“My hair is thin,” you say.
“Your hair is fine and silky,” she replies.
“My face is greasy,” you say.
“Your face has color and shine,” she replies.
“My eyebrows are misshapen,” you say.
“Your eyebrows fit your face,” she replies.
“My teeth are yellow,” you say.
“Your teeth don’t look yellow to me,” she replies.
“I have so much cellulite,” you say.
“You look thinner than ever,” she replies.
“I just hate my body,” you cry.
Inside she thinks, I do, too. Instead she hugs you and replies: “No — how could you? You’re perfect. I wish I was you.”
‘I Can’t Go to Him for This’
I have been the tearful speaker, and I have been the consoling friend or relative. If you are a woman young or old, I imagine you know each role. We repeat the pattern often: I am this, says (or texts) the one. No, you are not, says (or texts) the other. With how widespread this kind of conversation is, we women ought to ask: Why are we so prone to loathe the bodies God has given us?
I think there are several right answers to this question. For one, in our pride we desire to be noticed and admired by others. Unto this end we fixate on mere external contours rather than on what truly makes us up: the heart. It is with the heart that God is preciously concerned (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Peter 3:3–4). When we worry over our bodies, we are out of step with his ultimate and good concern for us — namely, that our hearts would be made like Christ’s heart. We can attain this Christ-hearted-ness by God’s power. Being the continually noticed and admired person in the room — we cannot. Inevitably unfulfilled pride leaves us with feelings of anxiety. Sadness. Jealousy. Self-loathing.
This article is not about that answer, though. It’s about one more subtle and perhaps more damaging: We loathe our bodies because we do not believe we can bring this kind of loathing to God.
It’s true. Consider: When we stand before the bathroom mirror, stomach pinched between our hands, to whom do we turn for comfort? Do we call upon God — or do we call up the only girlfriend or mother who knows our silent struggle? Do we go to his word — or do we wait for a text? Do we look to “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) — or do we keep looking at (and trying yet failing to love) our outer selves, only now with human help?
When dislike and even disgust toward our appearance blurs our vision, we often do not go to God because we simply do not believe we can go to God for this. After all, we call him “Father.” Fathers are men, and women don’t tend to talk to men about this. Plus, God is busy being God: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. He would not concern himself with something we know, ashamedly, to be as petty as this.
‘Come to Me’
Christian woman: God wants you to know that that is a lie about who he is. That’s why this answer (We loathe our bodies because we do not believe we can bring this kind of loathing to God) is so damaging. To misconstrue God is to ruin reality. We cannot see ourselves or our lives, the world or its history, correctly until we see the Creator and Lord of it all clearly.
We must go to his word for clarity. What you will find there, is this: Our heavenly Father is infinitely more willing and able first to hear and then to heal any of our womanly wounds than the best earthly mother or friend.
1. He made us.
John Rinehart beautifully summarizes what God might say if he were to describe this aspect of his relation to us: “I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27). My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:4). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).”
God did not create human beings as a toddler does his Lego character: a piece here, a piece there; on the mind and in hand for a moment, under the dresser the next. No. Out of every atom in the cosmos that combines to form each inanimate object or living creature, the only ones God says he wove together in his own likeness are the ones that make up you and me.
He intricately made and knows you. You can go to him with this.
2. He adopted us.
God fathers all humanity in the sense that he designs and brings into being every person. Fathers create. But God’s fatherhood does not stop at biology: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). We were once self-wrought spiritual orphans. Now we are Christ-bought children of God. He fathers all Christians doubly: in our being made by him and in our relationship to him. God’s fatherhood enwraps us.
And his embrace is naturally tender, not severe, for he is a perfect Father. Surely on this side of heaven he will discipline us (Psalm 3:11–12). But everlastingly he will strengthen, help, uphold, protect, guide, lead, and love us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” he says (Jeremiah 31:3).
Christian woman, he is talking to you. He is talking to me. We are his daughters, and he will never cease to love us. How could we not go to him with this burden of self-loathing, however intermittent, that we bear in secret?
“Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” he says to you and to me (Isaiah 41:10). He does not say that he will only strengthen, help, and uphold believers with particular, “more significant,” manly fears. He strengthens, helps, and upholds troubled believers because he is a strengthening, helping, upholding Father to his sons and his daughters.
He everlastingly loves you. He delights to strengthen, help, and uphold you. You can go to him with this.
Chains Be Gone
If you have been a Christian for even a short amount of time, these two truths are not new to you. They aren’t new to me, but never had I applied them to this area of my life until recently. What chains they have dashed to pieces!
The Spirit has undone the harmful and even sinful way I used to see myself. No longer do I allow deceptive thoughts and feelings to tell me that I am “pretty” after a morning workout yet “ugly” after dinnertime dessert. I am made by God for God. Not for the mirror, not for the camera, not for others’ eyes. For what God thinks of me is the truest, surest reflection of who I am. To him, I am “daughter.” Not “pretty.” Not “ugly.” Not “thin.” Not “fat.” Not “praised.” Not “ignored.” But handcrafted, everlastingly loved “daughter.”
Therein lies the difference between the consoling friend or relative and God. He doesn’t tell you what you are not. He tells you who you are.