Just moments ago, when at the gym in my condo complex, I watched a little girl enter. By little I mean no more than twelve years old, clad in bright workout shorts, fluorescent shoes, and plugged in with customary white earbuds. She climbed onto the elliptical machine – this child. She may have been dressed the part, but her uniform didn’t disguise her youth.Deftly hitting buttons and programming the parameters of her workout, she gazed at her cellphone all the while, as entranced as everyone else. Her tiny hands reached up and grasped the handles of the machine, her short legs struggling to keep up with the pace she had set for herself. She moved in intervals of extreme speed mixed with backpedaling to get every muscle toned.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing occurred in one of the moments I chanced to sneak a glance in her direction. While wrestling with the machine that was much too large for her small frame, she lifted up her tshirt and inspected her stomach, gazing for a few seconds before picking up pace and increasing the ferocity with which she raced. Whether checking to see if her time at the gym had yielded any results, I cannot say. But it was obvious that this little girl had begun to believe lies, and that her body image was suffering greatly because of it.
What are we doing to our youth? I silently said a prayer as I stretched and ended my own time at the gym, wondering if at that age I was conscious of the flatness of my stomach and shape of my hips. Junior high was a nightmare for me, filled with mean girls, cocky boys, and the question of who I was and what I wanted to try to prove myself to be. I can say that I never went to a gym until I was an upperclassman in high school, but then again, I didn’t have to compete with the cast of Gossip Girl, either.
I am sick at the moment – sick with longing to speak truth, to see change, and to be a light where none seems to be. Lord, help me flicker a little brighter to those who need illumination.