His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3
Advertising thrusts at us all sorts of products and solutions that we MUST have to be fulfilled. “You lack. You need this. You can’t be happy without this. There’s more. Just one more thing.”
I get a buzz in my head just thinking of the clamoring voices of culture telling me what’s missing from my life. Beauty. Success. Prestige. Hipness. Fitness. Fashion.
You want to know the truth, though? Nothing’s missing.
True, I often feel like something’s missing–talent, discipline, joy–and I suffer condemnation over this deficit I perceive in myself.
We’ve lost our grasp on the doctrine of the fullness of Christ. How easy it is to forget that the fullness of the deity dwells in Christ:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
Wow. I don’t perceive any deficit in Christ. And this is the kingdom to which I’ve been brought into. So it follows that Christ’s fullness dwells in me. Christians, we are so rich. Blessing upon blessing is ours. We have access to the very throne of God.
My prayer today is that Christ would devour the lie that we are lacking.
“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
In the wake of natural disasters, we easily relate to Paul’s words of a groaning creation (Romans 8), and the decaying of our bodies proves that a final, eternal redemption is a necessary reality of the future. Since salvation affects not only our hearts and souls, but also our bodies, does it follow that our bodies enter into the regeneration process of sanctification?
In one sense, the body bears the brunt of the broken world, and all bodies eventually yield to death. While the spirit may grow stronger and stronger, the aging process spirals the body from one degree of weakness to another.
But in another sense, the body bears witness to a thriving spirit. A person’s mental commitment to health can pull a waning body from illness. A hopeful heart can fight off illness. God has created an intricate relationship between body, soul, and spirit.
Would it not follow that just as we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, we should also guard our bodies in Christ Jesus? After all, bodies are important to the Lords–so much so that he’s promised us a new resurrection body after our old body has passed from this life.
We speak often of the devil’s schemes, his flaming arrows against hearts and minds. But what about the attacks against our bodies? I don’t mean the physical persecution to which many Christians face. I refer to the more subtle attack of our culture on the meaning of beauty. And our bodies bear the impact of the entrapment of our minds to false beauty-ology. Unnecessary diets or cosmetic surgeries. Rigid exercise programs that stretch beyond health to addiction. Inappropriate investments of time and money in attempt to chase a particular standard of beauty. Crazy obsession with celebrities who possess said standard of beauty. Worry–lots and lots of worry over our imperfect shapes, colors, sizes, etc.
The freedom that Christ brings to our hearts should extend to our bodies.
Every choice we make regarding our bodies should reflect the transformations taking place in our hearts. As my heart and mind becomes more like Christ, and the fruit of the Spirit intensifies within me, I should treat my body with more of that fruit. More love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Someday we’ll have to give an account, not just for our words, but also for the things we’ve done to and with our bodies. Christ is coming back someday, and I want to be completely ready: body, soul, and spirit.
I recently overheard this conversation between my eight-year-old niece and six-year-old daughter.
Niece: “You’re skinny.”
Daughter: “No, I’m not!”
Niece (laughing): “Are you fat?”
Daughter (increasingly upset): “No! I’m just normal!”
I’ve intentionally kept the words “skinny” and “fat” out of my daughter’s vocabulary, knowing the brutal effect such words can have on self-esteem. But that time of innocence has passed. As a first-grader, she will more and more become aware of beauty judgments and body terms.
Because I was slender, I was teased when younger about having an eating disorder. My body structure, handed down to me from a dad and mom with the same body type, refused to gain weight even with all the food I stuffed into it. And being constantly hungry (which I still am), I did stuff. When my grandma was in primary school, she had to stay in from recess and drink whole milk because she was so skinny–very humiliating for her, evidently, since she can still talk about it at 96.
Comments about body type can be harmful, and we need to guard our daughters’ ears from quick labels like skinny or fat. Yet not talking about my daughter’s body is not an option. When she takes special care to dress nicely, brush her hair, and put in a lopsided, mismatching barrette, I will compliment her efforts and call her beautiful. I want her to know that caring about how she looks is okay. That taking time to work on her physical looks is not sinful. Christian culture has been through an era (and some are still there) where external things of beauty were not appreciated or encouraged. Jewelry, make-up–rejected because of worldliness.
I’m sensing again a renewal of the “matter is bad” attitude amongst Christian culture as we fight against the out-of-control standards of beauty around us. In the conservative frenzy against unhealthy cultural beauty standards, some have swung too far the other way, saying we shouldn’t talk about our daughters’ bodies, except to explain how they work, or that we should only compliment our daughters on internal qualities. We shouldn’t look at pictures of beautiful people for fear of creating an appetite for a certain body type or style that is beyond most of us.
As I’ve written, having a body is good. Matter, as part of creation, is good. And our spirits and minds are intricately connected to our bodies. To ignore the beauty of matter–like our daughters’ external qualities–is to ignore part of who we are. If I see a beautiful sunset, should I withhold words of praise in case someone else has a different opinion? I know that the sunset’s beauty doesn’t stop at “sky value” just as human beauty doesn’t stop at “face value”. But just because that beauty goes beyond the surface, doesn’t mean the surface can’t be beautiful.
Beauty is rooted in the Creator. The eternal reality is that beauty is objective: that which is good, created by God, pure–those things are inherently beautiful. And so, all people, made in His image, have irrevocable beauty and value.
But the earthly reality is that beauty is subjective. We are attracted to different forms of beauty, and that is okay. As a sunset reflects the Creator’s beauty, so does a person with external beauty. The fact is, that some people hold gifts of physical beauty, like other’s hold musical gifts, or academic gifts. And often, we all hold unique packages of gifts, given by God for the working out of His purposes and the edification of His church.
When I talk to my daughter about her body, I won’t stay hushed about her physical beauty. But neither will I let beauty become narrowly defined by how she does or doesn’t look. I won’t ignore that she’ll be more attracted to certain looks than others, or certain style of clothes over other styles. It’s okay to have opinions about what is beautiful and what is not. It’s okay to want to look beautiful. When those opinions lead to obsessions and an out-of-balanced focus on self, then we’ve got a problem.
Back to my daughter’s comment, “I’m just normal.” I sensed in that comment a lack of interest in talking about her body. To her six-year-old mind, the words skinny and fat imply something abnormal, and all she wants to do is play Hello Kitty, dolls, read, and write stories. And that’s okay. That’s where she is developmentally. As she grows, I will teach her that “normal” is that place of gracefully understanding God’s gifts to her. “Normal” is not a certain beauty standard. “Normal” is enjoying who God has made her and is redeeming her to be.
So today, my hope for you is that you would be “just normal”. Ignore the skinny/fat talk, and focus on the gifts God has given you. If you want to spend extra time sprucing up your hair or choosing your outfit, do it and don’t feel guilty about it. As you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, remind yourself of the Creator of beauty and ask Him to spruce up your character, even as your brush through the tangles in your hair.