Identity found in the Lord, not human image

By Jaden Jennings, Contributing Writer

For me personally, working out has always been a part of my daily routine.

As I was in the gym yesterday though, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, “wait a minute; why am I doing all of this work to my body?”

I run to get skinny, I lift to look muscular, but when I die, is anyone really going to care how chiseled my abs and legs were?

I do not believe this random thought came from my own mind at Planet Fitness on a Tuesday; Rather, I believe it came from God himself.

Now don’t get me wrong before you continue reading. I believe with my whole heart that working out is important as well as eating healthy.

Nevertheless, I have realized during my journey as a Christian, I was claiming I was exercising for God, when in reality; I was selfishly doing it for the results.

Being toned? A plus, but not my identity.

Rock hard abs and arms? Good for winning a fight, but not necessarily for winning souls.

You probably think that I will never step foot in a gym again, but I am here to tell you that is completely, 100% false.

Our body is a temple for God, and I hope to maintain it to the best of my ability here on this earth.

However, my mindset when going to the gym will no longer be one of selfish desires and comparison, but more so, of an opportunity I have to honor God with my body.

Nevertheless, I did have a small thought that maybe my philosophy to working out could be applied to shopping as well.

Ugh, that hurts to say in the very depth of my soul, but still, remains true.

What if we spent less time focused on designer brands, and more on our hearts?

I love my Louis Viton handbag no doubt, but I have been thinking lately, what is the point of having it?

Did I want it for myself when I bought it?

Maybe so, but I have a hunch that I bought it because of the prestige that came with it.

This column is not discrediting shopping of course, because I am a firm believer in looking good to feel good.

However, our identity should not be about our bodies or the items that cover it, rather, it should be more concerned with spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.

That’s what we are here for anyways right?

To be good stewards of hope and worship God. All the rest is just temporary.

If you are reading this column, I would encourage you the next time you go to the gym to change your mindset.

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself this body is just temporary, and I am working out for God because my soul is eternal.

Or in the dressing room, tell yourself that this article of clothing is just an accessory.

It doesn’t matter if it is from TJ Maxx or Versace. I will not rely on my clothes to define my worth.

If looks were important to Jesus, He would have been one good-looking man here on Earth.

Maybe He was, but the Bible describes His appearance as being common to man.

This alone should give us hope that attraction is not what God holds dear to His heart.

Instead, it is our actual hearts He evaluates.

Imagine what would happen if we exercised our hearts just as much as our bodies?

Or what if instead of buying new clothes every two months, we donated some of our old ones to those in need?

Or what if we stopped comparing ourselves to people on Instagram and started interacting with actual people?

God cares about our physical health and the way we feel when we look good, but you know what? I believe that it goes much farther than that.

I believe that Jesus loves us so much that He could care less about how skinny we are or how much money we spend.

I believe that He just wants us. Period.

We can run as much as we want, but if we do not have Him, we have nothing.

We can spend as much as we want on designer clothes, but if we do not have Him, we are just as empty as our bank accounts.

You see, if you are anything like me, this thought should set you free.

No longer will you have to be measuring up to an Instagram fitness model with an obtainable figure.

No longer will you be worried about the clothes you have on your back because you will know that brands don’t defi ne you.

You are loved just as you are.

No exceptions and no expectations; And that my friends, is a good feeling.

Op-Ed: A lesson of self-worth from rebelling

By Mya Hudgins, Contributing Writer

Your throat tightens, your breathing gets deeper, your stomach has a weird feeling – like butterflies. Your heart starts skipping beats. You start thinking about all these things you should say, but nothing comes out. Then you catch yourself smiling when he walks in the room or even offers a simple hello.

Yes, I’m talking about your high school crush. Not the one where you think this boy is just “cute,” but the one where you feel a true connection. No matter how hard you tried to push that person out of your head, he somehow still ends up there.

Now, you may be thinking this is just another love story, but I hope you keep reading because this isn’t just your average “how we met” story. This story taught me a bit about who I am and who I wanted to be—even though it almost became the end to my high school love life.

The beginning of high school was a weird time for me; I really hadn’t physically matured until around my late junior year. All my friends started hitting their growth sports and that just wasn’t happening for me. So, picture this: a freshman girl who weighs about 80 pounds; her arms and legs are like toothpicks; she likes wearing basketball shorts and barely ever brushes her hair.

This was freshman Mya. I was out-going and had a lot of friends, but (needless to say) none of those friends were interested in me romantically.

Fast forward to the next year, sophomore year. I had a big crush on this guy who ran cross-country with me, played soccer and went to the same church as me. He was also close to my parents, especially so considering my mom was the youth minister.

It seemed like every girl had a crush on him at the time—he was that interesting. However, we had this strange chemistry with each other; we flirted with one another, but there was never an official date.

Finally, we ended up having a class together, which was an elective class so we didn’t do much in there except play on our phones and talk. I enjoyed this class because I got to chat with my romantic interest for most of the hour.

One day during class, our teacher said it would be fine if we wanted to leave the school and go get something to eat. The boy I had a crush on decided he was going to take advantage of that opportunity to go eat. Every instinct in me wanted to go with him, and not just because I had a love for food.

We would be. . .going out. Sort of. Together.

This was a significant decision for other reasons, as well. You see, our school was a closed campus, meaning we were not allowed to leave the premises for food or to go home without being officially checked out. Even though I recognized some of the implied dangers of leaving the school unofficially, I told him I would happily accompany him. Ever the gentleman, he tried to dissuade me so I would not risk getting into any kind of trouble. But logic is no match for the heart—or the stomach. I decided to go anyway.

Other students had left school, and they had advised that when skipping you should always go out the back doors, but he told me he knew the lady at the front desk so we could simply walk out the front door, care-free. I know what you’re thinking: if you’re leaving class don’t go out the front doors, but I was obviously not thinking. We got in the car and started heading to Whataburger. Our journey did not last very long before his mom called him.

The front office had called her, saying we just walked out of the school and the principal wanted to see us. At this point, my heart was pounding.

I never got in trouble; as a matter of fact I was known as a “goody-goody.” I knew my parents were going to be so upset. I started freaking out and wondering how I was going to explain this to my parents. This young man then tried to calm me down, telling me everything would be okay as we backed out of the drive-through line with no food in our hands.

Well, news flash, everything was not okay. Once we got to the principal’s office, he began asking me all these questions, and I tried to reason with him; I tried to beg for my young life. He told me I needed to call a parent and tell him or her what I did. So of course, I called my mom; I knew she would handle it better. She was very disappointed and said dad would be very mad about me leaving school with a boy he knew I liked. I thought maybe the disappointment would blow over and my mom might forget to tell my dad about it.

Both of us got ISS, In school suspension. I was crying because I couldn’t believe it all—I couldn’t believe I had rebelled, had been caught and had created such stress in my life.

As the day went by, I anxiously waited for the reaction I hoped wasn’t coming, but feared would.

Finally, my phone vibrated, and I received a text from my dad. I prepared myself before I opened it. Once the message was opened, I saw a screenshot and then his message. The screenshot was an email from the school saying, “your daughter has been sent to ISS for the day because of skipping.” Then in his message it read, “I know this can’t be true; we will figure it out when you get home.” Everything inside me wanted to cry.

It was true, I had skipped. Worse, I had violated the trust my father had in me. His immediate reaction was to believe someone else had made a mistake, and that made my misdeed so much worse.

My father’s parenting style compounded my fear; he was very strict and protective. In fact, this boy and I were not “official” because my dad wouldn’t let me date. He did like this young man a lot, however, which was encouraging. I just knew once my father found out who my accomplice was, there was no way we would ever end up together.

I knew it was over. No more cute guy. No more flirting. And possibly no more Mya when I get home.

He was disappointed. And I was punished. And I felt horrible. But I lived through it.

In fact, fast forward five years, and I am most assuredly “official” with this young man now. We have been dating five years, and are in a committed relationship. We were stupid and made some mistakes—some silly mistakes. My father was upset at the time, at both of us, but it didn’t ruin our relationship or my chances of dating my partner in crime. We laugh at the story now, even though my father didn’t do too much chuckling at the time.

Even though I don’t regret how the story ended, I do regret compromising values (even values others would think are inconsequential or tedious). That day, I learned it’s important to stay true to yourself, even if you want to impress a really cute guy.

When it comes to being accepted by people, we seem to do anything to achieve that—even if it flies in the face of logic.

Historically, I had never rebelled against my parents or the school’s rules, but I did so that time so I could illustrate my free nature and risk-taking behavior.

How often do we do that? On any scale? How often do we dress, speak or act in a way because we believe that is how others want us to behave? How often do we fail to value how God wants us to behave over others? Over our own selfish motivation?

Sometimes we have to take a step back, pause and realize our actions really do reflect how we think about the world, ourselves and Him. God created you to be exactly who you are, changing what you look like or even how you act is destroying a masterpiece.

You are a hand-crafted masterpiece, as am I. I’ve learned to follow my spiritual instincts and try to quiet the worldly, selfish cries for attention I hear all too often. Even though we are forgiven, we still must work to be who we want Him to see.

We must stay true to the nature given to us by the Creator. He instilled in us a sense of right and wrong, and then he gave us the intellect to apply that instinct to behavior – what a complex and beautiful system.

All of this is a pretty powerful lesson.

Deep down I know there was a second lesson to be learned that day—don’t use the front door when attempting to skip class.