If We're Created in His Image, Why the Struggle with Body Image?
- Friday, February 02, 2007
If it was a test, I should have failed miserably. I’ve been a klutz all my life. Women’s athletics weren’t in vogue until about the time I graduated high school. But because I knew it was important to this man I wanted to marry, I somehow managed to fake my way through our engagement, appearing somewhat athletic.
But after we were married, and especially after the kids came along, I was much relieved to become a spectator only. Unfortunately, adding that to the ravages of four pregnancies, my body soon began to testify to my inactivity. It’s been a struggle every day since to keep my weight down and stay active enough that my heart gets the aerobic workout it needs.
At times this has been an issue in our marriage. Because Ken has worked so hard to stay fit, it bothers him a great deal when I don’t make the same effort. I understood his attitude better after reading Shaunti Feldhahn’s excellent book For Women Only (Multnomah 2004). In her chapter titled “The Truth About the Way You Look” she cites a survey that indicated seven out of ten men would be emotionally bothered if the woman in their life “let herself go.”
The encouraging news for women is that, for most men—Ken included—the expectation isn’t perfection, or even necessarily keeping the status quo. Most men accept that childbirth and the passing years will take a toll on their wife’s body. As Christians, we know our earthly bodies are “wasting away,” and thankfully, there will come a day when we’ll receive new and glorious bodies. (Oh, how I long for that day!)
The truth is that most husbands are proud and grateful if they can simply see their wives making an effort to stay in shape and take care of themselves. Even if it proves to be somewhat of a losing struggle, our husbands appreciate when we do this—for them, as well as for our own health and wellbeing. I’m proud of my husband’s efforts to stay fit and I want him to feel similar pride in me.
One thing I’ve learned—and that Feldhahn’s book confirmed—is that Ken sees it as an expression of my love for him when I make an effort to look nice for him, when I make the best of the physical attributes I’ve been “dealt.” I’ve learned how to dress to hide a few of those extra pounds I carry. I rarely go without putting on a little makeup and fixing my hair—even if I’m not going anywhere. All the physical things we judge ourselves so harshly on—don’t matter nearly so much as the simple effort we make to look the best we can for our husband’s sake.
Sometimes, of course, husbands might need to be reminded that a woman’s beauty is not supposed to come only from outward appearances, but from the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God.”
Jesus used the metaphor of His body as a temple (John 2:18-22) and we see the analogy again in reference to us in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and as such we should take care of them. However, there is a fine balance between being obsessed with our body image, spending far too much time, money and effort on our physical appearance, and caring enough to honor our husbands by taking care of ourselves.
I think I’ll go for a nice, brisk walk while I pray about discovering that perfect balance.
Read 1 Peter 3:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 7:4
1. How do you and your spouse view each other’s bodies? On a scale from “appreciative” to “judgmental” where would each of you fall?
2. Have you struggled with your own body image? With your opinion of your spouse’s body? Has this changed from the beginning of your marriage until now? Why?
3. What are some ways you can find balance in this issue—not placing too much importance on the way you look, yet honoring your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit?
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