When Your Body Disappoints You
When Your Body Disappoints You
By Emmy Clarke
I was probably twelve. I excitedly grabbed a pair of then-trendy-low-rise American Eagle jeans to try on. My excitement dwindled when I realized this pair was the size worn by my school friends – but they didn’t fit me. This is my first memory of feeling disappointed by my body – a disappointment that followed me off and on for a decade.
I knew Jesus. I knew the “right answers.” I knew women should be valued for being smart, kind, and generous over being beautiful. I would never admit it, but I was seeking affirmation from anything saying my physical appearance was worthy of admiration.
Just before college, I managed to drop some weight. Spoiler alert: being my “perfect size” did not bring satisfaction and was not sustainable. I was disciplined, but experienced little delight. I studied Nutrition in school, learned the science of healthy lifestyles, and realized health was much more than dress size, but I still believed criticizing my body was an inescapable part of being a woman.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Americans spend over $60 billion annually on weight loss – so I have a hunch I’m not alone in my struggle. Though humans are God’s chosen image-bearers, fearfully and wonderfully made, sin keeps us feeling inadequate. Our culture preaches there are a limited number of ways to be beautiful. Yet, God created a hugely diverse human race in His image, complete with different shapes and sizes. While praying for freedom from this cycle of self-disappointment, God brought to mind a passage from 1st Corinthians 15.
"The sun has one kind of splendor; the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." 1st Corinthians 15: 41-44
C.S. Lewis famously wrote in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The problem with body image is not low self-esteem.
My earthly body cannot satisfy me because I was created to live in a better one.
One day, my body will be transformed into something far more beautiful than I could ever attain here. Can you see the glorious irony of this? When I finally have a transformed body, which mirrors the glory of Christ, I will not spend any time admiring myself.
I will be far too distracted by the beauty of Jesus’s face and much too busy worshipping Him to adore myself. This begs the question – if I won’t have time in Heaven to admire my imperishable, glorified, powerful body – what makes me think I have time now to loathe my earthly one? It cannot satisfy me, nor should I expect it to. Why should I spend energy punishing it when the beauty of Jesus will satisfy me?
Jesus has used this concept to give me freedom to worship through both discipline and delight. I am free to worship in the discipline of fitness because exercise reminds me that God calls me to steward all I have been given, including my body. I can joyfully give thanks eating nutritious foods because I am reminded that God nourishes me daily, both physically and spiritually. I also can freely delight in enjoying indulgent foods because I know earthly feasts are a reflection of the Heavenly feast, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus himself brought the best wine to be enjoyed (John 2:7-10).
God calls us to discipline and delight in this life because they are good things, and every good thing is a gift from God (James 1:17). The Enemy would love to dull this joy so we cannot see that Jesus is more satisfying than anything this world offers.
If you find yourself yearning to be “more beautiful,” I hope you’ll remember you cannot expect your own beauty to do what only the beauty of Jesus can do – satisfy your soul. I hope you will find the freedom to worship through healthy disciplines and joyful delights.