If anything could bring it on, a trip through the checkout lane was it. One stopped off, thinking that all she was getting was groceries for the week. Instead, what one got was a heaping dose of insecurity before she’d reached the cashier.
It was hard to escape unscathed. For nearly everywhere one went, newsstands featured row upon row of impossibly thin, curvaceous, unblemished women. No hint of cellulite upon their frames. No varicose veins, no wrinkles, no flaws.
Several years ago, I took a poll of my blog readers who were raising girls. What, I wanted to know, where the top issues confronting their daughters? Not surprisingly, body image came in at the top. There was tremendous pressure to meet an unrealistic standard of perfection, and their girls were suffering for it.
I am not (and I’ll say this up front) going to demean or castigate any women who are beautiful and thin. If this is you, then you should give thanks. It’s a gift and a blessing, and there’s no need for guilt or shame. Simply be grateful.
For everyone else who struggles over physical imperfections, whether real or perceived, I’d like to talk to you, woman to woman. If I could, I’d invite you to sit down across from me in the beloved Jesus Chair, the place where He sits when I’m writing at the coffee shop, and we’d chat.
I would start like this. I’ve learned, whenever something’s troubling me, that truth is the only prescription. “The truth,” Jesus said, “will set you free.” I look for truth.
In truth, our bodies are amazing. Brilliantly designed, creatively crafted, we bear the fingerprints of God in our earthly frame. The Engineer held nothing back when He wove us together, knitting us with His fingers in the womb.
Secondly, I’d say, death and decay were not in His plan. Not in the beginning, but sin came in, and ever since, it’s been a mess. People get sick, everyone dies, and our bodies decline and break down. It stinks, but that’s how it goes.
If that’s all we were, flesh and blood, bone and tissue, we should all go to despair. Should weep and wail, gnashing teeth, pulling hair if there were nothing but that. But (glorious but) our bodies are far more than this. They are temples, fair houses if we’ve said the ‘yes’ and opened the door at His knock. Amazing grace beyond understanding, that the Spirit of the living God should come in to dwell within houses of clay. Can you see it?
That earthly frame you’ve been anxious about, the one you’ve criticized and demeaned, is a tabernacle. Sacred and holy, clothed in honor and glory, you carry within you the Christ. We ought all to rejoice, men and women alike, over such a glorious truth. But there’s more.
If you were sitting with me, I’d tell you about the women who’ve impacted my life, the ones who have changed it forever. They’re all older, these girls, with colored hair and some wrinkles, and they’ll never be seen on a cover. But their hearts. Oh, their hearts and their love for the Lord, marking the way that they live.
When I was a young mother with (then) two boys, an older mother of two boys took me in. I met her in a time of great trial and change, being drawn by her joy, love and wisdom. Her investment in me changed my life. Her name is Nancy.
I’d tell you, if we were chatting, about the mother of three grown sons that I met when I was struggling with the news of an unexpected pregnancy. She said, “I always thought that the only thing better than having three boys would have been four.” Her cheerful attitude was a gift to me. The way she’s adopted the whole lot of us since, praying faithfully and baking up cookies, is, too. Her name is Lee.
It was during another season of struggle that the Lord sent, separately, two other women. (Never doubt, by the way, that God moves at the coffee shop, for both of them came to me there.) With a prodigal son on one hand and my own search for healing and wholeness on the other, these women have been teachers of wisdom. Speaking life and truth, they’ve shown me how it looks to walk in peace, having joy even when the fire’s the hottest. For their encouragement and prayers, I always give thanks. Their names are Londa and April.
Here’s the truth–in the Upside Down Kingdom, women can become more and more beautiful as they age. Don’t be fooled by the outside. Don’t be fearful or dismayed for you can grow more beautiful, too.
You there, with your flaws and imperfections. Do you see what a blessing you are? If you’re loving others, investing; if you encourage and pray, then you are a person of great beauty.
Take heart, dear one who carries the Christ, for heaven shall reveal our true beauty. With bodies all new and the heart’s beauty shown, all shall be finally set right. Press in.