As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker. 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can't quite remember when I first realized that I had issues with my body.  But I can identify the day I crossed the threshold of womanhood.  It was the first time I experienced the trauma of buying a swimming suit. 

I was thirteen years old, and our family was leaving for a vacation to Hawaii.  This, of course, required new beach attire.  My mom and I checked the racks at the department store, and I chose several suits that would surely help me turn the heads of any cute male tourists my age.  Then we headed into the fitting room.

The first one I tried was rather anticlimactic.  That's strange.  It looked so adorable on the hanger. As I put on the suits one by one, my disappointment mounted.  Each made me feel worse than the last.  I pounded my fists on the outer sides of my thighs.  "If only I didn't have these!"  The morning ended in tears and the purchase of the first of many swimsuits that made me feel rotten about my body.

My body-image issues continued to surface periodically.  Throughout high school I was aware of the feeling that I wasn't as pretty as the other girls.  During college I knew that it probably wasn't healthy to blame my appearance for my lack of boyfriends.  In my twenties I would constantly compare myself to the seemingly flawless women I saw on TV.

But all along, though I was aware of an unhealthy pattern, I merely put it under the category of "issue."  An "issue" was what my friends and I affectionately called anything that caused tension in life – like my issue with always losing my car keys, my issues with roommates who didn't pass on phone messages, my issue with walnuts.  I had plenty of "issues."  This was just another of them.

But one day I stumbled upon a passage of Scripture that revealed to me this wasn't just an "issue."  It was ugly sin.  Sin as offensive to God as adultery, greed, pride and betrayal.

Fairy Tale or Fact?

Ezekiel was a twentysomething guy who grew up in the Jewish religious world, most likely the son of a priest.  When the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, captured Jerusalem, Ezekiel and many other Jews were exiled.  The people of Israel not only were scattered from one another but also grew distant from God.  By the time Ezekiel was about thirty years old, the Lord began to speak to him about the spiritual state of Israel, messages that he wrote down over the next few decades while he spoke his prophecies.  God wanted the Jews to wake up and acknowledge the ways they had rejected their Lord. 

Often God's message of rebuke came through Ezekiel in the form of a story or metaphor.  Ezekiel 16 weaves a tale of a young girl (meant to represent the people of Israel) who has rejected the one who loves her most.  Certainly the vision was given to Ezekiel to address the rebellion of the Jews.  But I believe it also has relevance to young women today.

God's vision to Ezekiel begins when the girl is an infant, rejected and neglected by those who should have cared for her.

On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.  No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you.  Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. (Ezekiel 16:4-5)

This girl is doomed to die.  Born into a harsh and broken world, she is helpless on her own to change her death sentence.  But God has compassion on her.  He saves her life and takes her into his home.