With all the filters folks use on their photos these days, you really can’t believe everything you see. But no matter how you or I look at it, I’m a vertically challenged black woman. All I have to do is ask myself: “Can I reach the ketchup on the top shelf?” The resounding “No” isn’t good or bad. It just is. But if I think less of myself because I can pick only low-hanging fruit, that’s something else altogether. That thought involves judgement, and experts would say it reflects a poor body image.
Body image. That phrase rears its ugly, self-centered head in our house quite often. For instance, once Maven wouldn’t wear a sleeveless outfit because her arms are too toned. Too toned, my ten-year-old gymnast and track star. Songbird won’t leave the house without earrings, as if they’re the feather that keeps her aloft. I’ve been to the grocery store in pjs, but I’d never go without my lip gloss. Go figure. Even our boys spend precious time picking out their curls or working on their six-pack, and Hubby wonders whether growing a beard makes him look debonair or elderly.
The world says this is all part of having a healthy self-image, but for believers, a “healthy self-image” is an oxymoron, ranking up there with “self-empowerment” and “self-seeking.” These words point you in the wrong direction, putting the focus on the man in the mirror rather than the Man on the cross.
But is it really that big a deal? Yes! A thing’s image isn’t its essence. It’s not real. Appearance isn’t everything. It’s not even the real thing.
Body image is all about the way you see yourself in your mind’s eye. It’s not necessarily based on truth or on your own mirrored reflection, but flows from your heart and mind. Fueled by pride, a sense of inadequacy, fear, or jealousy, what you believe is often not what you see. When I stare at myself I focus on my flaws, what I consider the strands of wire springing from my scalp. Yet Proverbs 16:31 says each is a jewel in my “crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” I’m focusing on this evidence that college days are long gone, but Hubby appreciates the refinement and polish that only the passage of time can accomplish.
So, obviously I can’t trust my own opinion. Just like Wikipedia, the source—self—is often flawed and limited. That means that the image of and the power from that source is even less trustworthy or unreliable. And I neither should I rely solely on Hubby—he did just get reading glasses after all—or the little people. The answer is always the same: when I want to focus on myself, I should “fix [my] eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2) My Lord knows I’m worth it—whether “it” is the time, the investment, the love, or lunch at Smashburger—because He paid the price for me thousands of years ago. Just as a car can’t propel itself, but needs a foot on the accelerator and gasoline in the tank, so believers need God to power them, fill them, and move them in the right direction.
The answer is simple: choose a godly image over the world’s idea of body image. But what does that look like in this selfie-driven society? It doesn’t mean practicing your “chin-up, barely there” smile. Neither does it mean running from the camera, for it’s not the camera but the subject matter you hate. It means focusing on others’ needs instead of your own, lifting others up instead of putting yourself down, listening to God’s gentle voice over the clamor of the crowd.
Seek to excel in all things, including the mundane tasks of motherhood, your calling or your profession, and the tedium of algebra 2. The truth of who you are in Jesus Christ will shine through. That’s the true image we are to reflect: Christ’s. The world will see your fruit, benefiting you and glorifying Him.
You are altogether beautiful, My love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people your life. (Isaiah 43:4)
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)