Question. Why do you/ I not fully believe- or act as if we did- that God cares not one iota about physical appearance?
Really, truly, utterly butterly, He doesn’t. It’s not even that He looks at me and says ‘well Natalie Portman is generally more beautiful, but because I am gracious, I will let you off’. He just doesn’t even recognise beauty where we do. The woman of Proverbs 31 is essentially superwoman, sufficiently virtuous to make me seethe a little with ‘goody two shoes’. Yet the passage doesn’t say of her ‘not only was she thrifty and hardworking, but she also had the perfect inner thigh gap and a flawless manicure’. Proverbs 31:30 actually reads
‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’
God’s standards are thoroughly different. And we are most admirable when we set our eyes on Him.
I am pretty tired of able-bodied women with figures that are utterly easy to love by common cultural standards being used to tell women to love their potentially less well-functioning, less scar- and cellulite-free, less toned bodies too. Yes, Special K, I am looking at you. How about we will “stop the fat talk” as your adverts request when you stop formulating diets that amount to virtual starvation? Sorry, snappy digression over.
But I am more tired of how I personally try to keep a foot in both camps. Special K and I have something in common: we say the nice, comforting words that we want to be true about positive body image, and then we don’t credit anyone with the ability to look beyond the physical and consequently keep ‘playing the game’. In other words, I thank Jesus for the freedom from the millstone of cultural expectations but I try to satisfy them anyway. I don’t recognise that I am throwing emotional energy down the drain since my appearance is actually beyond my control. And I probably feel more inappropriate guilt over matters of aesthetics than I do about my thoughts and behaviours that actually do break God’s heart. I don’t trust that God’s plans for me are bigger and better, and that He cares for my well-being (Psalm 35:27), and that only His glory- not my own- will be left shining when all else fades away.
I spend more time thinking about how Jesus had time for the broken-hearted than I do about how He did for the physically broken. But He really did- lepers, the paralysed, the blind, the bleeding. And He didn’t heal them because their appearance offended Him, but because it is His job to redeem the effects of the Fall. And ultimately God will do that with the Final Resurrection- not with anti-ageing creams or Special K.
(Forgive me for saying this from a position of head-knowing but not yet heart-trusting. But I want us both to sincerely feel that we ‘may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10))