I never realized I had body issues until I started trying to lose a few pounds.
Let me be clear — I don’t think I’m fat. (I know that I’m not.) I don’t have an eating disorder. But as I’ve hit my mid-30s, I’ve become increasingly aware that disposing of those few extra pounds now requires a more concerted effort. I’m much more conscious about calories, sugar, protein, and boosting my metabolism than I really care to be.
I also never realized until now that the concept of a “perfect body” had become so deeply internalized for me. In many ways I’ve become more focused on my body image — and what this twisted, fallen world thinks is perfection — than on the Perfect One whose image it bears.
So as I sit here and eat my low-calorie string cheese, I feel compelled to stop and contemplate for a moment what it means for me to bear God’s image.
I have dark, thick, curly hair. I am short — 5’2”. I have big greenish-blue eyes and skin that looks better with gold jewelry than silver. My coloring and facial structure are heirlooms from my Czech/Irish side of the family. My petite frame and smaller curves have been passed down from my Italian forebears. Because of that genetic inheritance, I’ll never really have a flat stomach — it will always round out a bit.
I was made this way.
That dark curly hair, that looks crazy during humid or rainy days? God keeps a tally of how many I have on my head, because God created it and delights in it. The female body in which I live? God saw that male bodies by themselves were not good, so he made female bodies that can bring forth life (and sometimes get bloated and fat while doing so). God delights in curves, in athletic builds — in all of it — because God made it and called it good.
God delights in bodies so much that Jesus himself was embodied. And that body, according to Isaiah, “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
The great King of the Universe was embodied as a regular guy, from a tiny nation and an oft-persecuted people group. How insane that God would choose to manifest Godself like this. It goes against everything we’d choose. And yet, for those who received him, there was something about Jesus that reminded them of God.
We know from Scripture that what God thinks is important is different from what we prioritize. God takes pride and sees beauty in creatures we fear. God looks at the heart, while we look at appearances. God sees our deceitful hearts, which are beyond cure, and chooses to dwell in them.
That’s brave, because I for one, would not want to live there.
And yet, it’s through Christ — the same Christ who became ugly and torn and scarred for us — that we can become an even more new creation. This creation is not physical, but, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, spiritual.
I like the Message translation of these verses:
“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)
In Christ we are not only physical image bearers of God, but we’re new creatures that in word and deed resemble the divine. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, which frees us from the pattern and the image that this fallen world tries to make us into.
This is the image I want to be conscious of today — that God has formed me and made me, that God loves me. That even Jesus is still embodied. And one day, like Jesus, we will have new, bodies and they too, will be glorious.
My body may not feel glorious right now, but it is, because it bears the image of its Maker. My heart doesn’t feel glorious right now. But Christ calls it home. What an amazing, beautiful image to behold.