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What I'm Learning About ... Physical Appearance

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but physical appearance negatively affects our spiritual and emotional well-being more often than it should.

Dieting and exercise may be okay in moderation, but we often hold ourselves to unrealistic standards of physical perfection based on society's expectations. Because God loves every one of our curves unconditionally, here are a few reasons why it's important to accept ourselves at any age or size.

Holly Vicente Robaina
Liz Curtis Higgs

When it comes to body type, women aren't simply apples or pears; we're a whole fruit basket of sizes and shapes. Personally, I've always wanted to be a banana—tall, blonde, slender, and firm—but I'm more like an overripe peach.

Every fruit has its own color, shape, and flavor. In the same way, when God created us in his image (Genesis 1:27) and for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11), he had a particular plan in mind for our one-of-a-kind figures. Instead of "one size fits all," his plan was "one size fits you."

Unfortunately, we live in a "one size fits most" culture. The pressure to conform, to be the "right" size—for many of us, a smaller size—is intense. What's a bigger girl to do? Make intelligent food choices (hand over the plain yogurt, honey) and add more movement (treadmill, here I come).

But what if the extra weight doesn't disappear? Or comes off in the "wrong" places? Or leaves us smaller, but still pear-shaped? Or sneaks back on, despite our best efforts?

I've so been there, on all counts. If Weight Watchers gave a prize for the most tries, I'd definitely be in the running. For years, not only did my closet have different outfits for different seasons, it had different sizes for different seasons.

Each time I went through that yo-yo cycle, I berated myself unmercifully. I saw myself as ugly and treated myself as worthless. I ate whatever was handy, and no longer cared about nutrition. I stopped applying makeup and started wearing frumpy clothes. I was so convinced I was unattractive that I became unattractive. Talk about a downward spiral!

Embraceable You

If you're there, dear sister, try my solution: Feed your heart with the truth that you're "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). And exercise God's gift of grace and acceptance by not judging yourself (Luke 6:37).

So wrap your big, beautiful body in clothes that make you feel and look your best right now—not "when." Style your hair, wear cosmetics if you like, and just get out there. People will take their cue from you; if you're comfortable with who you are, they will be, too.

I once asked my readers, "What words come to mind when you think of your body?" Some responses were predictably negative: "the blob," "the lump," "wide load." But the positive answers were thrilling. "Plush, functional, bountiful, dynamic," wrote one woman. "A wonderful piece of machinery," offered another. My favorite body image? "It washes up nicely and never shrinks!"

The best word to describe your body, however, is beautiful. God's Word assures you, "God has made everything beautiful for its own time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). "Everything" would include you. Top to toe and hip to hip.

Never mind the narrow and ever-changing definition of beauty handed down by Hollywood. God's view is broader and lasts forever. You may never look like an ultra-thin model or movie star, but those celebrities, bless their hearts, will never get to look like you!

By all means, take care of your body and health. But do so because that woman in your mirror is worth the effort, not because you can't bear to look at her. Then embrace the finished product—small, medium, or plus size—knowing God can and will use you "as is."

Mirror Image

After a recent television appearance, I received an e-mail with these startling words: "You're one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen." At this size? Must be because my wrinkles have plumped out. Or my silver hair caught the studio lights. Or my peacock blue outfit looks good on camera.

When I worked up the nerve to watch the interview, my first reaction was a long groan. Then I listened to the words God had placed on my heart that day, and began to notice the sparkle in my eyes and the glow on my cheeks.

All at once, I understood. Christ in us, the hope of glory—that's what makes us truly beautiful to ourselves, to others, and to God. His love, pouring through us, extends far beyond the physical. Christ alone "will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation" (Psalm 149:4, NASB), with the gift of knowing him and sharing his truth.

Our calling is to live and love for Christ. Today. Right now. Not someday when we're 10 (or 30 or 60) pounds thinner, but at this size, let's "shine like stars" (Philippians 2:15) as we hold out the Word of Life.

Liz Curtis Higgs is a busy conference speaker, and best-selling author. She lives with her husband in Kentucky.

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January 2012

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