My own ideas of “what beauty is” started forming in the early childhood. Picture story books with exquisitely beautiful Russian princesses were my favorite. Sometimes there were THREE princes competing for one beautiful princess!
I used to dream I was one of them as I walked around my mom’s vegetable garden. Surely, a perfectly handsome prince would not miss such a beauty, I thought, and would sweep me away to his castle.
The prince was taking an awfully long time, and I decided I was just not beautiful enough. And then I couldn’t help overhearing comments coming from well-meaning adults.
My aunts were frequently sharing opinions of who is beautiful. Does she look more like her father, who is more strikingly handsome, or her mother, who is unfortunately more plain? Is the younger sister going to outshine the older when she grows up? And on and on…
There were comparisons followed by sympathy as well.
Aren’t those the most damaging to a child’s psyche?
This girl will turn out plain and will have a hard time finding a husband. What a misfortune! Poor girl… Oh, but this other one will have a flock of boys dancing around her, vying for her attention (a wide range of choice for a potential mate). Yay for her!
One memory that stands out in my mind are the “well-meaning” comments made to my mama by another Christian mother when I was eleven. “Why is your daughter getting bigger? What are you feeding her? You have to limit her food a bit or she will gain more weight. Look at my daughter. She is much more thin.”
And I wasn’t even close to being plump! Oh, the absurdity of it all…
School played another profound role in forming my ideals of beauty. While the first ten years of my life were spent in the country of Georgia, the teen years stormed in as soon as we immigrated to the US. And there was THUNDER and MANY STORMS. Popular and “mean” girls can make an unpopular girl’s life pretty miserable. I overcompensated for my developing and notably plump body with quietness and learning. If I couldn’t be the beauty queen, I could at least be the brainiac.
Ah, yes… In addition, let us not forget the influences we let in into our homes. TV, magazines, social media, secular music, etc. – we are bombarded with messages of what defines the ideal body. Whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge or deny it, these outlets DO form our opinions. Since so much has been written on this subject, I’ll just note its undisputable influence on a Christian believer’s life.
How does this all relate to my personal struggle as a Christian woman? The conviction of the Holy Spirit brought me to realize that I had to break free from the imposed ideals of a perfect body image… The distorted body image ideal preoccupied my thoughts to the point that this obsession was taking over my life.
It was affecting my spiritual growth!
As I’ve mentioned in “Breaking Free – Part 1,” Instead of quieting myself and focusing my thoughts on worshipping my Savior prior to Sunday church service, I was consumed with frantic thoughts of how I could make myself look better. The vicious cycle continued as I would arrive to church. I was completely distracted and insecure, constantly comparing myself to other women…
While the world may be an unforgiving enemy, a church should be a safe and healthy place. Right? Certainly! But we pretend that our churches are perfect. Or, maybe, we just pretend we are perfect… “Us vs The World” mentality.
Contrary to our beliefs, we are no better than the world in this area. What drives us to focus so much of our attention on the external? What drives the young women to obsess over outshining each other? What makes us compare ourselves to others human beings instead of comparing ourselves to Jesus? Is it not the same enemy?
The present spiritual warfare is not about God trying to gain victory over the devil. That war has already been won! Today, the ongoing spiritual warfare is for our hearts and for our affection. Who do we serve? Who gets our attention? What occupies our thoughts?
My friends, there is no middle ground. Either we are the Christ’s spotless bride or the cheaters who desire someone else’s attention while we grow tired of waiting for the promised wedding feast. But we cannot serve both…
I choose to fully surrender to my Father. In everything. I choose to avoid the same mistakes of allowing the world to influence my thoughts and my perception of self. I choose to filter what I read to my son and daughter. I choose to read to them Bible stories, (instead of fairy tales), of real courageous, faithful and perfectly beautiful characters – Sarah, Deborah, Rebekah, Esther, Mary, Moses, Joshua, David, etc.
I choose to speak only words of confirmation and encouragement, reminding my children that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” May the Lord help me and may the Holy Spirit give us the desire to love our Savior above all.
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