8/26/2010

So Not A "California Gurl"

When I was in my early twenties I had a huge crush on Tom Brady. Don't know who that is? Incredibly handsome star quarterback of the New England Patriots (NFL football team, for the truly sports ignorant!). He led his team to three Superbowl victories in four years, and has a reputation for being down to earth and humble to boot. Football is my absolute favorite sport, and the tall, lean but muscular build of quarterbacks was always incredibly attractive to me. Throw in a megawatt smile and even blingier bank account and Tom Brady was the man of my dreams.

I won't lie-- I was pretty jealous of his then girlfriend, the super tall and even more super thin Bridget Moynahan. But then they broke up! I am embarrassed to admit this to the world writ large, but I fantasized about how I'd move to Boston, find a great church, Tom Brady would get saved and go there and meet me and just have  to marry me.  Remember that I was 24 years old!

I was a bit insecure about my weight, but I figured that I'd either miraculously lose 200 pounds in the meantime, or he'd be enamored with my personality and his millions could afford room to get me a personal chef and personal trainer to whip me into shape whilst eating super healthy. Fat girls don't marry guys like Tom Brady, but I had hope.

Then... he started dating and married literally the hottest supermodel in the world, Gisele Bundchen. Ouch. I knew my hope was nothing more than a pipe dream, but I remember feeling pretty terrible about myself. It's not like I ever had an actual chance-- not because of my body, but because I lived a thousand miles away and had never met him, let alone actually knew him enough to have a romantic relationship. Still, I was certain that it was because I was fat and not pretty. I hoped that when I met a man he would love me for me, but I felt like I had to be beautiful first.

That's when I began a routine of exercising an hour or two almost every day, eating as little as 400 calories some days, 700 on an average day, and then binging and purging when I didn't "have the willpower" to restrict my eating. I lost about 60 pounds in nine months. Everything was in secret, but if people told me how good I was looking, I just said thanks and that I'd been eating better and exercising more. No one asked any questions, just congratulated me and told me to keep up the good work.

Shortly after, I met the man who is now my husband. I struggled to believe that he could really like me for me. I was certain that something was wrong with him, almost like he was less of a man, because he liked me even though I weighed 300 pounds. I believed that a real man, a good man, a worthy man, would only be with a beautiful woman. Yet, I was conflicted because I respected him. He was a hard worker, serious about his relationship with Jesus, treasured me and treated me with dignity and respect, and constantly told me not just that I was beautiful physically, but that he was enamored with the way he saw Christ shine through me and that was why he simply had to marry me and ensure that I'd spend our entire lives as his wife.

As someone who still isn't at her ideal body weight, the battle to believe that I am beautiful, perfectly and wonderfully made, is one I must fight every day. I've realized, though, that this isn't just about being "so fat", as I defined myself. Just the other night at community group I caught a snippet of conversation as I walked past some (very beautiful and definitively not fat) friends about how amazing it is that we women spend our time criticizing and detesting our bodies, wishing this was smaller, that was leaner, those were firmer, that was rounder, and yet our husbands love our bodies as they are and never seem to have the same standards for our bodies that we do.

Scripture exhorts women to not be so wrapped up in what we look like. Peter said it well:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
                                                               I Peter 3:1-4
Never once in my marriage has my husband proclaimed in exasperation, "If only you had a Pilates butt, wore jeans to show it off for me, did your hair better, and wore more make-up! Then we wouldn't bicker and argue and I would treasure you the way Christ loves the church!" I can say with confidence that he'll never make such a statement, either. What does hurt our marriage is when I try to control him, tell him how he can best ______ (fill in the blank; I've used that one way more than I can even count, sadly), why he should do this the right (read: my) way, etc. When I stubbornly refuse to shut up (for the record, I'm saying that, not him!), and instead lecture him like a pupil about how to conduct his life... well, that does not a lovely marriage make.

Sometimes I wish I had spent my early twenties focused on what it means to worship Jesus and have a gentle and quiet spirit, how to trust Jesus enough to in turn trust a husband to lead me well, and not on how hot I could make myself to attract the highest quality man. But now, as I am in the middle of marriage (our three year anniversary is in two weeks!) and looking forward to having our first child in March, I am reminded that God is a faithful Father who promises that he can restore the years the locusts have eaten. I squandered my time as a single woman dreaming of Tom Brady, but the man I married and my children can still have a godly wife and mother who finds her worth in Jesus. I'm not skinny, and I likely never will be. I can steward this body well, to be sure, but Jesus cares about my heart. His opinion of me is always based on my heart, and not how small of a jeans size I can squeeze into.

In a culture where a quick perusal of the lyrics to Katy Perry's "California Gurls", not to mention watching even just 15 seconds of the accompanying video, tells women (and, worst of all, young, young girls) what it means to be feminine, we must fight to believe what Jesus says about our worth. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart-- where are you believing lies about how your appearance impacts your worth? Are you more concerned with your heart or are you distracted by how to look really, really good? On the flip side, how much time do you spend thinking about how you aren't attractive enough? For the single ladies-- do you believe, and live out, the truth that it's your character that will attract a godly man to you? And for you married women, do you believe that humble submission first to God and then to your husband is what makes you beautiful no matter how much pregnancy wreaked havoc on your body?

These are old truths, but still timely. I'll say it again, sisters-- we MUST FIGHT for these things. They don't just happen. Our enemy and our flesh never rest. The good news is that neither does Jesus, and he fights for us. Entreat yourself to him, find refuge in his strong tower. He may not ever straighten your crooked nose or miraculously remove the cellulite from your thighs, but he's really, really great at softening and changing your heart.

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