“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:14-15 ESV
Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that God made me and intricately wove me in His image. I can easily quote Genesis 1:27 to anyone else and tell them that they are made in the very image of God, but do I truly believe that for myself? I am my worst critic. I am aware of my every flaw; both inward and outward. In a world full of fitness Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards of “ideal” lifestyles, and every face product and fad diet available, I think it’s time we look into where our true worth comes from.
To fill you in a little bit, I assure you that I have not always been the type of person to find my self worth in the Lord. I come from a history of finding my value in other people, my own accomplishments, and maybe the worst of them all being food and fitness. If I ever found out that someone didn’t like me or was upset with me, I would do everything I humanly could to gain their affection. I knew that not everyone could like me and think I was the best person ever, but you best believe I did everything I could to maybe, just possibly, be liked by almost everybody. If that didn’t work, then I’d search for value in my own talents. Needless to say, no cheerleading, jazz choir or academic award could fill the longing to soothe the aching of my soul.
Since I couldn’t control other people and all of my accomplishments left me still feeling empty, I fell into a deep pit of finding my value in control over food and fitness. This struggle started young when I started to get the feeling that I was a little too chubby. Though I do not condemn my brother for this, his chanting of “Burn that donut!” to me while jumping on the trampoline got me thinking that maybe he thought I had a little extra chub to burn off. Subtle comments made my experiences in ballet, swim and cheer a bit more complicated. I started to feel embarrassed of the small roll that hung out over my leotard and the tightness of my swimsuit. One of my worst experiences was in cheerleading when a fellow teammate said, “You know the feeling you get when you’re hungry actually makes you lose weight, so maybe you should try that.” To make matters worse, I had adopted the nickname “Jell-O” in sixth grade because my Victoria’s Secret body spray apparently smelled like a fruity gelatin mix which a fifth grade boy used to his advantage to ask, “Do they call you that because when you walk you jiggle like Jell-O?”
It wasn’t until eighth grade that I started to adjust my habits to the lies that I had begun to accept as truth. “If I was skinnier, then I would be good enough.” The thought ran through my head like an anthem. It began as a fluctuation of binging and restraining. (My mom and best friend Cassie can attest to the hoards of Taco Bell and Oreos that I consumed during this period of my life.) Then, it became much more.
I was preparing to go to Summer cheer camp as an incoming high school Freshman when my mom and I had to stop by the UPS store. A kind looking old man walked in and began to chat with my mom. “You’re daughter is quite pretty, but she is a little fat,” he said shamelessly. Reluctantly my mom responded, “Well she’s about to go to cheer camp for a few days, so I’m sure she’ll be exercising there.”
I got the point. I was fat.
I began to exercise and diet which turned into excessive exercise and starvation. I cut out complete groups of food in the name of “Oh gee, I’m suddenly lactose intolerant even though I’ve eaten dairy my entire life and have been just fine,” and “Gosh I must be gluten intolerant because have you seen me bloat?” and “Wow sugar is the spawn of Satan and will certainly kill us all” and “Poor animals…” leaving me with basically just lettuce and apples to fuel my body.
I had dropped weight rapidly and dramatically died my hair dark brown to prove to the world that I was now good enough. Although somehow no matter how much I controlled my life, I was still terribly miserable.
A lot happened after that. I went back to my blonde roots, stopped starving myself after about two years, moved across the country, got up to the highest weight I had ever been in my life, moved back to California, started working at a gym (bad idea), pulled a truck, won a fitness competition, quit my job at the gym (good idea), moved out with my best friend Cassie, married the love of my life Aaron, and learned a lot about my worth in Jesus Christ.
My transformation was not night and day; I had to be sanctified, and God is still sanctifying me in this area. The people that God put in my life helped point me to biblical truth. My husband who I love deeply began his pursuit of my heart in the most beautiful way by intentionally not saying anything about the way I looked when our relationship was starting because he wanted to show me that my value is not found in my appearance. Ironically, he did not even know about my struggles with self image at the time. The first time he ever mentioned my looks was when he said, “You are very beautiful, but what is most beautiful is your heart.”
God showed me that no matter what I do, I cannot be good or accepted enough. My acceptance comes through what Jesus Christ did on the cross for me to forgive me of my sins so that I can have a relationship with God. I have learned that looks do not matter. The Bible says that people look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Why would we care what people think if the God of creation looks at our heart and calls us beautiful? I learned that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and we should certainly take care of them, but that physical training is of some value while godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). I learned that after this life on Earth, if we are believers in Christ Jesus, we will have a new body (2 Corinthians 5:1-10).
I do not believe that God is proud of our achievements in eating under 800 calories a day or finally fitting into size 2 jeans. So in a world that preaches that we need to be prettier and skinnier, let’s seek our worth in Christ and Christ alone.