I’m in the hot room. In the front row. It’s 105 degrees. I stare at myself in the mirror.
Obviously, one does not wear large amounts of clothing in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity. Less is best. Women and men of all shapes, sizes and colors surround me. Some are very covered, some are hardly covered. Me? I’m usually somewhere in the middle. But when the heat is intense and the sweat is literally pouring onto the mat from every part of your skin, as it is on certain days, the layers come off. And there they are staring right at me in the mirror – those stretch marks.
You see, the goal in Bikram (or sequence) yoga is to be in a 90 minute moving meditation. You don’t watch the others around you. You focus in the mirror at yourself and on the instructions that the teacher is giving. And you find stillness in the postures and in the in between and in the heat. But despite the fact that no one ‘should’ be looking at me, I find myself starting at my stomach and not my eyes, wondering who actually is.
Isn’t it true that we want to cover up our scars? That we want to hide behind them? Both the ones you can see and the ones you can’t. This has me thinking a lot lately, as I’ve forced myself to become comfortable in my own skin in front of that mirror. As I tune out those around me and what they ‘could be’ thinking about the scarred and stretched skin and work hard to stay with my eyes. It really is all that matters if I want to become a better version of me, both off and on the mat.
Those scars on my stomach represent the most challenging work I’ve ever done. Carrying and birthing those large babies (and by large, I do mean 9-10 pounders) was work, yes. But each day – the joys, sorrows, successes and failures of being a mother is truly the hardest work I’ve ever done. And the most rewarding. Andy Stanley says that “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” It IS challenging work, my friends, and so much rests on it.
God has stretched me so much in this last year. My insides and my mind ‘feel’ like my stomach looks. Both with my career goals and even in my parenting journey. The growth has really come in searching for who I am at the core, not the identities that I’ve created over the past few years. I’ve needed to shed those identities, or scale them away, in order to recreate something new. Something that was really there all along.
I recently read the book, ‘The Truest Thing About You’ by David Lomas. In the book, David references a story from C.S. Lewis’ “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. The main character Eustace, who is a self absorbed school boy, has been taken to Narnia. The boy wanders and finds shelter in a cave of a dragon. Eustace transforms into a dragon himself, due to the greedy ‘dragonish’ thoughts in his heart.
David says, “It is a the story of how we become who we hate, how the worst parts of us manage to find the light. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, How did I become this?”
I can so relate, my friends. Maybe you can too.
Once Eustace becomes a dragon, he realizes that he was made for much more. But he is covered in scales and does not know how to remove them. Layers upon layers of identity that were created. Eustace eventually begins to see the reality and he begins peeling off his scales.
“And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? said Eustace. The process of un-scaling isn’t an easy one, but what Eustace comes to find out is that the only way to shed the scales and scars is to leave them at the feet of the one that created him.
Stretching and scaling. I’ve done a lot of both recently, figuratively and literally. In my yoga practice, I find my body stretching in ways that I never knew possible. Just today, I was able to get my leg behind my head. It may seem strange, y’all, but I love it. I’ve also scaled back many things in my life in order to find the core of me because I’ve realized that who I’ve been really isn’t who I am, if that makes any sense.
And those stretch marks. They represent so much. They are truly a sign of the greatest work that God has given me. I realize I need to be proud of those scars because those three babies have changed my life. And being comfortable showing the marks is changing me. For many years, I was putting other work in front of my ‘greatest work’. So thank you, lovely stretch marks. You’ve taught me a lot this week!
So what scars and stretch marks are you hiding behind? I challenge you to dig deeper, scale back, and come out of hiding, just like my stomach has.