“The bone scan tells us you have osteoporosis”. My heart plummeted. Within minutes I was on the phone with my sister, sobbing out the details of my bone density scan. It was my fault, I remember telling her. All those years I abused my body. It was all my fault. I kept thinking back to my 23-year-old self, eating an entire uncooked Walmart pizza, puking it up in my junior high classroom where I taught Bible, Latin, and Greek and then heading out for a twenty-mile run. That about summed up my fitness and nutrition for about five years. I had ruined my body.
I texted Jeff the news while he was at work, and all I could think about was how we would not be able to go hiking together when we were in our 70’s. After I texted him, I gathered up my four kiddos and we headed to a grocery store, where I stood dazed and overwhelmed at all the supplements, wondering which Vitamin D and Calcium I should purchase.
All this took place in January of this year.
A few weeks after my scan, I met with an endocrinologist to discuss the bone scan. She explained how multiple things could be contributing factors, some of which included, a history with an eating disorder, Celiac disease (which is why my family doctor offered the scan in the first place), having nursed multiple children over the past eight years (each lasting about two years), and low estrogen. Her recommendations were to eat more calcium-rich foods, as well as supplement with vitamins, and, in regards to exercise, to include strength training and jumping.
I became a nervous wreck after all of this. My anxiety flew through the roof over whether any food or drink the had risk of cross-contamination with gluten and all gluten was banned from the house. Exercise became anxiety-ridden, as well. I have struggled with ever so many injuries over the past three years, and any ache or pain I experienced brought about panic and depression. What if I was injured so that I was not able to do the prescribed strength training or jumping?
I spent hours on nof.org (national osteoporosis foundation), watching training videos of women decades older than me, doing lat pulldowns, with a form that I, myself, wanted to help and correct. The thing was, I had been doing quite a bit of strength training, but mostly upper body, as injury upon injury had kept me from progressing in squats and deadlifts (again, more anxiety).
Panic and regret seemed to engulf my heart and spirit. I had been recently studying to take an exam put out by the NSCA, to become a certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. After my doctor’s phone call, I tucked my exam book away from sight. Every time I looked at it, my heart would burn with embarrassment and shame. I had, only weeks before, called all of my kids to gather around my textbook to show them a picture of what bones look like with osteoporosis, following it up, of course, with encouragement for them to eat foods that are rich in calcium. I felt humiliated. I felt like a fraud.
But God was using all this to shine a blazing spotlight into the places of my heart I did not wish to see. Nothing clears the dust on our souls as well as removing the image of an unspoken dream. What were the hidden, unspoken dreams of my heart? Hiking with Jeff in my 70’s. Running and playing with my children. Walking beside my children in their strength and athletic endeavors, with me training right alongside them. Evil dreams? No. Far from it. In fact, they are all good desires. I thought I had learned all the lessons to be learned when it came to nutrition and fitness. Yes, I continue to fight certain lies in each of these areas, but, on the whole, I thought I had come out of something, and, yet, here I was, slapped in the face with anxiety around food and fitness once again. And this time, I did not even know if I could do what was being asked of me (with various injuries). I literally felt trapped.
I remember as a teenager, having another fellow teenager share something she was struggling with, and her quickly following it up with, “Alright Lord, let me learn the lesson you have for me in this struggle, so I can move on!” I feel like this can often be my perspective. God had given me a struggle that I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t fix. He had given me a struggle whose lesson might never be removed. My life will now be lived from bone scan to bone scan. Or, was this truly how God desired me to live my life from here on out?
Are there lessons to be learned in this? Yes. But the end for which we live our lives has never been to learn a lesson. We were not created to be lesson learners. We have not been put on this earth for God to “teach us a lesson”. God did not sovereignly design for me to get a bone scan, slapping His knee and saying, “That’ll teach her.”
I sat still a lot, the days after my results from the bone scan, feeling helpless and scared. I ran to the Scriptures, to the Psalms, mostly, crying out for help. And in His Word, He showed Himself to me. He revealed Himself to me as, better. Better than any dream, and better than any amount of muscle and bone density could promise. And I had Him. He is mine and I am His. And He is better.
I remember, soon after the scan, after having been in the word, walking out onto our deck where Jeff was reading his Bible, and saying, through tears, and with trembling lip, even if I could never jump or run or lift anything again, or enjoy a hike with him in my 70’s, that my joy would remain full. Because God is Better. Jesus is better. Take it all away, and my joy would remain. I remember saying, as ridiculous as it sounds, “Jesus is better than running.” Even if my bones may crumble, yet I will rejoice in God, my Savior.
I want to do my part well. I want to take the supplements, I want to do the jumping, I want to do the strength training, I want to be wise with my nutrition. And I want to do these things without anxiety or worry. I long to be a good steward with my body, a good steward of my bones. But when injuries continue to nag at my body, my heart is tempted towards discouragement, and I grow worried whether I can do enough or be enough. Moment by moment, I must fall upon His promises; His promise that He is working all things together for my good and His glory. And He knows what is good for me, far better than I do. And I want, more than anything, His best for me. I want Him. With joy, I will continue to do what I can, by the grace, with which He enables me. And that which I cannot do, I will not do, with the grace with which He enables me, a grace, which enables me to abide and trust in Him. It is all grace.
The greatest grace of all, over these past few months, has been the gift of God, Himself. Through His word, He has shown Himself to be more beautiful and more desirable and more worthy than anything else in this world. We have been put here on this earth, not for God to teach us a lesson, but for God to display to us in His word, His gripping beauty, with which He longs to satisfy our souls, that we might enjoy him now and forever. He is pursuing us with His mind-shattering goodness, all of our days. We are tethered to our God, who is drawing us further into joy and further freedom, that is further into the joy of Christ, Himself. And because of His great love and mercy for us, even a bone density scan, becomes but a tool of mercy in His awesome, mighty, and good hands.