I have most definitely been guilty of being the typical woman, tearing myself down year after year because I do not have the “perfect” body. I’ve tried to force my body shape to change into something it genetically was not intended to become. I’ve tried exercise. I’ve tried eating fat-free everything. I’ve tried eating whole foods. Yet, to my frustration, my body has not changed!
I was six or seven years old when I decided my thighs were much too round, and, oh, how I wished they were stick-skinny like the other little girls at the pool! By ten years old, I was on a self-imposed diet, eating only half a PB&J sandwich at lunch instead of a whole, and admiring my slimmed-down look in the mirror. As a twelve-year old, I agonized over the fact that some of my friends’ figures were developing more quickly than mine, and surely that made them more beautiful. At fifteen, I discovered the wonders of shapewear, and began putting myself through the torture of long hours wearing a “tummy-sucker” because it made my abdomen look tight and flat under my clothes. In high school, I groaned when buying new jeans because my butt was simply too flat, and nothing made it look better! I ate nothing but crackers and bananas the entire week before prom in order to fit into my dress. I was endlessly frustrated with myself for loving food and hating to exercise.
During the eleven months of engagement to my wonderful husband, I squandered countless hours worrying what he would think of my body. Would he be disappointed on our wedding night? Would he be freaked out by the stretch marks on my thighs? Would my figure be attractive enough, despite the flat butt and the love handles? What about the scars years of acne had left on my lower back? I knew this man LOVED me. I just couldn’t believe that I was as beautiful to him as he told me daily I was. Wait until he saw all of me…then he would know.
But then something amazing happened. We got married, all was revealed, and Jordan STILL thought I was beautiful. Not only that day, when I FINALLY weighed in at my lifelong goal of 135 pounds. But in the months, then the years, that followed—when I gained 10-15 pounds back simply because my body didn’t know how to handle being that thin, Jordan thought I was beautiful. When I became pregnant and everything about my body began to shift and change, not only was he still attracted to me, he became enamored with me! Now, when I weigh more than I ever have, my hips are widening, my feet are swollen, and jagged, dark pink lines have begun to make their way up my abdomen and across my hips…Jordan seems more taken with my beauty than ever before! How can this be?
Let me tell you what I have learned about body image from my husband. His attraction to me comes from the beauty in my heart, the love I have for him, and the devotion I have to God—not from the “perfection” of my physical body. He would much rather have me full of confidence and love, and carrying an extra ten pounds, than to have me thin, in shape, and lacking the qualities he fell in love with. Sure, he feels loved when I take care of myself, live healthfully, and dress nicely for him, and I do believe that’s important! But having a flawless body is not what determines how he perceives me. It’s having a loving heart.
Ladies, let me tell you something we each need to remember every single day: GOD CREATED YOU FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY. He is the same God who made that glorious full moon you’re sitting under tonight. He is the one who painted the colors on the flowers, designed the patterns in the sunset, invented the majesty of the ocean, crafted the perfection of a baby’s blue eyes, and added the glittering stars to the night sky. Who are we to say, “Yes, God, you created all this…but you made me wrong.”? How insulting to a perfect, artistic, loving God! Didn’t He create all things, then say that they were good? If no two snowflakes are the same, and there are millions of different kinds of flowers, and every cloud is shaped just a little differently from the last, how can we look among the billions of women on our planet, and say that only one body type is beautiful? How unfair! Furthermore, in Genesis 1:27, God says He made man (meaning women also) in HIS image! We don’t know what God looks like, but there is not a doubt in anyone’s mind that He must be an overwhelmingly beautiful sight to behold! He was willing to create us in HIS image. How saddened He must be to see us constantly tearing ourselves down.
This is why I do not subscribe to fashion or celebrity magazines, and why I will never post a picture of another woman on pinterest and call it “thinspiration”. I LOVE to tell my friends and sisters how beautiful they are, and I am always saddened with how hard it is to convince them of this truth, which makes me want to apologize for all the times I’ve rolled my eyes when someone told me I was beautiful!
I have in no way conquered this struggle. I am simply learning, day by day, and I want to share the truth with everyone around me. I am flawed and imperfect, yes, but not because I have stretch marks, love handles, or scarred skin. My deficiencies lie in the fact that I am a sinful human living in a fallen world. I struggle with sin daily, and I am constantly disappointing my heavenly Father. I must come humbly before Him, asking for grace over and over! I am so thankful for a God who forgives and disciplines and teaches, no matter how I try His patience. I have come to understand that the flaws on my heart are much deeper than the ones on my body. Since my body WILL change, shift, age, and deteriorate eventually, no matter how I may try to prevent it, isn’t it much more worthwhile to focus my efforts on changing my heart to be more like my Savior? LORD, help us to take our eyes off the physical and turn them to the eternal!
One more thing I want to say on this subject: what are we teaching our daughters about the way they look? Our poor girls are living in an age where they are surrounded by a worldly perception of beauty. Never before have we had so much access to pictures and images of what society deems attractive. The daughters of this generation have an immense struggle ahead of them. What are we, as their mothers, doing to ease their path as much as possible? Are we telling them they’re beautiful, then letting them hear us call ourselves fat? Our girls will learn from us! They will not live with mothers who degrade themselves constantly, and then grow up confident in their own loveliness. It may be a challenge, but I intend, with God’s help, to never let my daughters hear me say anything negative about my body. We can teach them to take care of themselves, be healthy, dress attractively, etc., without imposing on them the world’s view of beauty.
Likewise, with our sons. Are we allowing them to see the world’s distorted idea of beauty, and training them, perhaps unconsciously, to seek that in a future wife? I want my sons to see the beauty of a woman’s heart and character, and love her for that reason. I want him to be attracted to Jesus shining through his wife, and because of that beauty, to be enamored and completely taken by her eyes, her body, her smile. In most cases, it is the father who has to teach this to his sons, but we mothers have a part, too. We can let our sons see us working to improve our character rather than our body.
We are not imperfect on the outside. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of all the universe! I pray He helps us each to see ourselves as He sees us…as fallen, but saved by grace, children of God. As women who He created, and then said, “She is very good.”
You are very good in His eyes.