I enjoy stalking people on Throwback Thursdays. I think it’s because I have a love for pictures. While words will always be my choice of storytelling, sometimes looking into the lives of others through images is insightful.

But there are times in my life…in everyone’s lives…where a throwback isn’t an occasion to remember. And certainly not blasted across social media like so many other little trophies that pop up on that day.

The picture you see above was a time in my life that was much simpler. A proper throwback, if you will. I remember swinging from that ski rope on the dock over and over again until sheer exhaustion spread to every limb in my body. Including those skinny legs of mine. But don’t let the picture fool you. I was already working off some serious calorie intake. My diet of Mr. Pibb and Starcrunch was already at work on my young metabolism.

And as I throw it back to many years into the future from when this picture was taken, I think of a time when I didn’t capture so many moments on film. Long gone were the days of busying myself in the water and burning off those calories. Instead, I traded in that fun in the water for a job on the dock filling up boats.

I wasn’t the only girl there. There were lots of us. Running ourselves silly, trying to catch a boat before some drunk idiot inebriated individual plowed it into the front of the well. I was badly bruised that summer and have a permanent patch of broken veins behind my left thigh to prove it.

But the real throwback of that season was my incessant need to look great in a swim suit. I wasn’t much on drinking (that often). I didn’t smoke. But my obsession for having a body like the “other girls” consumed me.

Yes, I can throw it back hard on this one. Back to the day I completely broke down in the dressing room of a swimsuit shop.

I cried a lot of angry tears, down on my knees, looking over those suits that hugged my body too tightly. The ones that weren’t made for a full figured girl and, when worn, caused all that extra skin to pop out in places that should’ve been well covered. I’d never been much for showing my midriff, but I felt the pressures of purchasing a bikini. Though I’d always marched to the beat of a different drummer throughout my early adolescent years, now…well, I just wanted so badly to fit in.

I wasn’t beautiful, but I sure wanted to be. That’s what I told myself.

I’d had one too many Mr. Pibbs and Starcrunch and it was time to do something about it.

Something drastic.

31 days later I walked into a hospital on a Thursday morning. The sun hadn’t risen and my senses were still fast asleep. I vaguely remember going under anesthesia for the single worst decision I have ever made.

I was 22 years old. Crying on the inside for who I was and again on the outside for who I wasn’t. I wanted to become someone else.

I was so sure that liposuction was the answer.

If I were speaking these words right now this is the moment I’d demand the attention of every eye in the room. I’d cup your chin in my hand and speak to you with certainty. “You are beautiful,” I would say. “Just…beautiful.”

I know that most of you wouldn’t believe me. I certainly didn’t believe me. Yet there was a gentle voice that day that told the reflection in the mirror not to go through with it.

Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. As a girl who accepted Christ as a teenager and then had no idea where to go from there, I didn’t so much recognize that voice for many years. But I’d be lying if I said the warning wasn’t real.

I ignored it. I walked into that hospital determined to fix, what I thought, was a problem.

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I awoke in so much pain that it wouldn’t have surprised me to be lying there in a burning bed. I was struggling to come ’round and express to the nurses just how much it hurt. It was then that Jonathon’s face came into view.

It was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.

He wore his regret with shame and I immediately felt as sorry for him as I did myself. His remorse over bringing me there was far worse than my own yet I’m sure his body wasn’t screaming for morphine the way mine was at that present moment.

I’d lost a lot of blood and the bleeding wouldn’t cease. The nurses were panic stricken and quickly paged the doctor who’d left on vacation just moments after the surgery.

This was my second indication that I’d made a grave mistake. What doctor leaves a patient before they’ve even woken up?

And the recovery…

The recovery was worse than anything I’ve ever physically dealt with. I couldn’t walk and it hurt even more to sleep. I thought I was going to vomit pretty much all the time.

The bruising was so significant that it looked as though I’d been beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. I cried every time I had to see it.

But the weeks progressed and the bruises diminished. I could wear my cute shorts that had been waiting for thinner thighs.

I was smug.

The gloating didn’t last long. The lack of feeling I’d been experiencing in the back of my calves proved to be nerve damage. My right leg…damaged permanently. You could burn me with a lit match and I’d never feel a thing.

It’s been 16 years now.

I still don’t feel a thing.

Yeah, the enemy was rejoicing that day as he knocked me down hard. I often wonder if he knew that my potential would surface one day. Did he sense God would use me?

I wonder if he knew that I’d learn what faith was?

I’m sure he didn’t know I’d tell this story. Sharing something so personal. So…shameful. But if it stops a dozen girls or four or…one, from going under the knife, it’s worth it.

I know how easy it is to roll our eyes and take it all for granted when someone tells you you’re beautiful.  It’s so easy to dismiss it as rubbish. And we’ve all been in situations where we ignore the truth of God’s Word and cling to the enemy’s lies like they’re some sort of lifeline.

I know it is. Because I lived that way for so long.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in rediscovering faith, it’s this…

 God can’t lie. It’s impossible for Him.

He says He loves us. He does.

He says He will give us peace. He will.

He says He will protect us from the storm. He shelters.

He says He perfects our faith. I’m living proof.

He says He will uphold and strengthen us. That right hand of His never gets tired.

He…redeems.

And you don’t tuck away redemption and keep it from the world. You shout it from the rooftops. You tell everyone where you took that wrong turn and how those loving hands of His steered you right back beneath His wing.

So it’s in those moments of regret that I have to throw back to a day worth sharing. A day, over 2000 years ago, to a memory worth hanging onto. A memory of a man who gave His life to make sure that grace was given, sin was conquered and redemption was made real. A man who fulfilled every promise that God made to those he loved.

One Who let others drag Him off to die an excruciating death on a cross the very next day.

Today I’m remembering the real Throwback Thursday. A day without unflattering swimsuits and doctors who left me bleeding in the recovery room.

Because my blood isn’t even involved. It’s all His. And He washes me clean with it…

That’s the day I’m going to remember. The day that I was saved.

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I don’t know where you are in your faith, but if you’re reading this now just know that I’m already praying for you. I’m already praying that God gets ahold of your heart and won’t let go. The temptations of this fallen world are sometimes so impossible to bear. We give in..not because we want to…but because we assume we have to. We feel defeated before we’re ever able to fight back. But there is a way out. My prayer for you today is that you will come to know what true redemption is. I may carry the scars of a surgery gone wrong, but I refuse to let one more day go by that I deny myself what God whispered to me so many years ago. “You are beautiful!” 

Yes, I am beautiful.

And I don’t need a smaller pair of shorts or a bikini to reassure me of that! 

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)

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Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory

Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart

Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday

Holly S. Barrett for Testimony Tuesday
Holly Barrett

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