This is the second part of a 2-part series on honoring your body. The first was written from a Health at Every Size perspective, and this article is written from a Christian faith perspective.
Sometimes as Christians we think we shouldn’t struggle with the things the rest of the world struggles with, and I wonder whether this is especially true when it comes to struggling with our bodies. For instance, we may feel that obsessing and worrying over our physical beauty is superficial or vain. We know that our values are supposed to be different, that those “worldly” things shouldn’t get in our way, and yet we struggle along with the rest of the world.
All Have Sinned: Many of Us Struggle With Body Image
It’s important to remember that we all miss the mark in so many different ways, and just because you struggle with your body doesn’t mean you’re vain or “un-Christian”. In my experience, struggles with body image often stem from deeper areas of pain and uncertainty, maybe a desire for control or security, for acceptance, for peace or for confidence – these desires are not vain, they are human. So you’re no more “un-Christian” than anyone else just because your struggle is with appearance. And, just like with all of us, God wants something different for you, something better, and something whole. Perhaps the Lord is calling you out of the slavery of body-obsession, and into a new kind of story.
The Body as a Gift
It’s hard to argue that the human body isn’t an incredibly complex, intricate, and mysterious thing! Even in our age of science we’re still trying to map the depths of this physical reality we inhabit daily. And because God is the Designer, we honor Him when we honor our bodies, recognizing their complexity and innate wisdom, and appreciating how much our bodies allow us to do, their ability to heal themselves, to bring new life into the world…all the things we often take for granted. Consider setting aside some time to write out a list of all the things you’re thankful your body can do, and all the ways it serves you well.
Keeping a Broad Perspective
It’s easy in this body-focused world to mix up our body with our identity and our worth. We forget about all the other things that make us uniquely us, maybe that we are creative, social, intelligent, musical, mathematical, or how about that we are beloved of God. This is where all that guilt-trip stuff comes in because we know we’re supposed to care about God’s approval first, and the world’s approval last, but it’s not always easy. Instead of criticizing yourself, take some time to cultivate this part of your relationship with the Lord. Ask Him to show you the true source of your worth and identity and to help you honor your body just as it is. And consider finding some friends who will speak God’s love into your life regardless of how your workout regimen is going.
Using Your Gifts to Develop an Outward Focus
We are not called out of the slavery of body-obsession and into a no-mans land. We’re called out of slavery and into God’s story, where He has a place and a role for each of us: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10, NIV). Sometimes learning our gifts and using them to serve others is the best way to help ourselves re-prioritize and remember what’s truly important. Developing an outward focus simply means taking your passions and using them to serve others. Maybe for you that means volunteering with a local Boys and Girls Club, teaching art, getting involved with a church ministry, or anything else that uses and develops your unique gifts.
Seeking Help through Individual Christian Counseling
Changing our minds about our bodies takes practice and intentionality. Learning to honor our bodies for their capabilities and inherent beauty is not a common approach in our culture. A Christian counselor can help you identify and walk through the steps that lead to a healthier body image and free you up for a new way of living. If you are struggling with under-eating, over-eating, purging, over-exercising, body-hate, or body-obsession, it’s time to consider seeking help. Whatever your struggle, find a counselor you connect with, who will support you in the recovery process, and who will challenge you on the important things. It’s ok to do a little shopping around in order to find the right fit, the important part is that you start the process.
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.net – hands on fence by sakhorn38 and Bible by pixbox77