Wouldn’t it be awesome to make peace with your body in 2014? I mean, real peace. A peace that is not found on a size tag sewn to an article of clothing and a peace that is not found on some (random) magic number that happens to be your lbs jackpot. Rather, a peace the reminds you why you have your body and how our bodies should be treated.
The world will not want you to know about this kind of peace, mind you. Because then, how could industries banking on our insecurities continue to thrive? How could products or services specifically targeting our restlessness and feelings of inadequacies still rake in profit?
No, the world will never teach us, show us, or demonstrate for us how to achieve peace in our skin. Which is why I am thankful for the Word, and the daily reminder or who I am and whose I am. No gimmicks needed.
Today, I had the privilege of leading our women’s ministry at Christ Church in discussion, on a topic that is near and dear to many of us…especially at the beginning of a New Year. The topic: Body Image/Made in God’s Image. One of my goals was to get everyone thinking and discussing the relationship between New Year’s Resolutions and our identities in Christ…and specifically, what implications that relationship has on how we treat our physical bodies. Why? Because many new year’s resolutions (year after year) have to do with health, fitness, and exercise. AND, because if God gave us bodies…we might surmise that there is a reason and purpose for them.
While I won’t rehash our entire discussion from today (but please feel free to join us on the first Sunday of every month at 12:30pm), I wanted to share some of the main points. Because I know many people, women and men, struggle to make peace with their bodies, I pray that some of this information may be ever so slightly helpful in that it provides a Christian perspective on what our bodies represent and why they should be cared for.
- As we send out the old and ring in the new each year, many of us like the idea of new beginnings and fresh starts. Do-overs, even. There is hope and excitement to be found in new beginnings. Historians trace New Year’s celebrations back over 4,000 to ancient Babylon. Let’s face it: there is something about starting fresh that appeals to humans. For Christians, we become new when we accept our identities in Christ. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”
- We are new creations, yet we are often tempted to gaze too long over our shoulders, at the mistakes and mishaps of our past. We may linger in our failed attempts to get things right or in shame and guilt. In fact, the month January was actually named after the Roman god, Janus. Janus is depicted as having two heads: one looking back at the past and one looking ahead. Some of us may be able to relate to the idea of having two heads of sorts as we enter the new year. However, Jesus himself (Luke 9:62) speaks to would-be disciples, folks that tell Jesus I’ll follow you Jesus…after I….(insert the best procrastinator’s excuse you can come up with), and says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” What is Jesus saying here? I believe Jesus is saying, “Get on with it already. There is no time to look back, follow me pronto b/c Kingdom work and life with true purpose is straight ahead. (Quit fussing about your last failed diet attempt.) Get on and giddy up!“
- But what does this mean for our bodies? Ahh…good question. Some Christians may argue that if they are spiritually healthy and spiritually disciplined, doesn’t that trump being physically healthy? Hmm…that sounds nice, but Houston, we have a problem. As Christians, we believe that Christ dwells in us. IN us. Not in some aura surrounding our bodies, not in some inanimate object. Rather, the living God literally dwells IN our physical being. If we were to invite God into our homes, our places of residence, I imagine most of us would want to tidy up a bit. The same is true for our bodies. Oh, how might we treat our bodies differently? How might we speak more kindly to ourselves and might we genuinely love our bodies if we believed and lived as is it were God’s dwelling place? Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
- As Christian women, when it comes to our bodies (among other things) we must learn to consistently…and I mean from hour to hour friends….consistently differentiate between the world’s standards and God’s standards. God wants us to be physically healthy because our bodies house the Spirit of the living God. Our bodies matter to God and God can best accomplish his purposes in and through us when we are healthy. On the other hand, the “world” has worldly interests, that are often warped and full of lies and deceit. The world tends to be self-serving at best, objectifying our bodies, and extremely destructive at worst. Pick any one of the latest childhood-star-become train-wreck-before-our-eyes and we learn just how little the world cares about any of us.
- One of my biggest objections and what I believe to be an ongoing problem, is how the world distorts and markets an ill-contrived purpose for our bodies through countless images we are presented with each and every day. Whether in a magazine, on TV, through filtered social media images, or any other advertising/marketing medium, we are bombarded with pictures that try to sell us that idea or ideology that looking a certain way, being a certain way, will somehow magically equate to happiness, peace, and joy. (It won’t!) When you or I see these images, however, even when we logically know that they have been altered and photoshopped, the photos (along we associated feelings and emotions) tend to get stored in our brains as some sort of attainable reality. When the reality, in fact, is that not one image we see in magazines or on television is truly attainable. Even by the person “wearing” the skin in the photo. Take a look at what can be done to an image in under one minute, with the help of digital imaging:
So, here’s the deal friends. Becoming fit and healthy is an awesome goal. (Which of course needs to be broken down into subgoals…and an actual plan. Boring, I know.) When we take care of our bodies, the bodies given to us by God, then God can more readily achieve his purposes in and through us. This is why we should care. Pledge to get fit and healthy for that primary purpose. Not vanity, a size, or a scale. Being in good shape, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, allows us to the opportunity to experience God, experience life, and experience God’s purposes in our lives more fully. How could you ever regret that?
However, we must also be aware of the countless industries that bank…literally bank…on the fact that we will continue to feel lousy about ourselves, year after year. After all, if we feel lousy about ourselves and (erroneously) believe something is wrong with us, we may be more apt to purchase whatever product or service they are trying to sell. I do not believe God wants us to feel lousy about ourselves or our bodies. I do believe God truly wants us to achieve peace, spiritually and physically. That peace, however, comes from an understanding and recognition that our bodies, given by God, have a kingdom purpose. And that purpose simply won’t be found in the world’s marketing machines.
I pray that as we start this New Year and pledge to be healthier, that we do so in the spirit of God’s holy intention for our bodies. I pray that we spend more time discerning how God wants us to improve our health and less time focusing on what the latest fad or quick fix sell might be. Less time focused on the negatives and more on the positives. I pray that as a community, we help build each other up and push each other to achieve the attainable goals laid out. Finally, I pray that all of us…each and every time we see an image in a magazine or on a screen that makes us feel crappy about our (legs, butt, arms, face, neck, boobs, etc. etc.) that we remember to tell ourselves this: That is not real. That is not attainable. My body is a temple. A temple that houses the living God. My body is NOT an object or toy.
Happy New Year! Here’s to a new you, centered in Christ and health.
Oh, and because some of you asked today, here is the link to the other video we discussed: