Just a few years ago, Calvin Nowell weighed 450 pounds and had a 60-inch waist. Even worse, the emotional burden seemed to outweigh the pounds. Fear and insecurity were the driving forces in his life.
Nowell realized that a deeper relationship with Christ was the only way out of his struggle.
It was a journey that began on Dec. 29, 2002. While visiting his former church over Christmas that year, he listened as an associate minister described seeing dimes everywhere he went.
As Nowell sat in the back of the church that day, “it was like the Lord was showing me a visual of the man picking up dimes and how a lot of times, people refer to coins as change.”
He knew that going into the new year, the Lord was speaking to him about “picking up change – not coins but change in my life.” Nowell came to a place where he knew he had to lose weight. He did not want to be overweight if given the chance to record a CD.
Nowell says the decision wasn’t about image; it was about being obedient and surrendering: “I battled the Lord on the issue of trying to lose weight before I began music.”
Driving home that night in 2002, he reflected on how “everyone will bow before the Lord. Some choose to do it now, some do it later. Some people find themselves in circumstances where they are forced to change.”
Whatever you don’t handle now shows up in your destiny and “tries to abort what God wants to do,” Nowell says. “You see this with politicians, sports figures and entertainers. There is always that thing that we don’t work on that comes back later on.”
I Got It … Before It Got Me
Nowell told the Lord he wanted a testimony to share. “I wanted to be able to say that I got it before it got me. I didn’t want external circumstances or embarrassment to cause me to lose weight. I realized that with weight loss, diet books don’t work if people don’t work. If people change, any diet will work.”
After losing 215 pounds and many layers of emotional weight, Nowell has his testimony. He loves to tell people, “I lost the weight from the inside out and not the outside in.” Although he worked with a personal trainer and took in fewer calories than he burned, what really helped the diet process was vision.
Nowell believes that vision breeds passion and passion breeds discipline. “A lot of times when you have a vision, you are passionate about it, but you also need discipline. I had a vision about how God was going to take my misery and make it ministry. The very thing that held me back was going to be very thing God would use not only in my life, but in the lives of others.”
Now the singer shares his experience with a wide audience: “I always felt that God told me that he would bless whatever I put my hands to, but I had the problem of not putting my hands to anything.”
In fact, procrastination is one of the themes on his new CD, Start Somewhere. All the songs embody his journey of change and the things Nowell feels about himself – “the inadequacies, the fear, the procrastination. All of that is on the record. My journey birthed the music.”
The song that will be featured on the Billy Graham Television Special from May 31 to June 8 is called “Open My Heart,” which Nowell co-wrote even before the weight loss. It was during the writing process that he felt the Lord addressing his weight issue. “I felt the Lord was telling me ‘you just need to open up and let me in to some of those places.’ When I did – here I am.”
Nowell says the song is about being at a crossroads and wanting to surrender. You are scared but you do it anyway:
“I open my heart for Your love to come in,
and reveal all the places of darkness and sin.
My arms are open wide; I am ready to be free.
Where’s there’s sorrow and shame, let Your healing begin.
Come and take me to places that I’ve never been.”
For Your Own Journey
I asked Nowell to conclude the interview with some advice for anyone who is longing for change. Here are his words of encouragement to you:
- I love the quote from Saint Francis of Assisi – “Start with what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”
- I like to tell people that sometimes it’s so overwhelming to make changes, you just have to start with what’s necessary. Start somewhere.
- It’s the journey that changes you; it’s not the goal that you are after. It’s the process that the Lord is after in your life, more than the goal.
- Take small steps. Don’t complicate the journey. See the simplicity in change versus the complexity we attribute to it.