Tag Archives: body image

Is Your Body a Temple or an Idol?

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Last year a girl with an eating disorder crossed our path here in Costa Rica.  After she went home, we lost contact with her for a few months, until one day just recently one of our students asked if I had seen this girl’s Facebook page recently.  I had not.  I navigated to her page and gasped at the change in this girl.  Eight months had aged her 20 years!  When I knew her, she looked like a Barbie.  But her obsessive food rules, over tanning, and excessive exercising were already a problem for her. Now, she looked like a leather covered skeleton.

One of our students who was looking over my shoulder at the time looked into my eyes with a horrified gaze.  “Do you think that is a sin?”  he asked me.  “Isn’t our body the temple of the Holy Spirit?”

mary-kate-olsen-cover-of-w-magazine_lI pondered for a second.  “Yes.  Our body is the temple of the Lord.  But some people make it an Idol instead,” I said.  She became focused on having a perfect body and that’s what she did to her temple.  She placed her own body image in a higher priority than relationships with others or her relationship with God.  She found her self-worth in the gym instead of in Jesus.  She was hard on herself and critical of others.  She gloated over heavier women.  She became her own idol.

The world has a twisted version of perfection, especially where women’s body image is concerned.  It is not coincidence.  Satan has a special hatred for women which started in the Garden of Eden.  If he can get us to destroy our bodies, then we are just doing his job for him.  Think about it, Women.  Who controls the Fashion Industry?  Gay men.  This is why the body shape of a 10 year old boy is promoted as the perfect form and womanly curves are to be hated.  We continue to listen to women-haters telling us that we aren’t perfect enough.  In the process our Holy Temple becomes an Idol.

When my son was born, I held a scrawny, muscular baby in my hands and marveled.  When my first daughter was born, I felt the difference in her body shape the second she came into this world.  I felt her squishy bottom.  I noticed the pleasing pads of fat along the back of her hips already.  She was never plump, but she was definitely a girl.  Boys and girls come out of the womb with differences that should be celebrated.

God gave us our bodies to be reverently cared for as Holy Temples, useful for his purposes.  But when we elevate our ideals or our personal projection of beauty above our useful service to God, then we are sinning.  Our bodies are to be Temples, not Idols.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tollieschmidt/3657519441/”>tollieschmidt</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Um, Thanks… I think.

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Last week I went to a graduation where I saw several Costa Rican friends that I hadn’t seen in a few months.  One friend dramatically exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!  Have you lost weight?  You look so good.  The last time I saw you, you were much fatter!”  Um, thanks… I think.

This is one cultural difference that I have yet to get comfortable with.  In Latin America, a physical description of a person’s body is just that… a physical description of a person’s body.  This is in contrast with American culture where a physical description of one’s body can be the same as a judgement of character, a determination of worth, or an obvious truth which must be carefully danced around to avoid being “politically incorrect”.  It is a touchy subject, a taboo.

tug-of-warIn America, a person is very much judged on their presentation.  If someone looks professional they are treated differently than if they dress like a student.  However, we are proud of our individuality and religiously defend our right to express ourselves through our appearance.  These two features of our society pull at women like a child playing with silly putty.  Women feel a strong pull in the one direction to live up to a particular standard of beauty and another pull in the other direction to be a unique individual.  It’s a difficult balancing act.

In Costa Rica, I have observed that women are proud of their curves.  It does not matter what your body shape, every woman can dress sexy if she wants to.  I feel none of the body consciousness that I feel in America.  I actually don’t feel like I look all that bad compared with other women.  But in America, the pressure to be something you aren’t is intense and unrelenting.  It’s nice to be in a place where the female body is accepted and even celebrated in all it’s shapes and variety.

In Costa Rica, it does not matter how much money you have.  Every woman can dress professionally if she wants to.  I remember when we first arrived here we would drive through very poor neighborhoods with dilapidated shacks as houses.  I watched in awe as the doors would open and professional looking business men and women would emerge to start their work day with a walk to the bus stop.  Clearly these people took a lot of effort to rise above their circumstances and try to make something better of themselves.  I was impressed.

Here, people dress how they want to dress, and speak frankly about their bodies.   I really do find their disregard for political trip-wires to be quite refreshing.  People say what they want to say and no one takes offense.

fatmouse_lPeople refer to each other by their ethnicity, skin color, physical features and eating habits.  Within one family you could have the nicknames Chino (for someone who looks Asian), Negr0/a (for a family member with darker skin), Gordo/a (for a chubby loved one), or Chancho (piggy).  And the Costa Ricans love to add “-ito” or “-ita” which is the diminutive for adjectives making Gordita into a term of endearment.  So one might call their wife “my little fatty” like we would call a baby a “butterball”.

The honesty can be refreshing… until someone calls ME a little fatty.  Then I don’t like it at all.  I really never know how to respond when someone comments on my weight so directly.  I usually just smile and say “Thank You”.  I know they mean no malice.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/people/71164184@N00″>Sumith Meher</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>

Photo credit: <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bigplankton”>Bigplankton</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/”>Public Domain Mark 1.0</a>

Real

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I have very sweet memories of being with my Grandma when I was a child.  She’s still alive, but we don’t live close to her anymore so I only see her every few years when we are back in America.  But we used to live in the same town when I was small.  From a child’s point of view, she was exactly what a Grandma should be.  She was soft.  Her lap was soft, her arms were soft, her cheek was soft. 

I have looked at pictures of her when she was younger, and squinted and strained to see my Grandma in those sepia tones.  She was pretty when she was young, but it was my soft Grandma with the white hair that I loved.  We women work so hard to maintain that youthful prettiness, but it’s our softness that will be loved.  For a woman, soft is real.

Fake is popular right now, as I imagine it has been since the days of Cleopatra, the Egyptian Pharaoh know world wide for her allure and beauty.  Fake is IN.  Fake breasts, fake lips, fake eyelashes, fake tan, fake hair, fake thin.  But without Photoshop, time erodes all such beauty.  (Don’t they ever get tired of fighting against time?)  Fake leaves a bad taste in your mouth- does anyone really like Splenda?  Fake is jarring and harsh, stiff and uncomfortable.

Real is what you are deeper down.  Real is underneath all that.  Real is what God looks at when he sees what is in your heart.  “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  Time reveals what you really are when the paint chips and the plastic cracks.  Those who have given no thought to their depths can never be Real.

            “What is REAL?”  asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day…

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?”  asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

  ~The Velveteen Rabbit

                                                               By Margery Williams

When I am old, those who love me best will be those who see me for who I really am.  Look at old married couples that are still in love.  In the eyes of the other, each one is more handsome than ever, lovelier than when she was young.  They are both soft and faded, loose in the joints and very shabby.  But they can’t ever be ugly, because they are Real.  That’s what I want to be like.  I want to be Real.