Ever since Jacob fell in love with Rachel in the Book of Genesis, the victory of beauty over wits has raged on and on. Jacob ended up marrying Leah, but Genesis tells us that it was Rachel who was more beautiful, Jacob was deceived by the girls’ father into first marrying Leah. You can read more about that, in the preceding article submitted by Susan Moore, of the Church of the Ascension, in Mount Pearl, NL.
Of course, in Biblical times it wasn’t so unusual for a man to have several wives and Jacob was married to Rachel as well. But that is a debate for another time.
The emphasis put on physical appearance has unfortunately always been great. Negative body image has long been a battle fought by women and girls, and many will admit to frequently trying everything: diets, exercise (often to the point of over-exercising), anorexia, bulimia and a vast number of other radical methods of weight loss just to look like the girls and women they see in magazines and on television. Pop culture has done nothing to help us in this respect…well until fairly recently. Dove has been making an effort to show what the “real” women of the world look like, to emphasize that wrinkles and folds are ok, even natural and beautiful.
Oprah finally said something that rang true to me. I’ll be the first to admit that the whole Oprah phenomenon freaks me out, the woman has entirely too much influence in today’s society and the media’s concern over her weight issues is a bit much. But I was watching her show recently and she was talking about her most recent bout of weight gain and what she’s planning to do about it. Some of her plans weren’t so enlightening (eat well and exercise…imagine!)…
I mean, sure we all need to put ourselves “back on our own ‘to do’ lists” and make time for ourselves as well as the needs of others. But then she said something that really made me think: she said she has spent a lot of time learning to love the body that God gave her. He gave her the gift of that body, and her body has never stopped working for her, no matter how she’s abused it, with food, with heart and blood pressure medication, not enough exercise, it never mattered, her body kept on working for her. For that she is thankful.
That spoke to me in a way that nothing else I’ve ever heard come out of her mouth ever has. We need to love the bodies we were given, not the ones we wish we’d gotten or the ones we think we ought to have but the ones we DO have. Take care of it. Feel good inside and out. Find the balance in your life that allows for that.
Something else that might help: ignore what tabloids and entertainment news are saying about Jessica Simpson’s waistline or Brittany Spears’ latest weight gain. Celebrities have it tough enough, they live under the microscope of society day in and day out. They’re just people, with their own set of body image issues, and the added bonus of having it reported all over the planet anytime they overindulge in holiday sweets or handle a breakup by eating to excess.
It was an issue in biblical times, and its an issue today, but God is with us now just like he was with Leah when she went unloved by Jacob, so he is with you and me as we struggle to find ourselves amid the pop culture madness. He loves us and wants us to take good care of ourselves. Our health and our bodies are gifts from God, I think it’s time we treated them that way.
Check back for final part in the series: Contemporary Idol Worship
Commentary from Matt:
“I’m reminded of a Rob Bell NOOMA video called ‘Name’ (http://nooma.com). In this video, he expressed the point about Jacob and his identity. He says at one point, “We need to be saved from all the times we haven’t been our true selves. All the times we’ve tried to be someone else. All of the lies we’ve believed about who God made when God made us. All the times we’ve asked the wrong questions: ‘What about him? What about her? What about them?’ And we’ve missed the voice of Jesus saying, ‘You, follow me!’ You’re so right, Allison, when you say we need to realize that God loves us and that our bodies are gifts. We ought not to compare ourselves to one another (easier said than done, I know), but we need to focus on the purpose and plan God has for each one of us.”
And Judy’s comments:
I know so many women (of ALL ages) who struggle with body image or negative self-image. It is good to ‘love the skin we’re in’, but sometimes that is easier said than done. The influences on our body image are certainly complex and you are so right Allison that popular culture feeds that in so many negative ways.
I wonder what the other influences are that feed that negative image? Low self-esteem is part of it, and that can’t all come from the media, can it? Knowing that God loves me as I am helps, but many people say the real challenge is loving ourselves the way we are. I think we start to do that when we realize how many people struggle to love themselves, and talk about it.
But yeah, this is hard to talk about! If anyone has comments they want to make on this issue and they want to do that anonymously, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise TOTAL confidentiality and I’ll post people’s comments with no names or locations attached.