Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why running - AKA - The Journey So Far

To explain why I'm on this journey - I'll have to share a little of my background.

When I was growing up and going through grade school and junior high, I was always the fat kid. I was extremely embarrassed about my weight and very shy. As a young child I had experienced sexual abuse, and I grew up with a general assumption that there must be something "off" or broken about me, and especially about my body. I did try a good number of different sports as a kid, but I quit more than I finished. I just never really understood exactly what was happening and didn't see the point. PE class was my own personal hell. Every time we had class I got cold sweats just thinking about the possibility of humiliation in front of my peers. All of my gradeschool PE memories involve me getting hit in the face with a ball. I can still see them coming at my face; a soccer ball in 2nd grade, a volleyball in 3rd, a basketball... but I don't know when that was. It seemed like all the other kids knew what they were doing and were strong and fast and scary. I opted out of physical fitness somewhere in junior high, and would fake that I was sick so I didn't have to listen to my peers mocking my pathetic attempts at badminton, basketball, softball, etc.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get it to jump, throw, run or whatever fast enough to spare me from being made fun of. As far as I was concerned, my body and I were not friends. Food was my friend, though, and I would eat instead of deal with my feelings of shame, confusion and loneliness. Somewhere around 7th grade I finally got the memo that being a fat kid was never going to get me a boyfriend. I actually had a close guy friend tell me that I'd be the perfect girlfriend if I weren't so fat. The summer before my 8th grade year, I'd finally had enough. I spent the summer exercising in my room, using workouts from Seventeen Magazine. I also developed a very serious eating disorder. By the time 8th grade started I was down 30 lbs from the beginning of the summer and all of the kids at school noticed. The popular girls asked me to be their friend, and I started getting attention from boys. Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind of attention. During 8th grade I was sexually assaulted by a friend's older brother, and I blamed myself. I was the one who had wanted to be thin and attractive; my body had betrayed me yet again.

During my 9th grade year I started reading the Bible and encountered Jesus Christ there. I was drawn to the promise of new life, and especially to the idea of being dead to my old self. In my heart I took that a little too far and jsut told myself that the "old Becca Sue" was dead. All the icky things that had happened to me could just be stuffed in a box and forgotten. Which is exactly what I did. I gave up the purging and obsessive exercise that had gotten me down to 130 lbs, but I still ran to food to comfort the lagging anxiety and confusion I was feeling. Between freshman year and high school graduation I gained 20 lbs and hated every minute of it.

Fast forward to college. I'm a student at Multnomah Bible College. Our cafeteria had an all-you-can-eat buffet for every meal, which was bad news. In my first year I ate my way into an extra 25 lbs. Then during my sophomore year I managed to put on another 15lbs. In less than two years at school I'd gained 40 lbs because I was trying to cover up all of the hurt and confusion from my past. During my sophomore year I had a psychology class with a professor who also happened to be a sexual abuse recovery counselor. Upon his advice I started seeing someone in his office. A three year journey of examining my story and doing my life work really allowed me to face the abuse I had experienced, and to see that I could be honest with the Lord and trust Him to love and care for my innermost needs. The actual life skills of personal fitness and health were still a little outside of my reach though. I'd felt reconciled in my heart to the Lord, but still didn't really feel like I wanted to be friends with my body.

During that season I met and married my husband. Three months into our marriage we got pregnant. That's a lot of change for a girl who isn't quite comfortable in her own skin. Needless to say, my pregnancy was rough. All the emotional baggage that I'd carried about my body wore heavy on my shoulders as I tried to prepare for being a mother. Daniel and I tried to prepare for a natural labor but were both clueless first-timers. I tried to ignore the nagging doubts and fears in my mind, but underneath I knew that I saw my body as my enemy and feared that somehow it would fail me again.

The story of my son's birth is a long one, which I will save for another time. I will tell you that after choosing an unnecessary induction and ending up with a cesarean delivery because the hospital needed the room I was in and I'd taken too long - I had the final wake-up call that I needed to start dealing with the hate I had for my body. When I was finally able to hold my son, I was actually proud of what my body had been able to do in forming and nourishing and protecting him. I celebrated the beautiful new life that the Lord had formed in me.

I also mourned the loss of what could have been a beautiful and empowering birth experience. In researching to prepare for a future VBAC, I realized that the most foundational problem I faced during my first labor was that I was painfully disconnected from and afraid of my body.
I've spent all of my life pretending like it doesn't matter if I take care of my body. I've spent all f my life pretending like I don't care if I'm strong, and that it doesn't matter if I try or not. But the cesarean was a big slap in the face. It really does not glorify the Lord for me to ignore by body so hard that someone has to surgically deliver my babies. It's not fair to them and it doesn't bring glory to the Lord. In September of 2008 I joined a Curves gym and started working out. I've started the process of reconciling with, healing, and surrendering my body to the Lord as a living sacrifice.

I chose to start running because the old me believed that I couldn't do it. It's a way of defying all the lies that I've believed in my life that I'm too fat, slow, and weak. It's one small way of living my life on mission for Jesus. Children look to their parents as an example, and we're called in Scripture to teach them the way they should go. I don't want my son to grow up with a Mom who ignores, mistreats and abuses her body - I want my son to have a Mom who praises the Lord for creating her body and who nourishes and cares for her body and works hard to keep it strong and healthy. I don't want him to learn that food is an escape when things get too hard - I want him to have a Mom who takes her whole heart to the Lord and finds strength and courage in His arms. I don't want him to learn that being afraid and hiding from the world is an option in this life - I want my son to live his life on purpose, and to run hard after the Lord.

With all of that out there - I'd like to invite you to continue with me on this journey!

See Mama Sue Run!


  1. Wow Becca Sue, this is an incredibly powerful story! Thanks so much for sharing! I have to say that I absolutely love running and I love that you are pushing yourself like this as well. It will be fun to follow along with you on this journey and hopefully get motivated to get back to hard core training when I have my little guy in July. There are some aspects of your story that are almost exactly like my story. This pregnancy has been interesting for me as well because I wrestle with some significant lingering body issues that God and I work on every day. Thanks for your words, they were very encouraging to me. I too want to be a model to my son (and hopefully daughter one day) about caring for my body and being a strong confident woman whose strength comes from the Lord. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Becca Sue.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and your reason for running.

  4. I wish I could just give you a big hug after reading this. Who ever that was in 7th grade, what a jerk! I'm glad that you are thinking positive and doing positive for yourself now and for your family. I wish more people could have the willpower that you have, especially knowing it effects their child's future. I am very proud of all that you are accomplishing and mostly of how proud you are of yourself, makes me very happy to know that you are happy. Keep up the great work, and Becca you look beautiful and are amazing, and I have always thought that of you!

  5. Thanks Kaity. :) I do remember very clearly who that was from 7th grade, but will protect his identity because he was only a silly 7th grade boy. lol. We all said and did dumb stuff to each other back then without having a clue how it would impact each other. :)