A contributor sent me this essay right after the New Year (2007). That was awhile ago, but these words are appropriate any day of the year in my opinion. And sometimes in the middle of the year I really need to hear these words.
It’s that time of year again. When diet gurus and fitness clubs attempt to capitalize on our champagne-induced New Year’s resolutions to lose those the same 20, 30, 40, pounds that we’ve resolved to lose for the past 10 years. I think I’ve noticed it more this year than others because this year I decided not to get on that ride again. As soon as this decision was made, terror struck. What on earth would I fill my days with if I wasn’t thinking about getting thin, or how to stay thin? The fact that I even had to ask that question was evidence to the sheer insanity of it all. This led to my next question, “what would life be like if I never passed judgment on my body?” One of my many answers was that the time I spend fantasizing about what life would be like in a perfect body could be spent learning who I truly am, and what my purpose is. That’s the question, isn’t it? Beyond my physical appearance and beyond the labels of wife, mother, daughter, sister, dental assistant…who am I, really?
I wonder what would happen if you posed the following scenario to Christian women. What if you were shown a photo of yourself from the past when you were 50 (or 20, or 15) pounds heavier than you are now. Let it sink in – you don’t like looking at yourself in this picture. Then, you are told that you have the opportunity to spend 5 minutes face-to-face with Jesus, but you will actually have to gain those 50 pounds (or 20, or 15) first. Your health won’t be compromised, but you won’t be able to lose them later. What would you do? What would you choose?
Of course, I know that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and that being morbidly obese is not honoring that temple, nor is being anorexic. But what about the vast number of us who are physically healthy, but whose only motivation to lose weight is knowing we will receive the admiration of others? Even as Christians we want to impress people with our beauty, which in this culture translates to thinness. We want to turn heads. We want to worship at the “shrine of the perpetually thin” and have no one question our idol worship. The worshipers of the golden calf have nothing over us because we can carry our idol with us around in our head. I think of my idol first thing in the morning when I step on the scale, as I dress, before and after I eat, before and after I exercise, when I’m in public, as I watch TV, or thumb through the latest gossip or fashion magazine. I put my life on hold waiting for my idol to materialize before I start living my life. I do not even notice the snake curling up at my feet.
What started out innocently enough now has me in chains. The fact that the enemy works with such subtlety is perhaps the most frightening. And since everyone I know is chained to the same wall. We don’t even notice that the shackles are cutting off our circulation. Women bond over this issue and we have fooled ourselves into thinking this is normal. We have been in slavery to the societal misconception that there is something innately wrong with us if we’re not thin. We’ve been slaves to this desire to be thin over longing for our savior.
Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best of you, develops well-formed maturity in you…” (The Message)
Yes, it is important to be healthy and care for God’s temple. However, in order to see what true health looks like we must get out of the dungeon and experience true freedom. True health does not look like the glossy images we are inundated with on a daily basis. Perhaps it is best if we remember 1Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”