From Guest-Author: Jenica Christensen
Losing the world’s illusion of self-worth and security caused me to uncover the eternal fountains contained within. I remember sitting in shock asking myself “how is it that I can look my worst yet feel this beautiful?” I knew this would perplex me for quite some time.
I was heavily into strengthening my muscles. I had been teaching fitness boot camps for five years. I could do 12 pull ups, heavy tire pulls and much more. Looking back, they were forms of self torture. In the moment, they were my sense of self worth and identity. I could perform feats that turned heads and proved to me, in a twisted way, that I was valuable. You can only live carrying beliefs like this for so long before something breaks.
In my case, it was an explosion. My body gave up. I developed the most severe case of guttate psoriasis (an autoimmune disease) my doctors had ever seen. I thought I had leprosy for a time; it took a month before I was diagnosed with anything. Every morning I hoped for a sign of healing but I’d wake up to find it worse. The itching mixed with burning felt like I was on fire. I couldn’t be touched. The medicines given to me only angered my skin and made the burning more severe. The spots turned redder and seemed angry at me as I applied the steroid creams that were supposed to calm it. It was an indescribable experience where my body seemed to be screaming out at me to stop hating it. It wasn’t until I gave up all my expectations and genuinely apologized to it that I was able to turn a corner. That took place two months in. And yes, I literally apologized to my body and wept for it. My body and I were in an abusive relationship and now it was healing.
You see, I thought of my body as a frustrating thing to deal with; something to be tamed into submission. I was always attempting to discipline it and make it perform almost like a circus animal. Never did I see it as something to be loved, like a plant or a puppy. I finally saw it as a living organism intertwined with my soul. It reminds me of how we can wrongly see our children as a reflection of ourselves and wrongfully force our ideas onto them so they’ll portray us how we need the world to interpret us. We can sometimes put this same pressure on our bodies when we need them to look and perform a certain way so others will think certain things about us. Our bodies need to be respected, listened to, considered and loved just like our individual children do. I learned it in such a hard way. But I wouldn’t change anything about it because the lesson reached such a deep level of my being. The hardest part of writing about this is keeping it short and straightforward when in my mind, volumes could be written on what I learned from this. It was such a life-altering experience.
What shifted everything for me was when my husband said a heartfelt prayer for me and my situation. He prayed that I would have Jesus Christ walk beside me through this trial. I didn’t know such a thing was possible. I can attest that something as abstract as this sounds, is a literal possibility in this world. There were a few times where I could not bear another second of the burning. I averaged an hour of broken up sleep a night because it hurt so bad to lay on the sores. It was during those sleepless nights that I called out to God in agony for relief. I experienced the indescribable presence of Christ and His healing power in those moments.
Whether it was the feeling of numbness coming over me so I could doze off or an extreme presence of pure love turned tangible to all five of my senses, He showed up when I could not take another minute of suffering. I remember thinking “Christ is pure, tangible, healing love.” I came to know Him in such a deep, indescribable way that forever changed how I see Him and myself. I felt His love strongest when I felt that I deserved it the least. When my faith in Him was the weakest, His presence became stronger to where I couldn’t deny it. I remember telling God that if this is what it took for me to be this close to Christ, I wanted this ailment to stay. The following scripture became very real to me through my circumstances:
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Lord was proving The Father’s unwavering love for me. It was so loud and all encompassing, I could not misinterpret it. I felt better than I ever had in my whole life, yet I looked like death was about to overcome me. The power of God’s love is unyielding, even stubborn. I tested it in childish ways where I’d do something or think something selfish and I would feel His love ever stronger. He won me over. I wanted to be good because I knew He would love me even if I was bad. This made me like Him. Because God, my sweet Father, proved His stubborn love for me, I gave up earning my worth through the world’s eyes. I already had this worth inside me that wasn’t going anywhere. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t change. This brought extreme peace and rest to my soul. I could finally relax for the first time in my life. All the while I had a friend who lived down the street who checked in with me daily and helped me process all this as it happened. She was truly sent by our Father to physically walk me through this transformational healing. It was too much for my mind to comprehend. She could put the pieces together with me that I couldn’t on my own. While my body looked awful, my soul was healing at a rapid pace.
Here are the messages I have for others learned through my discovery of self worth:
1. Your worth is inherent. You’re born with it. Nothing you do or don’t do can touch it. So relax and be at peace. It’s untouchable by you and by anything or anyone in this world.
2. God’s love for you is real and stubborn. Real stubborn. Nothing you can do will alter it so you might as well learn to like Him and accept that He will always be there for you, especially when you deserve it the least.
3. We can’t feel secure within ourselves alone. We feel secure to the degree that we trust He whose hands we’re in. Develop trust in God and security will come as a byproduct.
4. Be nice to your body. A plant doesn’t grow well if we ignore it, yell at it or only feed it Diet Coke. This is obvious. Yet often we treat plants better than the living organism that is our body. See it with loving eyes and watch how it responds.
5. Ask God, your loving Father, to show you that He loves you in ways you can grasp. Ask to be able to feel it deeper than ever before. Watch and see how experiencing His love heals you in ways you never thought possible.
Immediately after healing from the disease, I felt like I had a second chance at life. A quote by Bernard Malamud from the movie The Natural reminds me of what I experienced coming out of this experience: “We have two lives… the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us towards happiness.” My suffering did just that. I relearned how to exercise my body in love rather than fear. I dropped the exercise boot camps and began learning how to do aerial silk. It was a beautiful thing to do with my body. I remembered how much I loved riding dirt bikes growing up. I got my motorcycle license and returned to that love again. My husband and I wanted to find a slower pace of life. We moved out to the country with our three children and then added two more. Pregnancy was a whole different experience when I loved my body through it. Mothering has become much more of a joy to me. There’s less pressure and more peace. I’ve also become open to deeper friendships. I’m not as afraid to be seen or rejected because I know God will love me through any relational pain I might experience.
So many things have changed and continue to change as these truths reach deeper and deeper levels in me. I know from experience that as we set ourselves on the path to real self worth, profound inner peace evades our being. We shed layer after layer of needing to please outward sources and let go of our futile attempts at earning self worth and earning our right to be here. The struggle disappears in ways we never thought possible simply because we realize we already have what we were aiming to attain. The endless struggle was endless because we were striving for the wrong thing. Our aim was completely off. Inner peace is what the soul longs for and can be had any moment of any day when we allow the truth to set in. We are already fully loved and fully accepted by the eternal being that created us. No mortal being can take that away, not even ourselves. So be at peace and know, you already have the worth you seek.