On to the post that disappointed me yesterday. It was called "Moms and Body Image." She talked about something I know all women can relate to... body image. It eats at us all in some degree or another. This woman was so humble in being candid with her struggles throughout the past 30 years of her life. I appreciate that kind of honesty. She then shared her convictions. This one was so striking. "It seems almost every conversation I have with friends my age almost always swings through the weight and body issue." She then asks the relevant question, "So why do we spend so much energy and time focused on our external selves?" Her answer only skims the surface. She simply gives the explanation that it is because everywhere we look - on the internet, TV, & magazines - we see fit, slim, young, beautiful, air-brushed women. This leaves us feeling like we always need to be something else in order to be good enough... This answer is not complete. I agree that media can feed our tendency to focus on the external. But I think the reason we spend so much time and energy preoccupied with our looks is much deeper than cultural influence. It is a heart issue, an identity crisis, rooted in the sinfulness of our hearts and misplaced identity. We are born like this, as sinners. It is the result of the Fall. That is why, even as little girls, we struggle with image. I remember not wanting to wear jeans for most of elementary school because I thought I looked ugly in them. We're talking as a kindergartner, I was afraid of not being beautiful. She then ends the post on a note that seems all so familiar.
"What does God want us to be? This preoccupation with the outside self is another way to distract us from what is important. I Peter 3:4 says a woman should focus on:
...the hidden person of [her] heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
God is focused on our hearts, not whether or not we can squeeze into the right pair of skinny jeans. Yes, we should take care of our bodies, as they are a gift from God. But let us spend our time focused on loving others rather than a number on a scale."
Now while this encouragement is true, I feel that it is only half of what we desperately need to hear. I have heard these same statements addressing body image my whole life. When coming to terms with my own struggles, this response has left me stranded time & time again - feeling alone and shameful for despising what I see in the mirror and stuck in a battle to change a state of mind that I have been entrenched in since training wheels. Because it is a sin issue, only hearing that God loves my heart and doesn't care what I look like doesn't motivate me to change. (Do any of you relate?)
I want to be honest here. I do not want to slap a band aide on the issue by sympathizing with your struggles, and then just throwing one verse out at you, while telling you to simply change your behavior. We need a heart change.
Here's the truth:
Woman deal with body image, weight issues, & self-consciousness because our sinful nature desires to be made much of. We want to feel good about ourselves, to make ourselves look great, and to have others think so too. It is a sweet snack to a craving that will never be satisfied.
Because we were not created by God to make much of ourselves. We were created to make much of HIM. I call this a sin issue, and refer to our sinful nature - because it is true. It is not something we can blame on media. Equally, we cannot fix it by simply realizing that, "... beauty is fleeting and God looks at the heart...", by suppressing our self-conscious obsessions, and by striving to be women of God, all the while trying not to care about our weight and figure. In and of ourselves, we are not strong enough to overcome this battle with sin.
We must go back to the cross of Jesus Christ. Sin entered the world the moment Eve took the first bite of that forbidden fruit, and this same sin now indwells in us all from birth. The original sin came from one wanting to make much of themselves and to be like God. We are acting out of this original sin desire when we want to feel praise (or even worthy of it) by obsessing over our image and spending much time, money, and thought on trying to get there.
But God sent his Son to die on a cross to rescue us from sin so that we might glory in him as Redeemer. These deceitful ambitions inherently dwell in each one of us, but we have been saved from them. Praise God for this grace! As Christians, we have been brought back to a place to make much of Him. By Christ's obedience to death on the cross. Our redemption!
The author of the Moms and Body Image post was right in saying that preoccupations with outer appearances are a distraction from what is truly important. That's what makes Proverbs 31:30 & 1 Peter 3:4 so important because they encourage mindsets that turn our eyes from ourselves and toward our Savior.
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." - Proverbs 31:30
" ..your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, is of great worth in God's sight." - 1 Peter 3:4
These verses encourage us to live in a manner that makes Christ look great when heard with the understanding that he has been rich in mercy toward us. That can only happen when we come to terms with what we have been saved from and how desperate we are for God. Our identity isn't that of "beautiful women" but of sinners saved by the grace of God. We share in the unmerited righteousness of Christ. When God looks at us he sees Christ's righteousness - that is our identity. All we can do is make Christ look great, because there is nothing in and of ourselves that can add to that righteousness.
Beauty has no eternal value. It will indeed fade. Obsessing over weight and size will bring about nothing to Christ's glory.
But what a call it is to have "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" and to find our praise as "women who fear the Lord." A life spent making much of Him is one that will not be wasted.