Beauty Makes an Ugly God- My Struggle With Body Image
What time is it?
IT'S SUMMER TIME!
(it's our vacation)
Guys, I am so excited about summer! With it comes reading mornings, crazy sleepovers, and sunny days by the water. But with summer time also comes something many dread: swimsuit season.
In case you haven't noticed, some of the most popular personal resolutions center around health and fitness. We want to exercise more, eat better, and make our skin glow. No more sugar! No more elevators! No more french fries! We are on a mission, and this summer we will finally get it.
But I must ask this question, what is it? Will we be happy on the other side?
I've struggled (who am I kidding, I'm still struggling) with the tricky balance of healthy living and body image for a while now. It is not a pretty story. It holds shame and mistakes. I'm afraid of what you will think of me. So this post sat in my draft box for almost half a year now, waiting. What changed my mind? Well, even more than that fear, I need to tell you this story, because I don't want it to be your story. Will you listen as I warn you that a bikini body will not give you what you want?
Let's start at the beginning: I've always been skinny.
I remember when I was young how my Mom would brag on my long and lean limbs and how I felt special because I possessed the body everyone seemed to want. My thighs didn't touch and I could wrap my tiny hand around my arms. Even better, I could eat frozen pizza and ice cream every day and nothing would change! (That's a pretty great bonus.)
The benefits of my body shone brighter in respect to ballet, for I have what people call a "ballet body." Every time someone would tell me these things, I smiled. Little did I know how these well-intended comments would seep into my soul and provide a platform for Satan to tempt me into one of the biggest struggles of my life.
Then puberty started coming, and my body, the body I loved and felt special in, started to change. Now don't overestimate the effects of puberty on me. I am not a curvy girl. But my thighs neared each other. In little ways, my body began to change from that of a little girl to that of a young woman, which is a good thing.
But I feared losing what I learned to love. I feared that this slender, long body wouldn't be the slenderest or the longest. I feared fat. I feared un-toned muscles. I feared. And in fear, I didn't trust God, and so I took things into my own hands. I started eating healthier, exercising more, and thinking too much about what I looked like.
The mirror became a standard, one which could elevate or destroy in one moment, but one which didn't show the whole truth.
Here comes the part that I don't like to talk about, but I will anyway. It is the time when the lies grew the loudest, late 2014. The lies masqueraded themselves as a healthy lifestyle, but it was not completely healthy. Underneath it all, I think I just wanted to see if I could attain this impossible image of beauty that I believed would make me the most desirable in both ballet and culture.
I didn't make super horrible decisions, and for many people, what I did would be fine. I ate less carbs and more produce. I cut out soda and restricted sugar. I worked out more on the weekends. But I obsessed over it all. I didn't realize this at first, but I wasn't eating enough. The foods that I ate didn't contain enough calories, even though they filled me up.
And so I lost weight.
This picture captures me during the time that I lost weight
Again, for many people, this wouldn't mean unhealthy things, but I already bordered on underweight, so this harmed me. But I didn't want it to stop, not all of the way. Finally, I felt like I achieved the ideal I sought for. I was a shade over one hundred pounds at five foot seven.
But the rest of me felt ashamed. I still didn't love my body, for it only reminded me of my sin. I looked like what I thought the world wanted me to look like, finally going to the other side of the fence, but I didn't feel happier or more content.
How did I let this get so out of hand? Why did I believe these lies? What could I do, for these insecurities seemed inescapable?
I realized that I idolized what I looked like. I worshipped skinny instead of God. And with tears streaming down my face, I repented. Confessed. Daily I confess these struggles to God, and the cross is enough to forgive me. The shame is taken away, and a new way of life presents itself before me.
This way of life eats lots of peanut butter. It keeps many of the good habits, like lots of fruits and veggies, but it recognizes that carbs aren't bad. Fat is necessary. And food should be fun, not an obstacle. My worth is more than how I look in a swimsuit or a leotard. My worth is in my identity as God's daughter, a Princess.
This way isn't easy. I still struggle with the temptation to idolize outward appearance, and, more than not, I fall. I probably could still gain some more weight and definitely need to change some more thoughts on health and fitness. But I'm never going back. This summer, I want to love my identity in Christ.
Who am I to draw with a Rosa Art crayon on top of a masterpiece? God made me a certain way and instead of seeking the perfect bikini body, I want to embrace my worth as God's creation. I want to live a healthy, secure, and joyful life in Christ's mission as His beloved daughter.
Dear sisters in Christ, as the world tells us to work hard for the perfect bikini body, keep in mind that not all that appears healthy glorifies God. Please, please, don't let health, fitness, or beauty become your god. They make for pretty lousy gods. Trust me, a bikini body won't satisfy, that's God's job. So let's start to live, worshipping God for the gifts He's given us through our physical bodies.