For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Yes, it is true; I have monkey toes, or “light bulb toes”, depending on who you ask. I have stubbed them, tripped over them, and hidden them in closed-toed shoes much of my life…well, used to. Now, I celebrate my toes, and the fact that they are so long I can write my name with them. (Yes I can, it’s my ‘party trick’.)
But there are other things about my body that were not so easy to learn to love. For one, I learned at an early age that I had inherited the matriarchal “child-birthin’ hips” from my mom’s side of the family. This was said to me as if they were a blessing, and as a child, I was excited about being well-suited to give birth to children. However, a boy in my 8th grade class didn’t have the same respect for my body. He called me “billboard butt”. I doubt this person even remembers me or my butt 25 years later, yet, I remember him and his name and how he used to call me that every time I walked into a room my 8th grade year. I developed a complex about said backside and that just fed into the voice that was already telling me that I wasn’t pretty…monkey toes, giraffe neck, billboard butt. All of these added up to one thing according to that voice—I was ugly and fat.
Over the course of my life dealing with poor body image and eating disorders, the seemingly small list of “flaws” in my physical appearance began to get bigger. As an adult, not only did I see myself as having a “billboard butt”, but I soon became aware of all of the “cottage cheese” on my upper leg region. And then there was this pesky thing that would drive me insane…my fat armpits. I would stare at the mirror looking at an ‘extra’ piece if you will between where my arm connected to my shoulder. “What is that?! It should be smooth!” I thought. This wasn’t just my imagination either. Other women complained about their cottage cheese, arm-flaps, and big behinds. We all read the latest articles and lunged, squatted and lifted weights to try to rid ourselves of these flaws. I cannot speak for the other women, but all of that was not enough for me, not enough for that voice that was reminding me that even if I got rid of the “extras”, I would still have monkey toes and giraffe neck. If I had any hope of being as beautiful as these women, I would need to make sure there was NOTHING hanging, flapping, or dimpling. As my eating disorder took more and more control over my thought process, I found more and more flaws, more and more problems. The armpit flap didn’t go anywhere and there was always an abundance of cottage cheese on my billboard butt.
In recovery, I learned something that was very hard to understand. I learned that sometimes what I saw in the mirror wasn’t actually there. Starvation causes the brain to obsess about numbers and calories. It also contributes to a distorted view of the body. My perception of myself was not reality. Although I could not see this in the mirror, my treatment team repeatedly told me this…and I had to learn to trust them. Because I knew that what I saw wasn’t real, I began to not look in the mirror at all. This helped me to focus on healthy eating, listening to my body, and getting better. It was during this time that I began to celebrate the parts of me that I did like, my monkey toes for example. (Self-care in the form of pedicures really helped!)
Fast-forward to now. I am in strong recovery; I eat intuitively, and work in the fitness industry teaching Pilates on a regular basis. (And being in front of a mirror as part of my job no longer feels like I am in a Circus Fun House.) So I must have gotten rid of all of those “flaws” right?
Alas, the thighs I inherited from the women of my family are still a part of me. And yes, despite a healthy workout routine and listening to my body for nourishment, there are dimples on my thighs. There is also that little part of my armpit that is still not smooth like the arms of women in magazines. However, I no longer consider these things “flaws” just because a magazine, or an 8th grade boy, says that they are! My dimply legs, my arms, my monkey toes and long lanky neck, are all part of the body God gave me. I imagine that if He knows the number of the hairs on my head, He also knows the number of dimples on my derriere and He loves every bit!
The more time I spend comparing myself with the world around me or listen to others’ opinion of what they think my body should look like, the less time I am focused on my Heavenly Father and His purpose for me here in this body. My body is a gift from Him to be used for His glory. Its purpose is not to look a certain way, but to move a certain way—THE Way He calls me to go. So I will turn my giraffe neck toward His Voice, I will take my monkey toes and walk on His path for me, using my arms (pits and all) to point others toward Him, and well, as for my dimples? Who cares? I’m walkin’ with Jesus!
Breathing In (Bible Study)
Read the following verses:
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 14:6
- What do these verses say about God? What do they say about you in relation to Him? What are the implications of these verses on how you “see” yourself and your body?
- What if the things you considered “flaws” about your body were “gifts”? How can we begin to look at those things as gifts or blessings?
- In today’s focus verse, Ephesians 3:10, we see that God created us to do good works that God prepared for us to do. Not only were the good works prepared in advance, but WE were also prepared—created—especially to do these things. How might thinking of our bodies as being prepared by God help us with our quest to feel comfortable in them?
Breathing Out (Prayer)
You formed us, shaped us, and chose us for a specific purpose when you placed us in this world. Please help us to stay focused on your plans for us. Let us be reminded through your Word that our bodies are a gift and meant to be used for Your glory, not to be shaped by our culture’s ideals of “flawless.” Help us to see our bodies, not as flawed, but as filled with Your Holy Spirit, that we might move in Your Way to fulfill Your Will for us. Amen