It probably makes no sense to use hashtags in a blog (captions for my previous photo update notwithstanding), but for this week's #tbt I thought it would be fitting to share a piece I wrote for a student blog about a year and a half ago. This post still has a lot of personal resonance for me as I have continued to reflect on and sometimes wrestle with considerations of beauty and body image and what it means to be a Fat Person living in a skinny-obsessed society (but that's really a post for another day).
I remember feeling a sense of release when I first committed these thoughts to paper, but there have admittedly been many times since then when I have not felt that same freedom from a worldly preoccupation with my physical appearance and the (self) criticism of "not ____ enough." While I still have work to do here, I hope the following words are an encouragement to you! And if you'd like to read something written by someone much wiser than I am, I recommend this great article.
Much love to you all,
There are a lot of competing messages out there about beauty. Pass by any magazine rack at a checkout counter and they will be there, splashed across the glossy pages in all their designed-to-make-you-feel-inadequate, unrealistically-air-brushed glory. The media has no shortage of opportunities to remind us that if you're not young and sexy with flawless skin, voluminous lashes, and whatever bust-waist-hip ratio is currently considered desirable, life is barely worth living. Haven't we all internalized at least some aspects of this worldview? The Bible teaches us that “beauty is fleeting” (Prov. 31:30), but that doesn’t stop us from vainly struggling against that inevitability with special anti-aging serums, face creams, hair dye, and, in more extreme cases, elective plastic surgeries.
Doesn’t the world’s obsession with outer beauty feed our inner “comparison dragon” so that we get caught up from time to time (or maybe all the time?) in comparing ourselves to other women, usually those with a particular attribute we dislike in ourselves and covet in someone else? I can’t speak for you, but I know that is certainly true for me. Of course this blatantly flies in the face of godly wisdom which instructs us a) not to covet (Exodus 20:17), and b) that our beauty should come from our “inner sel[ves], the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:3-4). But I guess Vogue and MTV didn't get the memo on that and I must have missed that lesson in Sunday School...
On the other hand, in the #bodypositive/we are all beautiful/anti-airbrushing camp, a different segment of society preaches that we deserve to feel beautiful and that we should focus on loving ourselves. On the surface such messages about loving your body no matter whether or not it conforms to society’s current (fickle) standards of beauty sounds like a much-needed antidote. However, to be blunt, this message is simply not true either. The Bible has a lot to say about what we all deserve and, sorry ladies, it's not to feel and be treated like goddesses. Check out Romans 1:18-32, Romans 2:5-11, Ephesians2:3, and Matthew 13:40-42 if you don't believe me. And there's a word for what happens when you make self-love your highest aim; it starts (appropriately enough) with "I" and ends with "dolatry."
By the way, in case any of this makes it sounds like I have all this body image/self-esteem stuff worked out and don't have any insecurities of my own, let me just say this: I am a fat woman living at a time when the "obesity epidemic" is currently considered the scourge of North America. I have plenty of baggage when it comes to body image. Girl, you don't have to tell me that times are tough! But I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be these two extremes.
We don't have to choose between self-love and self-loathing. Christ has provided us with a better way, a narrow path, and it leads directly to Himself. We need to get our eyes off the scale and fix our eyes on the One who died for us. If we are covered in His blood it has removed our weight of sin, which is the only weight that really matters. We have to stop staring at ourselves in the mirror and cataloguing our so-called flaws and spend more time fixing or eyes on the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.
Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful, did you hear that? The way God designed you is wonderful. Don't you go denigrating His creation by despising your body! Then, as if to reinforce this point, David repeats himself and immediately says, "your [God’s] works are wonderful, I know that full well." Like, "in case you missed it the first time, ladies, I want to be clear that the proper description for the way God made you is WONDERFUL, not 'needs airbrushing' or ‘could stand to lose a few pounds’."
Do you want to know why you really are beautiful? It's because you were personally designed (or "knit together") by a beautiful God, and He made you in His image.
That's it, right there. It's actually not about you at all, it's about the One who created you, who ordered your DNA, who made you wonderfully unique in order to image and reflect Himself. And not only that - it gets better! When that beautiful image was marred by the ugliness of sin, as it is for all of us since Adam's rebellion, God still regarded you as so precious that He sent His own Son to die for you so that you could be made beautiful again by the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:6-11, Ephesians 1:4-8).
So the next time you catch a glimpse of yourself or are struggling with feeling less than beautiful, I hope you can remember what really makes you beautiful. The world's definition of beauty is ever-changing, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His fingerprints are all over your beautiful self if you only have the eyes to see them. Less of us, more of Him. Less of me, oh Lord, and more of You. That’s where true beauty lies. ∎