Welcome to the 6th story in our series, beYOUtiful Mom!
Since my wedding day (that oft cited standard of ideal female weight), I’ve gained over thirty pounds. I’ve also launched a professional career, borne four children, made an international move, gained reasonable fluency in a second language, and read enough books to fill a truck bed.
So why is it that I often feel defined by my weight gain and not those other milestones?
Why does concern/worry/despair about my body take up so much of my thought life?
That’s valuable brain real estate I could really be using for other purposes!
If I could pick up all the thoughts I’ve wasted on dissatisfaction with my body, pack those thoughts into a ball, and weigh it on a scale, there would be a lot of energy represented in that sphere. Wouldn’t that energy be better used on improving my guitar playing, painting pictures with my kids, making love to my husband? If I stopped thinking about my body and just starting living in it, inhabiting it, how much more energy would I have to spend on beautiful, live-giving pursuits?
If you’re reading this, hoping for step-by-step instructions for healing your self-image… well, you and me, both! I am right there in the middle of the mess, taking a few steps forward, then crumbling back into a weepy heap of self-reproach for eating that second (third, fourth) helping of chocolate ice cream. If the answers were simple and one-size-fits-all, there would be a lot more confident, trim ladies in the world.
My sister, who is younger than me and often wiser, likes to label issues like these as “first-world problems.” And that is a needed corrective, because in this South American city where I live, I can look out the window of my car any day and see short, squat indigenous ladies, with babies tied to their backs, selling candies and gum, along with magazines often sporting a European cover model. I wonder if these dark-skinned Ecuadorian ladies think about wanting to look like the women in the magazines they sell. All the plastic surgery in the world wouldn’t turn them into that standard of six-foot-tall, white-skinned beauty, and in any case, it’s more likely they’re thinking about whether they will earn enough today to put dinner on the table tonight.
First world problems… There’s nothing wrong with desiring health, strength and energy. But when my mind is consumed with an elusive ideal of beauty, when I could be focusing my drives in so many more productive, more long-lasting and valuable areas, I need (and want!) a reality check. My husband has requested one reality check: no beauty magazine in this house (and no reading People magazine on the internet either!). We’ve found that I’m a much happier, more contended camper when I don’t dwell on all that false advertising.
Here is a secret that is changing the way I live in the body God has given me:
But all of us who are Christians have no veils on our faces, but reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
When I spend time looking at Jesus, looking at the splendor of who God is (instead of looking at airbrushed, impossibly beautiful models on magazines), I start to reflect his beauty in clearer ways. And isn’t this what brings true joy?
More important than a beautiful body, I want an entire life made beautiful by God.
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Beth Saavedra is an avid fan of her husband, the band U2, chocolate and the Bible. She loves her four kiddos more than life itself. Beth makes her messy, friend-filled home in Ecuador. You can read her missionary newsletters at http://saavedrastories.blogspot.com.
images via flicker- White Ribbon, not sure who to credit for cartoon that has been circulating on the internet