Today my writing is going to be a little different. It’s not going to deal primarily with grief as many others have. I’ve struggled with that a little bit because like so many other things, me writing this blog that doesn’t deal with grief is further proof that life moves on without our loved ones.. ouch. Grief is what I know. Grief is what the Lord uses so readily in my life to teach me truths about myself and Himself. In a weird way that only those who grieve can understand, I’ve almost grown comfortable in my grief. It’s just a part of me now, and always will be. However, the Lord has put a new message on my heart lately that I have been wrestling with and I’m going to feebly attempt to put pen to paper as I write to you today.
I always try to be really transparent when it comes to my writings. What’s the point in writing if you can’t be raw? So here’s the truth: I struggle with body image. I struggle with how much I eat, what I eat, how much I weigh, how much weight I lose and gain, how my jeans fit, how my legs look in shorts, how flabby my arms are, how muscled (or not muscled) my thighs are, when to exercise, how much to exercise, what kind of exercise to do.. then proceed to beat myself up when I don’t exercise (because let’s be honest it’s not something I find enjoyable…) The list goes on. With the new year and everyone talking about dieting, exercise plans, and weight loss goals, these insecurities are at the forefront of my mind.
This isn’t something new for me. I’ve wrestled with these issues my entire life. I was a chubby kid and a chubby teenager. I lost some weight in college but found that even though I lost weight, I did not lose my insecurities. Maybe you hate your hair or your skin tone. Your nose or your eye color. Maybe you think your legs are too big or too skinny. Or your hips are too curvy or too straight. And while your list of things that you’re sensitive about in regards to your body may be different than mine, I have a feeling a list of your own exists.
Have you ever wondered why we even have these running lists in our heads? When did they start? Why we are so quick to be critical of ourselves? Sure, we can blame it on Hollywood and our society and the American culture as a whole, but last time I checked those aren’t things we can just cross out of our lives forever. So how do we remove these destructive thoughts from our minds while remaining in a culture that places appearance on the highest pedestal and begin extending grace to ourselves instead? We have given these belittling thoughts a place to live in our minds for far too long and it’s time to start evicting them.
I love to paint. I love to take something plain and boring and turn it into something special and eye-catching. It truly is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s tedious and time consuming work. Picture this. I spend hours painting a canvas for you as a gift. I add a little more of this color here and smudge that corner just a bit. I put just a tiny dab of white paint near the middle to draw the eye a little more, and then I add a some more of a contrasting color to this side for balance. I mix these two colors perfectly to create a completely new color and add it to the piece for depth. After working for hours. I stand back and look at the painting for a while, and decide that it looks absolutely perfect for you. I wrap it up in pretty paper and come immediately to your house and give it to you, excited about how much you’re going to love and cherish it. Hoping that you will brag to everyone who sees it about how I hand painted it just. for. you.
And you open it, me bouncing with excitement for you to see how unique, detailed and made with love it is, and you frown. You frown saying this color isn’t right. That shape is all wrong. It’s way too big or way too small. It’s isn’t what you had in mind. It’s not like your neighbor’s (whose painting you really love). My heart drops and shatters. I know right then that there won’t be any cherishing the masterpiece. No bragging about its uniqueness and no taking care of it.
Friends, I’m afraid that’s what we do to God’s heart each and every time we criticize our body. Every time we stare at our figure in the mirror with disgust and disappointment, wishing to look like someone else or wishing to have something we don’t…each and every time we critique the gift that he has given us.
Psalm 139:13–15 says:
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.”
You are God’s masterpiece. No matter how thick your thighs, flabby your arms, the size of your pants, or the color of your skin. I don’t know when it became cool to pick apart your body limb for limb and considered arrogant to celebrate the body that’s been crafted just for you by God Almighty but I know it’s got to stop. Does this mean we shouldn’t eat healthy and never exercise? By no means! It would also hurt my feelings if you left my hand painted canvas in a corner to collect dust. Never cleaning it off and maintaining it. I’m simply suggesting there’s got to be a healthy balance.
Do your best to exercise. Do your best to eat right. Do your best to keep the body that God blessed you with healthy. But if you skip a day or two (or five) at the gym, don’t panic. If you eat a cookie or a piece of birthday cake at a party, don’t beat yourself up mentally and plan for an extra hour of exercise the next day to make up for it.
Some practical ways to fight the body image issues:
1. Memorize scripture! Each time you feel that same negative mindset creeping in, take every thought captive and fight the enemy by quoting scripture about being perfectly and wonderfully made by God, himself. Post those scriptures around your house if you have to. Study what God says about you. What God thinks about you. It’s a game changer.
2. Don’t think or say anything about your body that you wouldn’t say about a friend and their body. We have to start treating ourselves with more respect.
3. Extend yourself more and more grace. You’ll mess up. You’ll gain more than you meant to. Eat more than you meant to. Not exercise when you meant to. It’s OKAY. Just try your best tomorrow. This life is not about the number on the scale or how we look in a dress. This life is about pointing people to Jesus. Our body is simply a vehicle we use to get that job done. That’s it.
My prayer for myself and you this New Year is that we will begin to celebrate the bodies that God has hand crafted just for us and his purposes and that we will begin to see ourselves the way our Heavenly Father does. Precious and perfectly made.