I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:1
“Body image” is a term that we are probably all familiar with. It refers to the way you perceive your body in terms of appearance. Many women would describe themselves as having poor body image, simply meaning that they are not happy with it. They might have always been that way – it may be a design feature such as being really tall, having really pale skin, having strong features, or a flat chest. Or it may be something that happened at some point – weight gain, pregnancy aftermath, a big scar, or a lack of fitness. All of these things affect the way we think of our bodies, and the way we think of our bodies is something that gets into all of our lives. We are creatures after all.
Many of us also despise the way that our culture represents the female body – in large part because we could never achieve it. Even if we lost that weight, got super skinny, got breast implants, went tanning, got braces, and eye coloring contacts – even then there would not be a fan blowing our hair alluringly and photoshop could not change the way the people in real life see us. But the real problem with the way the world portrays women’s bodies is not that it is unrealistic about what women are, the problem is that it is a lie about what we are for.
Form does indeed follow function. The world believes that our bodies are for the sexual pleasure of whomever. The ultimate good in the world is to have a perfectly formed, sexually free body. A body that is so “perfect” that it can hide the soul-raisin within. This is why those random campaigns to get plus sized models to appear in sexy ads are so comic. Changing the definition of what we want these bodies to look like doesn’t get anywhere near to solving our problems.
So what does God say our bodies are for? When He made the first woman in the garden, He made her as a helper, as a companion, as a lover, and as a mother. Her body was made as the tool for those tasks. Her body was made to house a soul that was to grow and flourish as it worshipped her Creator, and obeyed Him. Her body was not the point. God did not task Eve with standing sexily about the garden. He gave her jobs to do. Jobs that she would need a body for.
Getting right with your Creator is the first and most important step in getting right with your body. Your body was made to serve God. It is a tool that we use to honor Him as we obey. We use it to be modest, to be chaste, to be hard working. We use it to be lovers of our husbands, mothers to our children. As Christian women, our body image should be based on the body – giver, not on some construct of a diseased society.
Now I can imagine two different kinds of women reading this. One is thinking, “Yes, and amen! What is with all these young girls who think they need to be cute when they are having babies? What is with that? What is with all these men who are so corrupt that they want women to look good? Like my husband. Doesn’t he understand that having babies and not fixing my hair is what God made me for?!”
The other is saying, “Careful now, you’re gonna be making Christian women think that fitness doesn’t matter and that looking good for your husband isn’t important! They are all going to think you mean that fatness forever is the only way to serve God. They all think I am worldly because I like to dress cute. That’s not what they need to hear!”
Either way, that is the wrong response. If you hear this and apply it to everyone else, you aren’t hearing it. God loves you, and He gave you your body. When we understand this, we are secure. Security in this is the only way to deal with the realities of the life we have in joy. Our bodies change. Our bodies go through phases of life with us. But in all of those phases there is a way to honor God with our bodies, a way to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.