A Treasured Possession-A Healthy Perspective on Body Image

by | Jun 19, 2023

In Genesis Chapter 1, we get the first mention of the word “image” in the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27
The word image used here is a Hebrew word meaning a resemblance or a representative. So, from the beginning, God intended man and woman to be His earthly representation and depiction.  What an honor and privilege! 

Conflicting Images

Yet, we all know how the story goes from there with the temptation, the fall, the separation, the banishment from the Garden of Eden and ultimately the consequential death of Adam and Eve. Ever since then, we as humans have struggled with this internal union of the image of God being combined with our fallen sin nature and how this in some way affects every individual’s own sense of body image and even more importantly self-worth.

So how do we balance and battle between these two opposites that go to even the core of our DNA?

Well, the world would tell us to focus on the outward image and projection of our “best self” to society regardless of the cost or consequences. It’s no wonder, for at every turn we see ads that promise a better version of ourself if we would only buy this product or wear this ensemble. It is evident that it is all about appearance and “image” but in reality, it can all be a façade.  And as Christians, although we do have a different perspective on such things, we can still struggle with combating these messages and fighting against their meaning in our own lives.

This is why I am so thankful for God’s word and the messages He sends to us about body image through it. 

We may all be familiar with the story of King Saul.

 

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 1Samuel 9:2
At the same time, young David was overlooked in comparison. We may also recall Esther whose external beauty won her favor of the King and ultimately rescue of the Jewish nation. And then there was Zacchaeus who was short in stature but nonetheless stood out to Jesus in the crowds. In each of these cases, although the outward appearance is addressed, it is not the definitive point of the story.
For the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. 1Samuel 16:7
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1Peter 3:3-4

A Godly Image

These examples and many others throughout the Bible invite us to peel back the layer of external appearance and zoom in to the inward essentials. For it is in these spaces that God sees and gives value. But it wasn’t until recently that something stood out to me about Jesus that I had never noticed or given much thought to before regarding His earthly appearance. In Isaiah 53:2 when speaking of the coming Messiah it describes Christ.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2

What? No majesty? No beauty?

But wait, if it were my decision, I would have come to earth as the most attractive person and I would guarantee that no matter where I went everyone would notice I was present. (I mean come on, we’ve all seen the manmade, Fabio-like portraits of Jesus with perfect locks and chiseled form, right?) 

Yet, as we all know, in more than one way Jesus continually humbled Himself and not only took on a human form but nevertheless it was not even a particularly attractive one. He had no dominating physical presence or features that would have made Him stand out to us in a crowd. So, it couldn’t be that people listened to Him and followed him based on his outward physique, no it had to instead be because of His inward message and magnificence. Wow, what an example of humility we can all strive for!

I’m so very thankful that it’s this inward attractiveness of Christ that we can all spend our time and effort focusing on. An effort that is not in vain and focused on the temporary, but instead has eternal impact and significance. As Jesus himself taught us, we should not worry about what we eat, drink or wear but instead put the Kingdom first. 

So don’t worry about these things, saying ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  Matthew 6:31-33

I am certainly convicted if I stop to think about how much energy I put forth on the fleeting. But it’s when I shift my focus to the enduring truths of God’s Word that I settle into contentment and satisfaction and overwhelming joy of being made in His image and by His hands. I love Psalm 139 and its depiction of the intricacies of being created by the hand of God. It’s in the light of this understanding that we can put away our striving efforts and rest in the truths and value that God bestows upon us. We are fearfully made, fully known and fiercely loved. 

Trust God’s Design

There’s nothing like understanding these verses than living them out as we become moms and enjoy carrying a child in our womb with excitement, anticipation and awe.

When my second son, Blayne, was born, I, of course, was elated and overjoyed. He, like all children, was a blessing beyond belief. But I noticed I started feeling way more anxious and unsettled when I would look at him and compare everything about him both physically and developmentally to my older son, Braydon. Why wasn’t he opening his eyes as much? Why was he not cooing as much or giving me as much eye contact? I even noticed how his pinky fingers were both bent in and totally crooked and I would obsess over what that could mean. I fixated on these things so much to the point that I would continually Google search and convince myself he must have autism and/or some underlying genetic disease or abnormality. (We all know how reliable those Dr. Google diagnoses are ha-ha). 

But really, this was a case and point where I was letting outward appearances and abilities overtake any thoughts of God’s design, purpose and plan for my son. It definitely was a process for me to let go of my expectations and control and instead truly trust God’s goodness and sovereignty. And at the same time truly believe that, no matter what, Blayne was a precious and unique creation detailed by Mighty God. As I let this truth guide me, I was able to allow God to use it to exercise my faith and build my trust. It was an opportunity to, as Job would say, not just hear about God, but know and see God for myself.

I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. Job 42:5
Now when I see Blayne’s crooked pinkies, I am reminded how God has made us each alike in His image yet individually unique to demonstrate His precious and prized artwork. And at the same time, He uses any of our weaknesses, failures or flaws, whether slightly perceived or tremendously pronounced, for our good and His glory. 
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 
We are formed with both precision and purpose. No matter what temporary earthly body we walk around in, our value doesn’t lie in what others see but in what God sees and uses. All it takes on our part is a full surrender. A surrender of not only what we have and love about ourselves, but that which have and see as imperfect or unusable. After all, it is all His, as is.  And if all of that wasn’t enough, in 1 Peter, when directing husbands to kindly care for their wives he uses the term “weaker vessel” which may seem like a negative image to some, but on the contrary, it can best be envisioned as a delicate porcelain, a treasure, a prized and valuable possession which we all are as wives, as mothers, as precious daughters and image bearers of the Most High God. May this be the body image we focus on, today. Heather Creekmore writes and speaks hope to thousands of women each week, inspiring them to stop comparing and start living. She is the author of two books: Compared to Who? and The Burden of Better which take a deep dive into the spiritual roots of body image and comparison issues and offer a grace-based path to freedom. She shares with us on this episode that God wants to see our bodies from His perspective and how our attitude about our bodies impacts our children as well. To learn more about heather and find links to her podcast and books, visit https://comparedtowho.me. You can also find Heather on Instagram @ComparedtoWho. A Biblical Perspective on Body Image (Heather Creekmore)

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