9/22/2011

A Weighty Series, part 15

We're in the two day finale of a 16 part series on body image. All 14 previous posts have links: part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7part 8part 9part 10part 11part 12, part 13, and part 14.

Today is a quick, short recap of those posts and then a heartfelt plea from me to let Jesus really search you out and take these issues seriously. If you never read any posts from this entire series I ask you to please read today's post carefully, thoughtfully, and with a heart that is open to the Holy Spirit. I pray you won't get caught up in  my words but that the Holy Spirit will speak because I feel deeply and passionately that Jesus has so much more for us. 

Quick Sum
This series has touched on many things, but primarily it is about our bodies, what the world says makes us beautiful, what God says makes us beautiful and whom we choose to believe. There was quite a bit about what the world says we must look like, though the images set as our standard are literally too good to be true. I in depth about models and celebrities being made to look thinner through technology such as Photoshop. However, did you know that some extremely gaunt and thin models are actually made to look fuller and healthier? Tiny waists are never made fuller, but hollowed out cheeks are. You can read that article here, and see the two pictures below. 

The sum, though, is that you were not made to pursue a body that looks like magazine covers, nor can you twist the Bible so that it will condemn you for not exercising. The goal is Jesus, his beauty, and his heart.

The model as she was made to look, on the cover
of Healthy magazine. 

The model as she actually looked, thinner than
most women would actually want to be,
and showing the reality of what happens
to a woman's radiance when she starves
herself to be "perfect." Sad.
Choose Who Dies
Warning: I am about to be just about the boldest I have ever been but I pray it is with the Holy Spirit speaking directly to your heart, as he has been to mine, and that the fruit would not be miserable condemnation but conviction leading to repentance, joy, and freedom.

The last few posts in this series have been about my own heart. I am not fixed, but I testify to you with confidence that I am increasingly free. Times of struggle and returning to bondage may come, though I pray they do not, but I'm not just making lifestyle changes in order to lose weight. I'm seeking Jesus to change my lifestyle so that all I do is about him, his glory, and not about living unto myself. If I am bitter and frustrated and having pity parties and feeling like I don't deserve to live because I gained twenty pounds (like I did after having Roger) then I am living for myself and I am sinning against Jesus. I am living not like he's still nailed to the cross but as though he never went there at all. I am trading the glory of God for an ox that eats grass, as though my idol of being thin is an image worth bowing the bowing down my heart and life. What a sinful offense to God, a slap to Christ in his face!

If you are a Christian, then sister, hear my heart: refusing to fight this battle for Jesus' glory is not merely a "struggle" you have. It is sin, it is selfish, and it robs you and others of the joy of freely worshiping the One who not only lay down his life for you but is now seated in power at the right hand of God, still serving you by interceding on your behalf and preparing a home for you with him in eternity. It's time to stop. You are letting Satan have victory when you obsess yourself with your body, not to mention making others' worth dependent upon how "well" they are doing with weight loss. You get to choose today and every day, time and time again, who will you serve? The Liar who seeks to rob, kill, and destroy, salivating to feast on your death? Or the one who loves you, who only has good plans for you, a future and a hope of seeing his kingdom joy, a life lived in light of eternity, set before your eyes? 

Are You Lying to Yourself?
We must stop the bull, quit saying we just want to honor Jesus with an "in shape" body when really our hearts are driven by vanity and selfishness. I am not saying that it's wrong to work hard. Just the opposite! You must work hard. You were created to work hard. The problem is not hard work; the problem is whose glory do you desire as a result of your hard work? Admiration and admonition from man that you have a sexy physique, or people seeing Jesus because your dedication to live for him, including in this area of body image, spills over from you no matter what the effect is on your body? 

Will you rejoice in Jesus when you work hard but you can never lose those last ___ pounds just as much as if you worked hard and reached your ideal weight? Is Jesus still good when you never get what you want with regards to your body no matter how much effort went into exercise and eating well? Yes, the world is watching, your children are watching, but most importantly Jesus knows your heart, he knows the motives you don't even see because you choose to be led by deceit and he loves you and is whispering, repeatedly, "It is for freedom that I have set you free. Don't go back to being a slave to your looks."

It is not wrong to fit into those jeans that you love and that make you feel like a million bucks (as though your worth could have a monetary value placed upon it, just another lie of the world that a woman's beauty is equivalent to some fiscal appraisal).

[I just HAVE to reference this infographic. You see, if you believe your worth is based on your body then you are right, but you are right according to what the world says. Women who are 30 or more pounds overweight than the average woman earn $13,847 less in annual salary than said average woman's salary. Contrast that to the woman who is 30 pounds or more less than the average woman--she makes $15,572 more. So you are not wrong to think that if you look great in size 2 skinny jeans that you have more worth. You do in the eyes of the world, but God looks at your heart and a lot of "meh" women will spend eternity with him while many knockouts won't. Base your worth on Christ!!Now, back to it...]

I ask you this: is fitting into those jeans, or some other physical goal (losing your belly, having sexier legs, eliminating muffin top, having tank top worthy arms, eliminating wrinkles, whatever it is--or the multiple areas are--for you) superceding your desire to hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," from Jesus as he looks into your eyes? 

You may be compartmentalizing your body and your desire to be beautiful as seen by the world into "not Jesus' territory" but he isn't. How often do you cry out to Jesus for the salvation of your child(ren) or for him to change your husband's heart (or to bring you a husband and/or children) for Jesus' glory but have not a single thought of Christ when you step on that treadmill or put that bite of food in your mouth? 

"But I do pray," you say, "I ask him all the time to help me through my workout and to help me not eat things that are bad for me." Is it for his glory? Or are you basically asking him to make you skinny because really he's just the pinata you hope to hit with some prayers and a Victoria's Secret model's body will fall out and it will be all yours to wear every day? And you'll say you want Jesus' glory, or your husband's joy, but really you want what you want because you want it for you.

Horrible Hilly At Heart
If you've seen The Help, and I'm guessing it's in the book though I'm only halfway finished with it, there's a superbly powerful line at the end where the black servant Aibileen, after having been thoroughly mistreated by the white, quite proper and, she supposes of herself, enviable Hilly, finally says to Hilly regarding her awful mean-spiritedness, "Ain't you tired? Ain't you tired?" I propose to you that while most of us may think we are nothing like Hilly, in reality we aren't so different. 

Do you, like me, ever secretly feel sorry for a friend because she's downright gorgeous but she'll probably never be a size 2 so we think it's kind of a waste? You'd never say it out loud, but have you thought it? Maybe it's more that you nod with sympathy for a friend struggling to lose the baby weight but secretly you either envy how much more quickly she lost hers than you did, or you did better and deep down you wonder what her problem is. Do you assume that anyone who isn't red-carpet actress thin, or even "normal" thin--a size in the single digits, at least--is probably at least a little lazy, a little gluttonous? 

This is not the measure of beauty to judge yourself by,
nor anyone else.
With yourself, does your husband's praise of your beauty fall on deaf ears? Are you constantly trying to push aside, or maybe entirely give into, guilt because you don't look the way you wish you did? You may think that others are fine, that it's only your own body that you are concerned with, but it's impossible to judge yourself harshly for not being thin and to not have that affect others whether you recognize the effect or not. When you lament over your disgusting body, those who are thinner have reason to feel puffed up with pride, or at least secretly wonder if you envy them which makes most of us feel awkward. Those who are larger have reason to not only believe that you think you are better than they are, but also that since your "disgusting" body is smaller than theirs then they are worse than disgusting, both in your eyes and inherently. This isn't to mention what you are teaching your children, which I covered in part 6

Though you might say that's not your heart, this ugliness is not in your heart because it's not your intention it doesn't matter--that is what you are saying whether you intend to or not. You think that hating your own body only affects you but that hatred spreads. Your mean judgment extends far beyond yourself. 

Ain't You Tired, Miss Christian?
Aibileen talking to Hilly: I speak to you with her same zeal.
Sister, ain't you tired? In Christ's words, go to him, you who are weary, and he will give you rest. There is freedom. Yes, it will require battle and death and you might not like realizing how ugly your heart is, toward others and yourself. It will require repentance when you fail time and time again. But there is sweet joy, and rest, and freedom. It's for Jesus' glory and you might not get a thin body. I may never get below 200 pounds though that desire in me is strong. But Jesus' glory, not my desires, must be number one. He must become more, I must become less, and I must keep surrendering to his fight on my behalf and let my joy be determined by him for me.

I cannot exhort you strongly enough to read Psalm 16, to meditate on it and take it to the Lord in prayer, but it is absolutely applicable to what we have been exploring these last few weeks. Here are a few highlights.
  • Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge...I say..."I have no good apart from you." [v. 1, 2]
  • The sorrows of those who run after another God shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. [v. 4]
  • The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. [v. 6]
It's killing me not to post the entire Psalm, so again I exhort you to go read it, and spend some time talking to the Lord, praying, asking him to reveal your heart in light of this body image issue. Here are some guiding questions; don't be shy to copy and paste them and journal through them:

1. Where are you seeking good apart from him with regards to pursuit of beauty? [v. 1, 2]

2. Are you drinking the drink offerings of blood by worshiping the idol of a thin body, whether you actually are thinner because of ungodly sacrifice or you aren't thinner but you still suffer the death of constant guilt and shame about your looks? Are the names of other women on your lips (or in your heart), perhaps celebrities or friends you are striving to look like or perhaps better than (sin of comparison)? [v. 4]

3. Do you believe that the body you have is from God and that its measurements that are in pleasant places whether it meets the world's standards or not? Do you believe that Jesus, your inheritance, is true beauty as opposed to focusing on your body as a source of beauty (this includes your face and hair!)? [v. 5, 6]

4. Do you seek the Lord, spending time in his word, so that he is the one who counsels you about what your beauty is, what he thinks of you, what you should focus your time on, what worship looks like, etc? [v. 8, 9]

5. Are you secure in who you are in Christ, or do you believe that only a beautiful body ala the world is what sets you free from corruption? Similarly, when you gain weight and God isn't "helping" you lose weight, do you secretly believe he has abandoned you? Do you believe that living in a body that doesn't look like you hope it would is literally like living in hell? [v. 9, 10]

6. Do you actively seek the presence of God to find your joy there? Is your pleasure found in Christ, who is at the Father's right hand? [v. 11]

Because I Still Don't "Get It"
I'd love to tell you that after having sat at Jesus' feet these last 6 or so weeks, writing this series and studying and praying and talking with Jason and friends, that I get it now. That I look in the mirror and see Christ's beautiful, beloved, blood-purchased and sanctified daughter. I'd love to write about how guilt free my eating has become, how wonderfully worship filled my workouts (or, even harder, my missed workouts due to extreme illness) have been. But that would be false.

So much of me wanted not to write this post, to just skip to tomorrow's because it's a bit more warm and fuzzy. But then the aforementioned illness hit and I felt self-hatred creeping in because I missed my hour on the elliptical. My stomach stopped screaming with queasiness and it became like a bottomless pit last night, I suppose making up for all of the not-eating I did for the last few days. My low-carb self ate an entire pack of saltines one day, more carbs at once then I usually eat over a few days. The illness added to my ick feeling, but I walked past a mirror and said out loud, "Ugh," and put my hand up to cover my face so I didn't have to see it. My husband called me out on it, gently and lovingly.

You see, he had read this post. He knew that I've been carefully weighing whether or not to actually put it up, make it public. We talked about whether or not I'm qualified to take on this teacher role. We sought Jesus about whether it's appropriate for me to make this public or just keep it for myself. And you know what? The fact that I have tasted victory but a few days of a virus allowed my heart to quickly begin the self-loathing spiral tells me more than ever that I need to post this. Again, not because I'm all fixed and you can be too! No. Certainly not that. I need to post this because I need to keep being challenged to refuse to settle for the world's lies. I need to stop calling Jesus a liar, to cry out for him to forgive my unbelief and make me believe him. This is not just for me, nor is it just for you: it's for us.

One Last Thing
While I cannot exhort you enough to really go to Jesus with this, and not shake it off as nothing, I want to say something with complete clarity: I am not saying that we shouldn't rejoice with those who are experiencing success in weight loss. Or if you have a friend who is feeling a stirring to put a little more effort into her outer beauty and it's stirred by her inner beauty, her pursuit of Jesus and his pleasure would be in her celebrating how he made her beautiful, it's ok to hell her she looks great. I've had friends read this series and apologize for wanting to tell me I looked pretty or that they were proud of me for doing my first 5k. May this not be so!!

I'm simply saying this: may we care even more about someone's walk with Jesus than their external beauty

Be careful to celebrate weight loss because you just assume that weight loss equals obedience of God. Don't gush over someone's new clothes / haircut / hair color / make-up because you only care that she looks prettier and assume all is well in her walk with God. While I love it when people rejoice with me, I pray that women who love me would be even more willing to ask questions and pursue my heart. I want women not to just say how good I look but it check and see if my external beauty is a reflection of Jesus' work in my heart and not the work of deception, me pursuing the world's lie that my worth is intrinsically linked to how "great" I look.

With that, I will rest my case for Jesus. Tomorrow's the very last one and it's so super precious to my heart. I pray you will be blessed and that together we'll walk forward with Christ, never quite the same because we delved into these areas that so often are kept in the dark, hidden away and not spoken of. I pray we look the most like Jesus, whether we resemble someone on the cover of Vogue or Glamour or Fitness magazine or not.

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