I glance over at the girl right ahead of me in line. She’s probably 16, wearing light blue-jean cut-off short shorts and a white tank top. Her hair is blonde, highlighted and thick, hanging perfectly straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin is perfectly tan and her long legs are shapely and smooth. She is a classic high school hottie, and even at the ripe old age of 24, I am surprised to find that I am not in the least bit jealous when looking at her.
The past 15 years of my life have been, like most women, riddled with disordered eating and exercise habits, dissatisfaction with images found in mirrors, jealous comparisons to other women, and a general body-image funk which motivated many of my actions, feelings, and insecurities. In short, I’ve had a negative body image since the age of 11, when I asked my brother (the only member of the opposite sex who I felt comfortable even asking this kind of question to) whether or not I looked “hott” in my Spring Sing dress. An awkward question to ask a brother, to be sure, but all relations aside, I was desperate to know that my image was considered desirable. That would confirm that I was loveable.
Even at age 19, I would check the mirror in my peripheral, notice my “pooching” stomach or my “undefined” arms, and I would immediately check the latest new workout or diet program when I got to the nearest computer. And at age 23, I started the P90X program, hoping to finally attain the body that I had wanted and worshiped for nearly all my life.
Well, God put a stop to that. As soon as I started the program, I got sick. Then I recovered, started the program again, and I got injured. Then I started it again, this time being very careful about what kind of shoes I wore (my injury was foot-related), and God got to me in a way much more powerful than any physical ailment. He convicted my soul.
He reminded me of my long battle with bulimia, and how hard I tried to attain the “perfect body” and how this ideal image was not only stealing my health, but also stealing my worship and love away from Him. He warned me that if I were to succeed in obtaining the body I thought I wanted so badly, I would be successful in creating an idol of myself. I would worship my own body. I would be turning away from Christ.
God did not give me perfectly shaped, smooth, tanned legs. He gave me odd-shaped hips and stretch marks on my runner’s thunder-thighs, rock-hard calves, farmer’s tan, kitten-scratches, backstage-stumble scars, and accidental shaving nicks. But I realize now, looking at the girl ahead of me in line, ordering her drink from the cashier, that if God had given me the “perfect body” (at least the one that I had dreamed up in my head), He would never get my entire heart, nor the glory that He wanted from me. He would never get my testimony of a recovered bulimic/anorexic who’s burden was lifted by finding Christ. He would have never gotten my faith, love, life, and identity.
Also, if God had given me my idea of the “perfect body”, my pride would shoot through the roof. I would be like the stupid and adulterous woman in Proverbs, I would be conceited and altogether dependent upon my physical attraction rather than my character in Christ. I would worship my own body and want everyone else to worship my body as well, and when my body became old and wrinkled, I would be lost and alone, feeling worthless without my youthful beauty. I would be a totally and completely foolish and Godless woman.
How scary is that?
It’s good to be reminded of how close to complete and utter depravity I am. It’s good to be reminded that I am never too far away from the sin of idolatry ruling my life.
So as I watch the beautiful young girl walk away with her drink, I step up next in line to order, “If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble!”, I say to myself. And regardless of what the “perfect body” looks like in today’s culture, or what it looked like to me during these past 15 years, I trust that God gave me a body perfectly fit to be His temple and His possession. Because after all, I wasn’t created in the image of magazine pictures, Spring Sing hotties, or Barbie. I was created in the image of my Lord and Savior.
And that, my friends, is a far better body than I could create by starving myself and doing expensive workout programs.