I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d share a little bit of my journey with body image since becoming pregnant, and I’ve sort of been putting it off! I haven’t really talked much in depth on this topic before, maybe because it can be such a sensitive subject for many. I didn’t (and don’t) feel qualified or equipped to be able to shed any further insight into this. But if i’m going to be open with you, darling reader, this is a part of my faith walk right now and so I’ll share. Thank you in advance for your grace as I fumble through these thoughts…
If you haven’t noticed there have been a lot of changes to my body lately… pregnancy does that.
Is it beautiful and amazing and so powerful what the female body can do?
Oh my goodness, Yes.
Is that reassuring in the midst of the first trimester nausea and the awkward bloated looking belly? Or the first sign of a stretch mark in the second trimester? Or the swollen belly and feet (and everything else) that I get to look forward to in the third trimester?
In all vulnerability, not always…
I feel almost guilty admitting it. I should be OK with this, right?
And then I feel guilty for even caring about something as inconsequential as this. Am I just shallow and vain? Am I the only one struggling between wanting to be healthy for my baby and also having a hard time watching the numbers tip up on the scale?
And this is just the beginning. Before I know it, I’ll be in my postpartum body, Lord willing holding my sweet baby girl, and grappling with even more changes. And so I’m here, living in the tension of loving these changes but also struggling with them.
On the one hand, media is bombarding us with these unrealistic images of how are bodies should look. We all know that this fascination is unhealthy and damaging, but yet we keep going back to it.
On the other hand, media is putting out this empowered, “own your flaws”, “love yourself” message. This isn’t a negative thing.
However, this too can be a deceptively ineffective band-aid for finding joy and contentment in regards to body image.
The trouble with both of these extremes is that at the root of them, the is focus on self. When really, the only way to find true contentment and peace in this issue is to look past self and focus on Christ.
A friend from Church told me about Risen Motherhood podcasts. I’ve only had the chance to listen to a few, but so far I love them! One of the first ones I listened to was “How humility Nourishes a Weary Mom’s Soul” with Hannah Anderson, author of Humble Roots.
They briefly touched on body image and it completely refreshed my heart with this new perspective on things. Hannah Anderson explains it so well that I wanted to share a few excerpts:
“We have to go back to this definition of humility, as recognizing and honoring the difference between God as God, and our identity as created, limited creatures who are dependent on Him. If we have that frame, and we move to talk about our bodies, it’s amazing to realize that one of the very things that defines the difference between us and a transcendent God, is our physical bodies…
The first thing that humility teaches us about our body is that, it has been given to us to remind us of our limits. It is a walking, 24/7 reminder that we are not God…
But Christ, when he entered human flesh, He also elevated and honored it, so there is no shame in our bodies. We feel the shame because we feel the limitations, and we press against those limitations. We look at our body, we feel them decaying and we feel them breaking down, and we are, quite frankly, embarrassed by them. We are ashamed of them in ways that God is not ashamed of them. Jesus Christ was not ashamed to carry human flesh.
when He was raised from the dead, He was not ashamed to have marred flesh. He was not ashamed to carry the marks of love and sacrifice in His body.”
This instantly made me think of when Jesus Christ, in the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, was crucified and then victoriously rose from the dead three days later and came back to reveal himself to his disciples. He literally made himself known by his scars. Look at these scars. This is who I am. This is what I did for you.
John 20: 19-28 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,… Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord… Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”’
And so we, in motherhood, on a similar yet smaller scale, are able to use our bodies, with the scars and imperfections, as a picture of our love and our sacrifice.
The beauty of the gospel changes everything. It’s this love that reminds us that as believers, our bodies are a temple, a Holy dwelling place. It motivates us to make healthy positive choices and to move and exercise out of gratitude and grace for ourselves.
So the next time I scroll through those amazing post partum body images on Instagram and am tempted to feel so deflated and defeated, I will keep in mind that I am dependent on God, the creator and sustainer of life and my identity is found in Him alone.
And before I re-pin that positive body image quote on Pinterest about simply loving myself, I will evaluate if this is coming from a place of humility before God and true grace for myself.
“Again, this goes back to who are we listening to about our bodies. Jesus Christ is saying, “Your body is valuable and honoring and it’s been given to you to remind you of your limits, but also to make you dependent.
It has been given to you to serve in sacrifice, and it’s going to carry marks.”
Less of focusing on, looking towards, and depending on self.
More of focusing on, looking towards, and depending on Christ.
And that is the key to joy in these frail bodies we carry through this earth.