds and gained it all back when I stopped going to the gym. Exercise is very good for you, it’s just not the key to sustained fat loss. I’m over a year into eating a Ketogenic diet. In October my weight loss stalled a bit, then I got lazy and was eating “lazy keto” (I’ll never go back to high carbohydrate eating knowing what I know now and being completely beyond the addiction). Even eating “lazy keto” I haven’t gained anything back. No more roller coaster. I’m tweaking my diet right now and am back to losing fat again. I’m also mentoring others to do what I’ve done to help with their health challenges. From the progress reports I’ve gotten from them, including my own weight loss, I’ve helped over 200 pounds of fat go away so far.

      And I’m positive I don’t Christian right.

  5. Elspeth

    Okay, been trying to articulate some of my thoughts and SD hit the nail on the head when she said, ‘I’m positive I don’t Christian right”.

    I wrestle with the time and energy I spend on eating right and exercising. I wrestle with the time I spend reading. I wrestle with the fact that I put a fair amount of metal energy into what I wear. That last one? I do that because unlike so many other more understanding husbands, mine wants his wife to look good. Real good, even on days when simplicity is more in order than a Sunday garb.

    If I’m not doing grunge work or physical activity that calls for workout wear or a simple jeans and t-shirt, I need to look good. He has a very visceral reaction to my appearance. I have to think about the stuff you write about, Hearth. From head to toe

    But isn’t that superficial? Isn’t that Western frivolity? What about giving that time to the word and prayer or running up and down the yard playing with my kids? Is God pleased with the time I spend reading stuff not Biblical in nature and are my clothes too fitted given my endowment?

    I finally understood a few things. The first is that my attention to others’ anti-Biblical requirements for my life as a wife and mother were a direct front to the submission to my husband that the Bible does require. The second is that whatever not done in faith is sin to me, so I needed to get comfy with being the wife SAM wants because if I didn’t do that, all my submission is just more fuel for the fire at that last day.

    The last is that human nature is given to judgment, comparison, and a need to conform others to our way of thinking for the peace of mind which we lack. Unless we get past it and look to the Lord and His word for direction, that peace will forever remain out of our reach because the prideful desire for validation and control is never quenched otherwise.

    As I have been reading this cute, clever and somewhat outdated little fashion book, many of the thoughts you expressed here have occurred to me Hearth. So thanks for articulating them.

    1. hearthie Post author

      See, that’s not Bible. We’re supposed to pay more attention to a quiet spirit than to dressing to the nines – but the rich women in the Bible dressed well.

      PS My book isn’t outdated yet! 😀

      1. Elspeth

        I wasn’t’t referring to your book friend. I was referring to the Anne Fogarty book we talked about.

        Second, I clearly didn’t express myself well enough. Dressing to the nines isn’t the point. It’s avoiding the pitfall of the unintentional homeschool mom look. No matter how simple, the look needs to look like I gave a crap when I got dressed.

        Lastly, if it seems I was discounting the transcendent then again, I messed up big time. That wasn’t what I mean to convey. The word and prayer or how I start every day. I just cannot spend all my time as if I live on a spiritual plane above the clouds where things temporal don’t matter.

        Gosh I bungled that last comment.

      2. hearthie Post author

        I knew you weren’t referring to my book, thus the smiley face. Teasing you! 😀

        As to the rest, I was agreeing. Moar coffee for both of us! Or you know, greater than zero coffee for me.

  6. Stephanie

    I love this Hearthie! All your blog posts are always so uplifting and encouraging.

    On this topic of beauty and vanity and looking your best… I’m actually having a hard time writing this next post in a series I’m doing… because I came to a point where it talks about the way the Proverbs 31 woman dresses and how she presents herself, and all these thoughts flew into my head – like why is she wearing a color that represents wealth and royalty? What is this saying??? The dye for the purple gowns she wears was extremely costly, and so her wearing that clothing could be seen by others as being vain or too showy. We’re supposed to dress (as Christians – this is what my head was telling me) in an “unassuming way” – it’s generally accepted as part of modesty… she seems to be dressing as to draw attention to herself. Part of me couldn’t believe that this virtuous woman is described as wearing such stunning, bold-colored, fine linen kind of clothes because of how she could be completely misunderstood, and how we seem to have a default puritanical view of being too good looking as being a sinful thing. People could wonder if she was going out of her way to incite envy in other women in her neighborhood who couldn’t afford that dye or the fine linen she makes and sells.

    It’s been difficult to reconcile that her doing this is ok, when everything I’ve heard even recently seems to say it is sinful or all due to vanity. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with her husband – his position, her clothing and presentation represent him, and reflect him in a sense.
    Sorry to ramble on… I read both DeepStrength’s and Practical Cons’ posts and understand both perceptions, probably leaning a little more toward yours – that it just depends on what season of life you’re in, and it in no way reveals the state of your spiritual maturity.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Elspeth has some excellent input on this, and has written some good blog posts – you might check her archives out.

      Our appearance reflects upon our husband, and on ourselves. Realistically speaking, people evaluate you on your looks before you open your mouth. Good bad or whatever – it’s the way the cards play out. If you look a certain way … well, people assume certain things. If you’re wearing linen and purple, not only is your family well-off, but you care to adorn yourself beautifully.

      What constitutes vanity and excessive attention to one’s appearance is a matter of personal conviction. I recall reading the blog (now gone) of a woman who was so convicted by 1 Peter 3 that she even stopped wearing her wedding ring. I have no beef with her, her husband was okay with that, it’s not my business. But conviction and condemnation are not synonymous – in fact, they come from opposite sources.

      It would not please my husband if I went Plain, he actually likes more adornment than your crunchy correspondent currently sports… he’ll probably be much happier with the Image Consultant Me, coming to a blog near you very soon.

      Really – whether we should spend money on beauty (whether that beauty is in the fine art collected all over Europe, paid for by the church, or on your face) or not is an argument that has been going on for centuries.

      for myself – it comes down to stewardship of resources. Are you using what you have been ***given*** well, and loving your neighbor as yourself? Enjoy your gifts and don’t take them for granted.

      But yeah, I struggle with this too – or I’d never have written this post. Ghosts in my head, debates I have with myself.

      1. Stephanie

        “What constitutes vanity and excessive attention to one’s appearance is a matter of personal conviction.”

        Men judge on outward appearance yes… and God looks at the heart. I find when I’m caring too much what others think or judge about me (when it’s clear they’re misunderstanding at least) I’m falling into fearing their opinions or criticisms, or even harm on my reputation, more than trusting in God – Proverbs 29:25. We’re going to be harshly misjudged and misunderstood, so accepting that and being ok with it has been a journey for me.

      2. hearthie Post author

        We do want to be careful and take thought, of course. The Cross offends … we don’t need to add to that. But yeah, ultimately our authority structure goes God -> husband -> us . Is your husband good? Is the Bible good? Go forth.

  7. Elspeth

    Whew, good to know we’re on the same page. It was early. I am 30 pages into that other book too, by the way. Good stuff.

    When Hearth mentions my archives she is referring to the mostly dead Breathing Grace blog, not the reading/book blog currently connected to my comments and avatar. I don’t post to it regularly in a long time now but it’s still there. For posterity or something, LOLA.


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