Tuesday morning I went to my first “official” MOPS group. (The meeting at the beginning of September was mainly for business things, filling out paperwork and meeting everyone.)
The MOPS meetings include a speaker and I was looking forward to this one, her topic was body image. As this is something that I (and every woman in America whether she exudes the Hollywood image of perfection or the opposite and anywhere in between) struggles with I was hoping for some good insight into changing my negativity into positivity. Yes I’m coining words, get over it. Maybe someday you’ll see it next to grok in the coined words dictionary. Well maybe not right next to it but only because one starts with g and the other with p. (In case you were curious, those letters don’t come right next to each other in that long string of letters called the alphabet.)
Back to the speaker … She had three main points that were made with lots of humor and wisdom. First, she talked about the falsehood that “I have my rights.” Sure we have the Bill of Rights and stuff like that, but what she meant was a little more personal. Like the right to appreciation or a clean house or someone to not cut me off on the highway. Instead she encouraged us to look at these things as gifts. It’s a gift when someone appreciates me and what I do. Not something that I should expect to happen (and get really annoyed about when it doesn’t), but something I should receive happily when it comes along. I think I all too often fall into the trap of getting mad at someone for not appreciating what I do for them or for driving like crap when I really should take the time to focus more on the positivity (there’s that word again Webster) that happens around me every day.
The second thing she talked about: the idea that “I should not have to live with unfulfilled longings.” OUCH! This one kinda hurts. There are things I want. Not all of them are bad. I want close friendships, I want a great relationship with my husband and son. Of course I also want the perfect marriage and romance and enough money to get rid of all our debt and a house with a yard … the list could go on. The thing is, there will always be something I long for this side of heaven. And since I’m just a sinner saved by grace, not all of the things I long for will be “good” or “right.” SO, instead of trying unsuccessfully to fulfill all these longings on my own I need to head to the source. I need to look for fulfillment through my relationship with God. I’m not even implying that He will then make all these things happen for me if I have a strong relationship with Him, that would be ridiculous. There are things we need to struggle with to learn (and I’m often more thick headed than most), so God doesn’t instantly make everything better. What I mean is that if I have an unfulfilled area of longing in my life I need to give that over to God. Maybe I don’t have the relationships I want because if I did I wouldn’t have time in my life right now to cultivate my relationship with God, which I’m working on. That doesn’t mean that I’ll never have close friendships, only that now might not be the right time. God made me, He knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what I’d need and when. While it’s not easy I need to trust that he’ll provide just what I need when I need it. He’s done that before I’m sure He’ll do so again!
Where does all this fit into body image you ask. Well, she put things much more eloquently than I did, but here’s the final point. Both of these statements are false: “Physical beauty matters more than inner beauty” and “Inner beauty matters more than physical beauty.” Anyone whose been in church much or doesn’t fit the ideal in our warped society has heard the second statement and the first one is implied by everything visual media in our culture. Both statements are the extreme. Yes physical beauty matters, otherwise why would God have created us with such beauty. And to each one of you reading this blog post, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!! I may not know what you look like but that doesn’t matter. God created you, all of you, and He doesn’t screw things up. Just because we are so critical of ourselves and can’t always see how truly beautiful we are doesn’t make it untrue. Have you ever seen an ugly flower or a hideous sunset? NO! They are all very different yet all are also beautiful … just like women. While physical beauty matters, so does inner beauty. We need to cultivate our hearts and make sure that we are as beautiful on the inside as we are on the outside. There’s no need to put an unhealthy emphasis on physical beauty, but we cannot neglect it either. We all know we live in a visual society but we cannot become so focused on the external that there’s no more me inside the beautiful exterior. Be beauty from the inside … out!
The final “charge” so to speak was to not define beauty so narrowly. Hollywood isn’t the only place full of beauty and surely not representative of the rest of the population. So why do we define our beauty by their terms? We need to seek out beauty in everyone we meet, on the outside and on the inside. I challenge you, as she challenged us, give compliments to and accept compliments from other women! We can start changing things. If I begin to see the beauty God created in every woman then maybe I will also begin to see the beauty God created in me. Have a wonderful day you beautiful woman you!