I heard a story lately that amused me. It goes like this.
A woman was in surgery after suffering a heart attack and she had a vision of God standing by her bedside. "Am I going to die?" she asks.
God said, "No. You'll live for 30 more years!"
Lying in the hospital with 30 years to look forward to, she decides she may as well have some other surgeries. So she has a face lift, a nose job, collagen injections in her lips, liposuction, a tummy tuck, and certain other body enhancements. She looks and feels great!
The day she's discharged from the hospital she walks out the door feeling on top of the world and is immediately hit by an ambulance and killed.
When she gets to Heaven she sees God and says, "You said I had 30 more years to live!"
God replies, "I'm sorry! I didn't recognize you!"
You know, some people do go to extremes to change their appearance, just like the woman in that story.
I know there are a lot of people who look at themselves in the mirror and don't like what they see staring back. Some people just live with it, and others do something to change what they see.
I spoke with a woman lately who told me that she has gotten to the point in her life where she just doesn't like herself anymore. It is sad to think of the many people out there that feel that way.
Over the years I've struggled with body image issues too. When I realized I didn't like having to buy and wear XXXL shirts, I knew that I had to do something about it.
I tried a low carb diet. That worked for a while, but I really craved bread (of any kind). And I gave in.
I tried a grapefruit diet, but I had to stop that when I realized I couldn't eat grapefruit with the cholesterol medicine I was taking.
I tried just not eating. But, you know what? I got real hungry!
Then the cardiologist told me I had numerous blockages in my arteries and I was going to have to have open-heart surgery. I knew then that I had to do something. I wasn't ready to give up. I had more to do.
It wasn't just about not liking the way I looked, or having to wear shirts that looked like they could sleep a family of five. I knew that God had more for me to do in this life.
I had just watched the birth of my first granddaughter, and I wanted to be around to watch her grow up and to hear her say, "Papa, I love you!"
I was the minister at a church that depended on me for inspiration and godly example, and I wanted to be around to provide them with that.
My wife, who loved me when I was younger and thinner, still loved me when I was older and fatter. But, she deserved better.
So I took some serious steps to do something to change my life.
Following my doctor's advice, I joined Weight Watchers and I started attending weekly meetings and I started losing weight.
In time I still had to have open-heart surgery, and I was told by the surgeon to keep going to those weekly meetings and stick with the program. And I have.
I have lost over 100 pounds, and I no longer wear a XXXL shirt. I can get by in a L now.
My doctor tells me that my cholesterol is on target, my blood sugar is in excellent range, and my blood pressure is normal.
There are things that we can do to make life better. There are steps we can take if we are willing to put forth the effort.
I have made some changes in my life, and I have had God by my side through this whole journey. He didn't tell me I had 30 more years to live. He has just given me a desire to live life to the fullest.
I can look at myself in the mirror now (fully clothed, please) and I like what I see staring back at me.
But, sometimes I think, "Maybe I should shave my beard, and dye my hair red!" Maybe someday! But for now, I like me just fine!
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.