Sunday, September 15, 2013

You Are Worth More Than Your Body

The day was a sweltering one.  90+ degrees, and little shade would be provided along the course for our runners.  The day stood still as activity bustled within it.  After an almost two-hour bus ride with our 7th-12th grade cross country team, we had arrived at the course and stood in speculation.  What would this race bring to the kids, physically, mentally, and emotionally (perhaps, hopefully, spiritually as well)?

Lots of things to do in little time.  Get your timing chip.  Pin your number on your uniform.  Go use the bathroom.  Hurry!  C-team, let's warm up!  I had a nervous-giggle kind of jog with our C-team girls, all of them asking me various questions about the course, about what time they should finish, and how they should pace themselves.  They were newer to this sport, and anxiety mounted as gun time drew near.  I was distracted by my full bladder and the silly decision to wear a cotton t-shirt that day, so I had few answers for their many questions.  As a (volunteer) coach, I wanted them to believe in themselves and find success, and so I told them so.  As a Christian woman, I wanted them to understand how God had made them wonderful and beautiful, no matter how they finished.

Lots of running and a few races later, I finally got a break to use the restroom and go back to our Winona tent area to check in on the other runners.  As I was high-fiving runners and finding more water, I came behind a group of Winona girls and overheard this statement, "...even though I run just as much as everybody else, I'm still the fattest girl on the team."  {Note: this isn't true.  It really isn't.}  She looked down at her legs and stomach with disgust, and those around her tried to reassure her that it wasn't true.  My heart sank, and then started beating very quickly.

"Hey, hey, hey," I said, "There is nothing fat about you.  You are beautiful.  You are athletic, and have endurance.  I don't ever want you to say something like that again, even to yourself.  You are BEAUTIFUL.  Ok????"

She turned around and looked at me like I was crazy.  "Sure," she said, and the girls' conversation continued.

I was so disturbed by hearing that, thinking about that young lady and how she was beating herself up. She was already considering herself not good enough.  She was basically saying, "Well, I do this thing (running), and yet this other thing just won't happen for me (too-thinness), and it doesn't make sense and I don't like my body for that!"  A high school girl's distorted reality.  Many girls'/women's distorted reality.  The starting point for a life of thinking if the body is desirable, then the soul will be, too.
I wish I could say that is the only comment I've heard her and other girls on the team make.  In fact, it isn't.  I've had girls say they wear certain shirts so no one can see their fat bouncing on their stomachs.  I've seen a girl refuse to eat certain foods because of "empty calories," though that item didn't have empty calories at all.

And so I have a message to other girls and women.  It is inspired by a sermon from my church, First Free in Onalaska, WI.  I will include the link at the end for watching it.  The sermon was actually about sexual immorality, but I had prayed this morning for inspiration to write, and when Pastor Shane said, "You are worth more than your body!" I knew what God wanted to speak through me today.  Let these be His words, and not mine.  I pray for each of you who read this; please try to understand what God thinks of you.  More importantly, that what He thinks of you is worth far more than what culture thinks of you.

First of all, I want us to think about Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Whatever you know about the story, you probably know that Adam was first.  He was alone.  He was only man.  Then God sent Eve along, made from one of Adam's ribs.  I see colors of blue and green, translucent, flowing through her.  Eve was to be his helpmate.  Think about this: What was God imagining when He made the first woman?  What attributes did He want women to have forever and ever?  He gave us the gift of emotion, the privilege of compassionate instinct.  I imagine God pouring over the details of us because ALL of humanity would come to depend on our mothers for 1) physical support, and 2) tender care while in the womb and thereafter.  He must have said, "Let woman be warm in heart, care-giving in spirit, gentle with her touch, full of unconditional love.  In this way, she will bear My image.  Through her, My goodness will be reflected."  And He breathed her first breath in her.  And she was Eve.  And she is me.  And she is you.  You see, it's about WHO YOU ARE -- what's in that eternal soul?  How has God made you?  Do not forsake this, and you will never thirst for more than what you are given, even in body.

But we know it's not that easy!  We are tormented by images day in and day out that tell us we are not worthy of lust or love if we do not conform to an image that is almost unattainable.  God's intent for beauty through a woman's heart has been tarnished and destroyed by our culture!  Our self-worth all of a sudden becomes wrapped up in how attractive we are perceived to be, how many men want to date us and/or have sex with us, how sleek we can get our hair, our name-brand clothes, the length of our eyelashes, our manicured nails, our smooth skin, our smell, our perfectly shaped boobs and butt, our willingness to put out, and the list could go on forever, in the wrong direction.  And in trying to attain all of that, we are killing our souls.  We are selling out.  We are assimilating to our culture that is very, very wrong about the role of a woman in the world.

Pastor Shane shared this statistic: From TV alone, our kids get 14,000 sexual images, references, or innuendos PER YEAR.  This is just TV; it doesn't include music, youtube, movies, computer, or anything else.  All of those images are basically telling our kids it's ok and perfectly normal to have sex outside of marriage.  What does that mean for girls?  The more they see images of women as sexually desirable, the more they buy into the lie that being desirable on the outside has something to do with their worth as a woman.  She will have sex to feel worthy.  She will have sex to feel beautiful.  And the boys she's hanging out with - they have been fed these same media messages.  He is a man if he conquers a woman's flesh.  He is valuable if he is tough, if he is on the sexual prowl (and succeeding), and he is a "man" once he loses his virginity.  So, we all become victims of this culture.  We all lose our self-worth in trying to attain it.  You are worth more than your body.

How attractive men find you has NOTHING to do with how much you are worth.  Think of a woman who has touched your life in a meaningful, valuable, soul-filling way.  What made her beautiful?  What qualities about that woman stand out to you?  Hopefully you aren't imagining a woman who taught you all you need to know about make-up, push-up bras, and sexual positions.  If so, reevaluate and try again!  ;)  I bet the woman you are imagining was some version of kind, gentle in spirit, loving of you and others, wise, helpful, or anything else similar.  She probably seemed to have a seemingly effortless comfort with who she is, and the ability to make you believe something wonderful about yourself, too.  What men thought of her physically probably had no bearing on others' view of her, even if people did view her as physically attractive.  Her unique, kind, woman-ness defined her beauty, didn't it?  The same is for you.  The way your soul shines, and the way God reveals Himself to others through you, is the effective piece of who you are.

As a mother, I look at my son and I see a handsome boy, full of intelligence and whatever future he wants because of his qualities.  I see all of the good, even when I'm reprimanding bad behavior.  I love him with all of the immensity of the universe, and that will never change.  How much more does God love us?

Women, because He made and designed us, He knows the roots as well as he knows the leaves on the branches.  He knows every fiber of the trunk, and every parasite that has tried to destroy us.  He knows our soil - He is our soil, and He is our rainwater, too.  With this kind of intimacy does He know our potential and our attractive qualities.  With all of His perspectives, He sees us on the outside and on the inside.  And both of those things are good enough, and both will bloom with beauty for eternity once we accept His grace.  He will show us our worth, and it will be good enough for us, too once we understand what He's showing us.

I urge you not to look to the culture to fill you.  I try with all my might not to look at ads in magazines or in stores.  I don't even look at mannequins.  They're all lying to me.  Companies are trying to make me feel like I'm not good enough so that they can have my money.  They are DECEIVING us.  Culture (and satan and his demons - a spirit-related blog for a different day) is tempting me to be a victim of eating disorders again, and it's tempting you in some way that will make you believe you're worthless.  Right now, tell yourself, "I am worth more than my body."  Seriously.  Out loud.  RIGHT. NOW.  That means you are worth more than the number on a scale, you are worth more than the length and thickness of your eyelashes, you are worth more than gawking eyeballs from men, you are worth more than sex, you are worth more than an expensive date, you are worth more than compliments, you are worth more than clothes, you are worth more than a shapely figure, you are worth more than counting calories, you are worth more than looking good in pictures, you are worth more than jewelry, you are worth more than a nice house, you are worth more than abuse, you are worth more than any man's lust, and you are even worth more than all of your talents.

Again I remind you of Proverbs 31:30: "Charm is deceptive and beauty if fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  All of the things that culture tells us is important will fade; those things are temporary.  But your soul is not.

I want to end what I'm saying here for today because I really want you to watch some of the sermon (link below).  If you only have a little bit of time, then skip forward to minute 39 through 44 (or further) to hear more of God's heart for women's worth.  It actually refers to sex, and how men pursue us sexually, but it's relevant.  You won't regret it.  You will find something in there for you, I promise.  God adores you and knows how much you are worth.

You are worth so much, and it has nothing to do with your body.  Isn't that relieving?  Isn't it liberating?  You are gorgeous.