The pain of standing on the weighing scale, hoping to be at least a kilogram lighter was too overwhelming. For the longest time in my life, I refrained from saying my age when asked. More often than not, I would get a non-verbal reaction that would signal what is true; my body shape does not match my age. I wonder though, where is the scale that indicates the weight or body size one must-have for a certain age? Often I would fear looking in the mirror. I also feared hitting a speed bump in the road because people always look at the heavy one when the car comes crashing down. They would probably do it for fun, but it still did have some impact on me because it would expose my body insecurities. Shall we mention the stretch marks, ma-tyre (as they are called) and the big tummy among others? If there is anyone who knows the “joy” of wearing baggy clothes, it is I.
The Perfect Body Idol
For some, it is weight, and others the shape of their body, others it is height, acne, skin colour, or hair type, name it. Body image is an issue that almost everybody deals with at some point. Living a life of insecurity can be exhausting and hurting. Social media, advertisements and movies have laid out an “ideal” body type in our culture. One exciting thing though is that society’s presentation of the ideal is inconsistent. There is not a specific “ideal” thus; we are caught in a whirlwind of overwhelming pain.
Sadly, most times, I am much more aware and concerned for my flawed body as opposed to my sin and need for God. How convicting that I have made my body an idol! Being a believer does not guarantee that you will not struggle with body image. However, we can be equipped with comforting truths that help us overcome the idol of a perfect body and overcome the noise of the world reinforcing that lie. Dear friends, our bodies will grow old, waste away (Psalm 73:26, 2 Corinthians 4:16) and not measure up to the culture’s definition of beauty. So how then do we live to view our bodies biblically?
We are God’s creative design
It is beautiful how the beginning of scripture, Genesis 1, reminds us of a profound truth that we often overlook. We are God’s amazing design. God did not just create the world; He made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and likeness (Genesis 5:1-2). The writer of Genesis goes ahead to show the difference between other creation and man. God spoke creation into existence, but he moulded man with His hands, in His image and likeness. The psalmist echoes this great truth in Psalms 139-13-14, and he reminds us that God knit us, fearfully and wonderfully, in our mother’s womb. The difference we have with the rest of creation is that we possess God’s image or better put we are His image-bearers. How Glorious? This fantastic truth should linger in our hearts and minds. We are God’s design.
Isn’t it interesting that the world seems to present too many forms of “ideal” bodies, but none of them satisfies? The world’s standard of a beautiful body will never be achieved. What is the standard we are trying to achieve? Spending our time and energy comparing other people’s bodies to ours will take away our focus from honouring God (2 Corinthians 10:12). We will find ourselves conforming to unachievable societal standards. We are all created differently, and thus our bodies will differ in size, shape, colour and how they respond to different subjections. God has created us uniquely different, but for a unified purpose, to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7). He made us for Himself (Colossians 1:16, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6).
Almost 99.99% of the time, we feel overwhelmed by how our body looks or seems because we want to please others (Galatians 1:10) and not God (at least this is true for me). We want to seem bold and beautiful in people’s eyes. We are afraid of critics and being picked at. The truth is, it will never stop. We live in a fallen world, where people have created their ideal standards and expect us to match up to them. Examine your heart and see, why do I worry about my body appearance? Why is it that I am always on guard when someone looks at me or even at my dressing? The world will always tell us different (James 3:13-18), inconsistent things that we will try to match up to but never will. We need to remind ourselves to turn our eyes and focus on Him (Colossians 3:2) and be careful not to conform to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2).
Steward your Jar of Clay
Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19); we are not our own. Paul refers to our bodies as ‘Jars of Clay’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). Potters use raw clay to shape and mould clay jars, as they desire until they are hard. They paint or decorate the jars for whatever purpose they had in mind. These jars, however, are fragile and thus can break and thus are for temporal use. Our bodies are similar to clay jars in that they are also made of clay (Genesis 2:7) and weak, fragile and temporal, our bodies will waste away (2nd Corinthians 4:16, Psalm 103:15-17). We need to steward our bodies to glorify God. We need to take care of our bodies: eat healthily, exercise, discipline them (1 Corinthians 9:27) but not for people to comment on our appearance but for God’s glory. Instead of despising God’s work, we should glorify Him through our jars of clay (Psalm 139:14).
Days will come when we will feel frustrated by the confines of our bodies. I will not pretend that I am wholly and magically healed of all body image issues by the truths that I have written about here. However, they remind me of how to live in my embodied state. We need to live to fight insecurity with God’s truth deliberately (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Even as we strive for healthy bodies and mindsets, let us live by faith (Galatians 2:20) in hope for the day God shall give us immortal and imperishable heavenly bodies (1Corinthians 15:35-42). Let us also remind ourselves to focus on what should bring us joy, the hope that is in Jesus Christ through the gospel as opposed to the ideal body image.