We were about to leave the house for a night out with friends. My husband hollered that we'd be late if we didn't get going. I hollered back that I was ready. Really, I was standing in the bedroom, half-dressed, with my back to the full-length mirror, twisting my upper torso as far to the rear as possible. I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of my posterior. Did it stick out too far in these jeans? Ugh. Yes. I dumped the offending jeans on a growing pile of discarded outfits and grabbed some shorts instead.
Again, I went to the mirror. Again, I contorted my body. This time the rear view was better. But did these shorts adequately conceal the burgeoning cellulite along the back of my thighs? Another loud summons from my husband convinced me that they did.
I grabbed my purse and rushed out the door, biting back the question I so desperately wanted to ask: "Do I look fat in these?"
Fairy tale vs. reality
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" We learn that rhyme as children. And sadly, that's when many of us decide the "happily ever afters" are for the beautiful people; the rest of us must struggle with a more troll-like reality.
But eventually we grow up, and something magical happens. We find our special mate, the one God prepared just for us. We say our vows and embark on our own "happily ever afters." Nothing left to fear from our Ugly Duckling days, right?
Maybe. For many of us, that old connection between appearance and self-worth is hard to break. Ask any woman who's ever taped a picture of a swimsuit model to her refrigerator in an attempt to resist leftover cheesecake. Or any man who has quickly surfed past the television commercial where a guy with washboard abs demonstrates a home workout machine.
The fact is, images of the "perfect" body abound in our culture. If we allow ourselves to be influenced by a preoccupation with good looks, physical appearance can become a source of insecurity not only in our minds but in our marriages as well.
In his book Women Are Always Right and Men Are Never Wrong (Word), conference speaker Joey O'Connor puts it this way: "Despite all the beauty and glamour we see in magazines, on television commercials and in movies, physical fitness is no measure for a healthy marriage. A healthy marriage is characterized by how husbands and wives honor and respect each other, regardless of physical appearances."
O'Connor refers to the message of 1 Samuel 16:7: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Then he asks two vital questions: "Whose standards do you use to define beauty and attraction in your marriage? Do you judge your spouse based on outward appearance or by what's in his or her heart?"