Two Reese’s cups and a Pepsi. That’s all I had for lunch almost every day in high school. At 120 lbs, I thought I was fat. This was just the beginning of my journey through some major insecurities. I went from hating my body to flaunting it, then straight on to shame and self-loathing. Freshman year, I wore clothing that revealed too much. By junior year, I was wearing clothing that revealed absolutely nothing. Baggy jeans, oversized t-shirts … I didn’t want people to see my body, or the shape of it. I hated myself.
I’ve carried this obsession into my adult life. I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancies and never got rid of it. At one point, I had turned my self-loathing into a love affair with Little Debbie’s and lost control pretty quickly. I have since worked hard to turn a lot of the carnage into muscle, but the scale hasn’t budged in a while. That’s hard.
It’s not just my body image that I obsess about. I rarely leave the house without make-up these days. I used to not wear it at all, in the ultimate act of defiance against humanity. Now, I can’t bring myself to not wear it because I feel really ugly without it. I know it’s a problem. I admitted this obsession to my daughter thinking I was telling her some deep, dark secret about myself and she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Yeah, I know.” I think – I mean worry – about what I look like all the time. I’m single and I worry about being alone after my kids move out, and although I know this single season is God’s time alone with me, I worry it’s void of male interest because I’m abhorrently ugly. If for no other reason than that people are obsessed with straight teeth, and I don’t have a perfect smile. I see a guy I am interested in and put “the face” on because I can’t smile without feeling really self-conscious. I’m sorry to admit that.
It’s not just a carnal obsession with what’s on the outside. I worry that the inside is just as ugly and repulsive. I know who I am and what my heart is capable of feeling. I hear the thoughts inside my head loud and clear. I know myself. I also know this obsession is stupid and sinful. I took it the Lord in prayer a few weeks ago and left it with him. The Holy Spirit shared something with me that liberated me:
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting. But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). I’ve read that many times, but the Holy Spirit mentioned it again the other day and asked me why I would waste so much time worrying about something that is so trivial and momentary.
“Well, because I want to be attractive to a man of God. He has to be attracted first, right?”
Guys, just stick with me. This was a learning moment that sounds so stupid, but I am sharing it just in case there are others out there silently suffering the same obsession.
The Holy Spirit answered me. “You do not want a man to be attracted to something as short-lived as your looks. You can’t hold on to it in your own strength, and it won’t last forever. A man of God will be attracted to so much more than your looks. He’ll see Christ in you and be drawn to the Christ he’s already fallen in love with that lives inside of you and shines through you.”
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
That took a ton of pressure off.
Instead of worrying about all the physical attributes I think a man of God is interested in, I can put all our energies into what I love most: knowing Jesus. As I spend time in prayer and in the Word, basking in His glorious being, I am transformed. That’s a biblical promise!
I used to pray “God, if this guy isn’t godly, let him be repulsed by me.” Turns out, I wasn’t too far from the truth of how this all works. A man of God will be attracted to the Christ in me, while a man of the world will be repulsed, just as a man of the world is repulsed by Christ. Now, though, I don’t have to worry about this whole process of attraction because a man after God’s own heart cannot fail to see the resemblance between me and my Father. I pray that if you have similar thoughts about yourself, you take hold of this truth and let it set you free.