I had come to a place of deep resignation that my story was about to end darkly and with a whimper… I was 44 years old, weighed over 350 pounds, was struggling with complications from diabetes, high blood pressure, and my cholesterol was increasing. More importantly I was giving in to an ever growing despair about my declining health and I was suffering from a very weary heart. I felt like a wreck. So much so, that I had come to accept the fate of an early death from all of my health complications. I even went as far as calling up three of my friends and reminding them of their prior pledge to preach at my funeral. To take my story back to the beginning let me share that I have struggled with weight and self-worth issues for over 30 years. Since childhood I had silently nursed the deep wound of believing what some had said about me, that I was “fat and ugly.” I accepted their estimate of me and had imprisoned myself in that persona for so long that I eventually gave up on what I thought God could do with me. Thankfully God hadn’t given up on me, and amazingly my story was far from over!
In the summer of 2009, I was driving from Kentucky to Florida to visit the family of a friend and spiritual mentor who had passed away. I remember passing from state to state, listening to an audio book by John Eldredge wherein he talked about an experience of God sharing with him a new name and a new purpose for his life—this sounded too good to be true. I became increasingly frustrated with the mention of such an idea. I know I was still pretty raw from the loss of my friend. But to tell the truth, I had never even thought of such a possibility for myself. I stopped the mp3 player and shouted to no one in particular, “Well, that’s great for John, but what about me!” “God, where do I fit in your plans???” I spoke this out loud as a rhetorical question. But immediately God spoke deep from my heart, saying, “I want you to be my strongman.” …Silence… I was stunned! This was too crazy to believe! I was overweight and had only recently been contemplating my funeral. As I drove on I began to weep. The idea of a weak and broken man becoming strong sounded so far-fetched that I couldn’t even process it. Did I mention that I’m a minister? That I was struggling with such a prominent theme in scripture is embarrassing but true! This would take time. Although I shared this experience with one very close friend, I still struggled to accept what God might have planned for me. In a few months God would move me beyond my fears and doubts and begin re-writing my story fast and furiously!
In December of 2009 I signed up for the selection process of our county’s Biggest Loser contest. In January I received the news that I had made the cut and would be their first ever individual (non-team) contestant. This category of competition had not even been available the year before. A door had opened wide! I not only competed, but by the end of 12 weeks I had won the title of Most Weight Lost of all competitors—taking off 83 lbs! Could there be a “strongman” deep inside me after all?! This fired me up to continue. For the first time in a very long while I was coming to appreciate being fathered by God’s grace, and I was coming to see myself as I now know God sees me—a beloved son whom he loves deeply. This was liberating beyond words!
I continued to shed weight—in both body and soul—and now have lost 150 lbs.. I’m down to a much healthier weight of 199lbs! In many circles in our small community, I have become the “talk of the town.” And by my doctor’s release, I’m now off all 5 of my medications and in fantastic shape! I still hit the gym or jog daily, and I’ve come to enjoy bicycling competitively to help keep the weight coming off. But it doesn’t stop there… I have been asked to help lead the local Living Well nutrition class. And to come full circle, I was hired to work part-time as a fitness manager at our local gym! People are also asking me to come and share my testimony at their church. It’s all a God thing! When anyone asks me what has happened, I take my message back to the heart! No longer do I buy into the enemy’s lie that I’m “fat and ugly.” I’m both healed and healing—becoming God’s strongman in ways I had never imagined! My story appears to be far from over, and for that I am excited and eternally grateful! I now know that a ransomed heart really is possible! And to that I shout, “Amen!!!”