Trying to find beautiful: On body image and relationships

I have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful.

The first time I remember telling myself I was fat was in junior high.

I’d like to think it had to do with a changing body and hormones, but I don’t think that was it.

There is something about being suddenly aware of boys that throws a girl into new beliefs about herself. I’d like that not to be true – and it may not be an issue for some of you out there – but for many of us that’s just the way it is, and we need to be honest about that. From a very early age, our beauty is tied up in the relationships around us. It actually makes me want to cry a little bit, that our beauty would be wrapped up in what a someone thinks of us. There is something off there, something so connected to the way it’s supposed to be, but not quite right, and it’s hard to figure it all out, so we plunge ahead on weird courses trying to make ourselves feel better,

trying to find beautiful.

In high school, I remember exercising for beauty, rather than health or strength for the first time. Maybe if I did just the right amount of sit ups I would feel better. I remember healthily and not healthily saying no to chips and Snickers bars and pop, because maybe then I’d be pretty and my hips would stop making pants so dang difficult.

I thought with marriage my body image issues would be better. With a husband to tell me I’m beautiful, what can go wrong? That pit of disdain (or at least discomfort) when I weighed myself or looked in the mirror would melt away in the arms of someone who loved me unconditionally.

But it didn’t get better.

Shocker, but a man didn’t solve my problems.

Even as an adult, the word beautiful played games in my head, taunting me with something I’d never be.

I’m not girly.

I’m not graceful.

I’m not good with my hair.

I like food a lot.

And then, one day I turned to my left and saw my daughter. The words taunting me, I heard from her mouth. That was when I demanded that something had to give. I pleaded with God to help me. Lord, I want her to see beautiful in herself, in her friends, in me… instead of maybe ok.

God’s answer, as always, was the Word of God. He picked me up, dusted off my shame, and sent me to the Scriptures.

When I studied and then wrote through the Song of Songs, I began to see that beauty has a lot less to do with pretty and a lot more to do with strength than we think. It has to do with a Savior, and is more intimately connected to His sacrifice and death than I can wrap my head around. It has to do with honor and kindness, even when it holds onto its very physical properties.

And it’s relational.

No wonder I struggled with my beauty based on boys. We understand beautiful in relationship – any and all relationships, romantic, friendship, or familial. That, I believe, is Scriptural Truth.

Healing our beliefs about the word beautiful will be changed in the Word, yes, but God is teaching me that it is also changed in community with each other – in friendship, in life together, in calling out beautiful where we see it, and in proclaiming God’s workmanship in one another – not just to our daughters, but to one another’s daughters, to wives, and to women everywhere.

If you have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful, here is what I want to tell you:

God makes beautiful and God defines beautiful, I don’t get to. I want to believe Him instead, be covered by Him instead of my own ideas about my body and myself and this one word – beautiful,

but we can only do that together.

I’ll never conquer this by myself. Our brains weren’t designed for that. The battle wasn’t meant to be lonely.

Dig out your phone. Text a friend. Tell them they are beautiful. Sing it over them. They need you and in the midst of that, God will heal this weirdness about beauty and beautiful and boys and all of it.

Altogether beautiful, friends.

Let’s help each other begin to believe it.

Click here for a free sample of Altogether Beautiful: A Study of the Song of Songs 

Be gone backpack: Old yokes, new yokes, no yokes

Ever since I was 14 years old people have been telling me that I’ll have back problems one day.

In my academic zeal (yes, honest to goodness zeal) I would load every textbook I owned into my backpack and carry it around everywhere, just in case there was any moment to study. A single moment of study could make the difference between failing and excelling, in my mind.

I remember an actual moment at a concert for Green Day when I took out a set of notecards to study “for just a second.”

I sound super dorky, I know. I wasn’t really crazy about it. I just minored in crazy.

Even in grad school I hefted that backpack everywhere.

I realized something once I turned about 36:

I carried that backpack around because I wanted to change the world and the only way I could see that happening was by hefting around a giant load of books and learning everything I could about it.

My backpack of knowledge couldn’t change the world. Only Jesus can.

He might use my knowledge, my connections, my relationships, my life to share His Word and His Work, but I don’t have to yoke myself to getting it all done myself.

This was so very refreshing. I don’t have to do it all, be it all, figure it all out.

God has got this whole world in His hands. He is at work. I tried to carry around some yokes, but friends, it just never works out. Instead He gives me fruit and armor, instead of yokes. He gives me life and salvation, instead of a backpack filled with requirements.

On today’s podcast we’ll talk about the old yokes everyone carries around, the new yokes we might try to put on, and finally move on to getting to no yokes in Christ Jesus.

 

It is for freedom Christ has set us free – Galatians 5:1

Go forth in the freedom of Christ, leaving the backpack of our sins and all the expectations of this life on the pavement. Lift your hands to Him and say “thank you” to the Maker of the stars and the Healer of our hearts. He is working freedom in you every day.

*Willing to help me make the studies and the offerings at ilovemyshepherd.com even better? Please complete this brief 10 question evaluation of Chasing Freedom. As a bonus, you’ll receive a $2 off coupon for any I Love My Shepherd Product with a Message.

YA Bonus – Someone gave something up for your freedom

We really want everything to be OK.

We want to use a thumbs up emoji for life itself.

Good to go!

We want to look around us at our family and friends and say good to go there to.

As we grow in our faith and understanding, our eyes open a bit further though and good to go just isn’t happening for the most part.

We look inside of us and around us and we see struggle. We see addiction. We see loneliness, fear, and heartache. We see other religions, different ways of finding meaning, and calls to action that open lots of questions we never knew we had:

What about abortion?

What about sexual identity?

What about Buddhism, Islam, or all those other -isms?

Is Heaven the real deal, and perhaps the bottom line- is Hell?

Good to go is good for most days, but we crave more. We want to know more, seek more, and understand more.

God gives us answers in the Bible, it’s Truth written out with blood stained ink by the prophets and early Apostles of the Church.

People died for this Truth. But people die for other truths, so which truth is actually…well…Truth?

In today’s podcast we’ll examine Truth with a capital T and it’s connection to sacrifice. We’ll wrestle with tough questions with no easy answers and one easy answer all at the same time.

Find the podcast here. Share your thoughts in the comments. Get the conversation going.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6