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Monday, August 15, 2011

Body Image Disorder, the contemporary Woman & Christ

When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of going through an entire year of stomach problems. It began with not being able to keep anything down in the morning. I would sit, slowly chewing my toast in hopes that this would be the day that I would actually feel alive. This would be the day that I would prove to be healthy, awake…and in the midst of these lofty daydreams I would find myself running to the porcelain basin of doom. My medical issues continued to evolve, as most things in life do, and it soon became a problem after every meal. And before I knew it, I was starving myself to avoid being nauseous and still couldn’t help but throw up five or six times a day.

Rest assured, I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic-- in fact gluttony has always been one of my major downfalls. [I mean, how does the Lord expect me to love baking and not love pie, even He knows this is a ridiculous request!]

But more scary than it not having been a choice, more terrifying than having no control over my body, were the thoughts I found myself having in reaction to this nameless gastro-intestinal disease.

Me, the sinner: ‘Oh, thank God! Look, I’m finally losing weight!’

The Lord: ‘Seriously? This is how you’re invoking my name at a time like this? Really…? Oy, what am I going to DO with this kid…’

[In these kinds of situations I enjoy acting as if the Lord is my older brother, so forgive me if he doesn’t sound quite as you’d imagined. I digress.]

Vanity thine name is Katey. .

Or. Have I simply been programmed to think this way? Have we allowed movies, magazines, celebrities, etc. to tell us that what we possess as creations of the most Holy Creator are qualities that simply…aren’t good enough?

What is a Christian woman to do when she is being taught one thing through the love of Christ and another through the society she is immersed in?

Alright, let’s be honest, this society equates being skinny to being beautiful.

It was a sincere struggle to look in the mirror and see anything of worth as I was growing up. Granted, I was never obese or even that much overweight, but the stigma of being ‘chunky’ followed me where ever I seemed to take root. By the time I was in fourth grade, I began labeling myself as the token ‘tomboy’, attempting to hide the fact that I felt less that worthy to hold the title of ‘woman’ . I hid. By wearing over sized clothes and hanging out with the boys who often spent their time getting dirty and killing bugs. While I appreciated the attention that I received from the boys, who I knew in my heart truly loved me for me, I was often envious of the pretty skinny girls I would hear them talking about.  You know, the ones that wore the cute little tank tops and always had their nails done. They were the girls that the teachers smiled at because of how tiny and adorable they were…I was the girl that the teachers smiled at because I was a huge goofball who used her loud personality to cover up her physical insecurities.

And so I grew up, thinking that I would always be the girl that would have a ‘great personality’ and a ‘cute face’, but would never be seen as a beautiful woman. And finally, I arrived in high school. Where I wore sweatshirts in the hottest months of Florida to hide my body. Where I looked at the overweight girls who wore tight clothing and judged them for being so bold and comfortable with themselves. Where I convinced myself that I would have to lose, at least, thirty or forty pounds before a man would ever love me. I arrived in high school to discover that all the praying that I had been doing to become who God had created me to be…had been in vain. Not because of our Lord, no…He had been working over-time to get me to see my true value. No, I had been deaf, blind and stubborn to keep Him from telling me that I was gorgeous. I had insisted that He leave me to believe that I wasn’t worth being looked at because I was not a suitable weight. I told Him to leave me alone.

And He laughed.

…and then He made me get sick.

It’s funny how the sick part didn’t bother me so much…the long hours spent in the bathroom. The overnight in the hospital for tests. My parents who frantically ran around trying to figure out ways to make me better. It was kind of fun to feel like a mystery that no one could figure out.

What truly bothered me were those thoughts of being happy to finally be skinny.

Do you ever sit down in church, your home, outside and look at the world? God thought up each creation, spent time making sure they were perfect for their purpose on earth and then placed them exactly where they were needed. Down to the very moment in time.

Similarly, the Lord God created each one of us, individually, with a fervor and love that none of us will ever understand while still alive on this earth.  He, the creator of the universe, spent His precious time thinking each of us up, making sure we were as beautiful as He. And the cherry on top of this already magnificent deal is that He not only loves us, but He finds joy in our very existence!

And yet we find ourselves distraught and unworthy of love over not being a size four.

Granted, if gluttony is a sin that you struggle with, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pray for the grace and strength to continue fighting yourself in over-eating. I also believe that exercise and eating healthily are wonderful ways to work towards glorifying God and the gift of the body that He has given you. What I am worried for is the obsession for thinness that seems to have infected the masses. An obsession that I have heard women go so far as to defend, even when facing health issues due to the strain they are placing on their bodies.  

It’s time to wake up, girls.

Losing weight won’t make a man love you. A man will love you for the strength and confidence that you possess. A man of God will love you for the light that shines from your soul. If a man needs you to lose weight for him so that he can love you, he doesn’t know you, love you or deserve you.

Losing weight won’t make YOU love you more. I get it, it feels great to finally fit into that dress you’ve been pining over, but the truth of the matter is that your losing weight won’t change who you are on the inside, and if you aren’t happy first with how your soul looks, changing your body won’t make a difference. If you feel a void in your heart…losing weight will not fill it. The only thing that will make you love you more, is recognizing your worth through Christ’s eyes.

Last, but certainly not least, losing weight won’t make God love you more. God loves you exactly the way you are. If you are a good person… loving, kind, faith-filled and on the path that He has made for you—You’re golden in His eyes. He wants nothing more from you than to see that you are working towards being a light for those in darkness.

I pray for my husband everyday. Since I was five, I have prayed for him to be safe and sound. That he is walking towards me and that he will see me the way that God, my first true love, has seen me since I was first created. Maybe it’s time that this prayer is changed. Maybe I ought to do as I say and not as I do… Maybe it’s time that I begin to pray that I see myself as God sees me.

I’m not perfect. I am a sinner, a selfish and imperfect dimly-lit version of what Christ had in mind when he created me. I’m impatient. I struggle, I whine, I fall…but I always get up in hopes that each step I take, will bring me closer to Him.

And I know that when I stop writing this, I’ll have a moment where I wish I was as skinny as Natalie Portman, or one of my friends. But this is a battle that we will have to fight our entire lives, ladies…but it’s an upward spiral! The Lord wants us to win! He wants us to embrace not just our souls, but our bodies too. And every moment that we take to recognize that we are beautiful just the way God created us to be, that God loves us, regardless of size or shape…we are winning against a culture of brokenness.

3 comments:

  1. Katey,
    You are a true gift from God. I believe every one has aspecial purpose and through your prayer and discernment, you have found yours. This is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND TRUE THING I HAVE EVER READ. and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your honesty and the truth and beauty you have put forth here- I will follow your blog- and I can't wait to se what you write next. What a gift you have and what a gift you are! God always does everything in the right time- and you have no idea how appropriate this is right now.(will tell you later privately).
    I love you- Thanks for such a beautiful story.

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  2. Precious Katey,
    Thank you SO much for sharing this beautiful article of truth. You are an inspiration for being willing to step away from the voices of the culture and listen to the voice of God.
    May I share with Libby and Brittany? After living in L.A. for a year, where body size seems to be the idol of choice, I think Brittany would really enjoy reading.
    I'm a follower now and can't wait to read again.
    Love you,
    Bettina

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  3. Hey Katey, never knew you were such a talented writer. :) This made me feel better today...I was just debating about how crappy I felt about eating so many carbs and candy lately...then as I was reading this, I thought "screw it, I'm going to eat that laffy taffy I've been craving."
    Thanks Katey, love you. :)
    -Chelsea

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