I'm a Know it All
There is nothing as insufferable as a know it all. I know, because I was one. Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm still in recovery for that particular issue. When I introduce myself at Celebrate Recovery I say, “I'm a believer in Christ who struggles with eating disorders and being a know it all.”
I was the kid in school who, when the teacher would forget to give us a scheduled quiz, would raise my hand and say, “Teacher, weren’t we supposed to have a quiz today?” To which there would be a collective groan from my fellow classmates as well as a barrage of dirty looks and whispers of “I’ll see you outside at recess.”
My peers never did follow through on their threats of a playground smack down, but still, I lived in perpetual fear the day one of them would indeed mete out the justice I so richly deserved. One would think that the imminent threat of violence would be enough to deter me from doing such know it all-y things. But it wasn’t. I just couldn’t help myself. The burden of knowing something that no one else seemed to be aware of was too much to bear. I had to make sure everyone else knew…that I knew.
If Hermione Granger, of JK Rowling's Harry Potter, had been around when I was a child, she and I would have been kindred spirits. Not because I fought to take down a dark wizard and free the entire world from his wrath, but for the following reasons: I, too, always had a book under my nose and, if there were a question, I would answer it; whether I had been actually asked to answer it or not.
In light of this, it should come as no surprise that I spent the majority of my life striving to prove that I knew the right answers. To some degree we all do this, as our lives are really one long attempt to prove that we actually know what we are doing. We want to believe that what we are doing matters and has significance. We don’t want to be faced with the prospect of a wrong life.
When I was in eighth grade I discovered that I loved to write. I had a teacher who encouraged me (God bless the teachers who encourage their students) and would often let me read my creative writing aloud to the class. The exercise usually went something like this: she would tell us to turn to a certain page in our textbook to see the writing prompt for the day. We would then craft an original short story based off of the prompt. I engaged in these assignments with fervor- not only did I love doing the work, but I also knew it would be a chance to showcase my talents to the eighth grade world.
One day, I managed to create a masterpiece…at least that was my view of my accomplishment. I fashioned a tale of a daring rescue, replete with a burning building, a firefighter with a tragic backstory, and a young girl, forced to make an unthinkable choice—in five hundred words or less.
The time came and indeed, my teacher asked me to read my story to the class. I read with Shakespearean gusto, the Bard himself could have done no better.
But…wait? What was happening? People were supposed to be regarding me with awe. They were supposed to be standing to their feet in raucous applause. They were not supposed to be snickering at me and looking at me with a piteous gaze, hands shielding their mouths as they furtively whispered to their neighbors beside them.
My teacher quickly intervened to address the tension in the room. “Thank you Jennene, but the assignment was to write an essay about your favorite snack food at the fair.”
Now, this is not the end all, be all embarrassing moment in my life (there are plenty of those, never fear), but all the same, it rocked me to my thirteen-year-old core. I had given my best, my literary all, and in the end, I had not found what I had been looking for; I had spent all of that time and effort, blood, sweat and tears, on the wrong assignment.
Please understand, what I had done wasn’t wrong per se.
It was actually the right answer. But to the wrong question.
The wrong question
Throughout the twenty year course of my battle with eating disorders I was forever trying to answer various incarnations of this question:
"WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?"
I just need to lose five pounds. Gee. That’s nothing to be worried about. Who cares that it is important to me? I’m going to cut out carbs, exercise more and lose the weight. Then I’ll feel so much better. Then I will be able to zip my jeans with ease.
"WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?"
Through sleepless nights, a failing marriage, inpatient treatment; through every word of “Christian” condemnation, every self deprecating thought, every wrenching tear of shame; through every diet, every exercise plan, every clean-eating regime, every nutritional shake, every product that promised I would lose those last nagging pounds, I wrestled with the question, “WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?”
And truly, the answer, for the most part, was…nothing.
I spent so much time; years of it, consumed with getting the right answer to the question “WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?”
I didn’t realize, all that time, I had been answering the wrong question.
The response to the question, “What is so wrong with that?” didn’t matter. It was meaningless. Immaterial. It gave me nothing in the way of real and living truth. Nothing in the way of purpose or value.
I had struggled for so long to find an answer, only to realize I had been answering the wrong question. I needed to ask a new question in order to get a new answer. The real question regarding losing weight I needed to ask was this:
"DO I WANT TO BE FREE?"
I know, you may still be protesting, but if I could just cut out sugar then I would be happy and healthy.
To which I would say, that is all well and good, but DO YOU WANT TO BE FREE?
Do you want to be an example of freedom to the little eyes that are watching and the little ears that are listening?
Do you want to live a life of audacious victory, free of every weight and the sin that so easily entangles? Do you want to choose the better thing? To lay aside “rightness” for the sake of helping to start a new conversation about food and body image and value that we are in desperate need of as a cultural whole?
Is there not a cause?
Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 17 that David had the audacity to ask an unlikely question in the face of an overwhelming threat: a threat that was over nine feet tall, clad in bronze scale armor, bellowing from across the ravine to the armies of Israel lined up in battle formation, “I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!”*
It wasn’t a logical question that David asked. He wasn’t inquiring about matters of military strategy, of swords and spears and armor. The question David asked didn’t address the nuts and bolts of taking down the very real Goliath that stood before him and the armies of Israel.
Even so, as it turned out, it was the right question. It was a question that got straight to the heart of the matter; it redefined the nature of the battle before the armies of Israel; it gave the fight a new and holy purpose. The question was this:
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)*
In other words, David was really asking this: How dare Goliath stand there so insolently, making mockery of the righteousness of the Living God? How dare Goliath think for even a second that he is a match for the Most High God?
We know today, through the luxury of being able to look back through time, that David would indeed prevail over the giant Goliath.
But, on that day, in that moment in time, with the Philistine armies looming large, his question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” seemed laughable to the scoffers. (note: his own family and friends)
The scoffers said, “Why did you come down here?...Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and your evil heart—you came down to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28)*
Even King Saul, who was admittedly powerless to do anything about the jeers and threats of Goliath, was a critic. “You can’t do anything about the Philistine. You are just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young.” (1 Samuel 17:33)*
David, you are ridiculous. Nobody cares what you have to say or what you think you are going to do. Let the real warriors fight the real battles.
But David wasn’t deterred. “It was just a question…”
That’s right. It all started with a question. The right question.
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that dares to defy the armies of the Living God?”
With the declaration, “You come against me with a dagger, spear and sword, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him,”* reverberating through the field of battle, the giant fell dead to the ground, slain by a boy with a sling and a few small stones who dared to ask a new question.
It's time to ask a different question
And so, like David stood before the giant Goliath, I will stand and ask a different question.
“Do I want to be FREE?”
I will ignore the scoffers. I will ignore the salespeople who peddle diet products. I will ignore the endless marketing campaign that tells me in order to be attractive and confident I need to be thin. I will ignore a society that bellows, “If you want to be happy, you need to be healthy!!!” I will ignore the false teaching in the church that equates physical health with Godliness. I will tell my children that fighting for the truth about food and body image matters; that they can live a life of inspirational, unbelievable freedom, liberated from the standards of this culture that promote the preeminence of physical appearance.
I will fight to ask the right questions: questions that will redefine the nature of this battle, giving it a new and holy purpose.
Because asking the right questions leads people to the right answers: The answers that will set them free.