Category Archives: Body Image

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Dating/Singleness (with Stacey)


with Stacey Schwenker

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I was single throughout high school and did not date or have a boyfriend until college.  Then I went through a long string of boys that felt very back-to-back (2 of them were and some could say I was not honorable to one guy as I began a relationship with another).  When I began seminary, at the age of 25, I began what has been a long period of singleness.  Through this time I have pursued both wholeness/healing (actively seeking counseling and other ways to emotionally and relationally grow) as well as my vocational goals (mostly in ministry).
At my current age of 31 and three-quarters, I have mixed feelings about dating and singleness.  Mixed mainly because some days I feel consumed by how horrid the situation is and I am convinced that I shall be alone forever.  While other days I feel calm and collected and convinced of how wonderful I am and how wonderful God is, so that surely I shall not be alone forever.
I question whether my personality, past, or theological achievements (obtaining a Master of Divinity) make me unappealing to men.  Yet the desire to share life with another is just enough hope to continue to pray for a partner and believe that God will bring me someone (if that’s even good terminology…).

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Again, mixed feelings.  Mostly I put a lot of effort into my body.  Not in the sense that I obsess about it and try to look amazing, rather it’s quite the opposite.  I listen to it and try to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  I care about its well-being and taking care of it.  I put more energy into becoming a person who seeks after God and can be a fair friend than I do about my physical image.  Even so, I have deep and ugly fears that my body is something that is keeping men away from me.  I don’t pluck my eyebrows and I have thicker thighs. 
My thoughts about my body have come from a complexity of stories melded together.  Most likely I came to the current story from three main places.  First, is with my family and how I learned to value myself with a body.  There’s definitely an overtone of being thin that is present and my father is regularly ridiculed by and in front of the entire family for being overweight.  It’s taken a long time to fight judgmental voices that became a constant in my head and plagued me with most outfits and certainly every hair-do. 
Second, is with my boyfriends.  Depending on the day I’ll tell you that I’ve had 3 or 4 significant relationships.  Two of them were great and celebrated my body with generosity and complete embrace.  One of them seemed great but turned out to be more selfish than loving.  The other one was kind of a jerk the whole time and rejected me regularly.  It became a game of seduction where I sought to be a master.  Even now I am struggling with the repercussions of feeling continually unwanted and unwelcomed by any prospective man.  As if I am too much or too little.  Mostly it feels like both at the same time.
Third, is how my body has changed over the years.  It’s been 7 years since I’ve dated anyone and my body is not how it was then.  Honestly, I worry about not being attractive and fight against the lie that this has been causing my singleness.  I feel more and more comfortable in my skin.  Yet somehow men do not come to me.  What’s a woman to do…?

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

There isn’t enough space on this computer to adequately answer this question!  I will say that I am completely conscientious, honest, and present with everyone in my life.  I strive to love and honor them.  I strive to admit when I am wrong and make amends.  I am weary of my need to attach to someone (I’m a co-dependent) and have to fight hard to have balance and health in my relationships.  Though, I do fight hard.  I’m not flippant anymore and I am willing to work.  Mostly, the affects have been positive.

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

I’ve certainly experienced a lot more growth.  Honesty does that.  I’ve let God get closer than I could have imagined.  And I also see how much further I have to go.  Because I write weekly (and publically) about this aspect of my life – relationships and spirituality – I’ve spent a great deal reflecting on it. 
And I see things to be so inter-connected.  I consider my motivations and the larger networks at play in my life.  For example, I can’t think about dating without thinking about how busy I’ve let me life become, the I consider my vocational dreams, then I think about my ability to trust God, then I consider patience, and then faith verses works, and on and on.  Ultimately, the more I consider the more peace I have and the more I feel God’s presence. 
Perhaps the greatest benefit has been being peeled back like an onion in the presence of God.  I feel more known with God since I am actively writing about my singleness and wondering where God is in all of it.  Though, it doesn’t take away the questions, loneliness, or fear entirely.  But it does bring more meaning to my life and a greater calm.

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

We must be patient and never lose hope.  God is a creative God and will bring us unexpected things.  We can knead the dough we’re given and see what will rise. Invite Him into where you are.  Reflect on what you are doing.  We have the potential to do so much, right now!  We must not let any lies or fears get in our way.  I truly believe that when we pursue Him, He will grant us the desires of our hearts.


Crazy Hair

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.


Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Church (with Chris)


with Chris Nelson

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with church or other Christian communities.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

As a kid I would go to church on Easter and Christmas with my Grandpa. It was definitely his community and it was a place we were invited into on those days. In high-school I had some friends that attended church and then it became a place where you could just hang out, on weekdays, not just holidays. After becoming involved in that church Sunday mornings became a time to grow in relationship with the whole congregation, young and old and share that experience of church with each other.
Now that we have settled into our church here in Colorado Springs, I see it very much as “the body of Christ” in the way that we all need to bring our gifts and skills to serve and provide a different function of the body. I think this approach has been amplified recently as several families, even families that had been at the church for 20+ years left because the church refused to leave the denomination over the issue of homosexual ordination.

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

Honestly not much. I theoretically understand the connection between how we understand the two and I can explain it as such to people but in general the movement goes the other way. How I understand my body and my self image affects the relationship/experience of church. In general I try to take care of my body but don’t always do the best job. In order to combat that I try to develop habits that allow that to happen. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

It helps me to deal with people that do not think like me or do not have the same skills that I do. Instead of simply writing them off as having nothing to add because they are not “on my team”. I try instead to see how their unique functions might be a part of the body of Christ.
Again, all this is theoretically informing how I act and I am by no means saying that I always accomplish this way of thinking.

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

Primarily in understanding that my spiritual life is inextricably tied to the spiritual life of those around me. I can’t go it alone and need others to grow with and also be held accountable by. If I try to go it on my own, then it is all about me and I don’t think that is the ultimate goal of spiritual formation.
Slightly relatedly I also establish patterns of taking care of my body (jogging, eating right..) and try to apply those to my spiritual life (serving, attending worship, reading the bible, praying). Like exercise it is much easier to do with other people around you though there are times when going alone is nice too.

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Everything is connected. As much as we like to be lone rangers, and as much as our culture shapes us into believing that is the ultimate goal, it goes against the way we are made.
Just like your body is messy, so is community, it is not always going to be smooth sailing but if my hearing starts to give me problems the solution is not to cut off my ears, it is to find hearing aids, to support the function that is faltering.

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Pregnancy (with Lisa)


with Lisa Nelson

1) Describe your experience with pregnancy (trying, discovering, being, labor/delivery, after).

Pregnancy with Malia was new and exciting since I had never been pregnant before. I experienced a lot of firsts with her, like feeling her move the first time which was crazy and foreign 🙂 I loved being pregnant, and was so excited when we found out we were pregnant with her. I knew even before the pregnancy test that I was pregnant because I had heart burn which I had never had before, so I thought something was different. I remember the first time I saw the ultrasound of her, I cried seeing her little heartbeat flutter on the monitor! 
After having Malia we decided to start trying for baby number 2 about two and half years later. We were super excited when we found out we were pregnant. We had shared with our families when I was six weeks pregnant. During my seventh week, I miscarried the baby. We were heart broken by the loss. About four months after our loss we discovered I was pregnant again. We didn’t share it with anyone because we were very fearful of the possibility of losing another baby. I don’t think I actually told anyone until into my second trimester, and even then we didn’t know how to share. For me I had a lot of fear about losing the baby. 
When I was 25 weeks pregnant, I had a heart procedure after finding out that I had an arrhythmia. I was super scared of losing the baby, but because my heart continued to race at a rapid heart rate both my heart and OB docs decided the safest thing for both of us was to operate. So I had a heart procedure (which I was awake for). Fortunately I could feel the baby move during the procedure which calmed my nerves.  
When I was 33 weeks pregnant, I had a test come back that was positive for signs of preterm labor and was put on bed rest. You can imagine the fear I had of the baby being born to early and the possibility of losing him. Micah was born 10 days early, and was big and healthy! I was relieved after his birth when I got to hold him, see him, and touch him knowing he was finally with us and safe. 
While on bed rest with Micah I had a lot of time to reflect on being pregnant. I loved it, even though I was uncomfortable and tired of being in bed. And even after everything I went through with Micah’s pregnancy I wouldn’t have changed anything.

2) How has that experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

After my miscarriage, I had a lot of doubts about myself. I thought maybe God didn’t think I was a good enough mom to Malia and that this was His way of telling me I shouldn’t have another baby. Eventually I felt His healing in those areas of woundedness and realized I am a good mom, but like all moms have challenges. I struggled with my body image more after Micah was born because I was frustrated that I couldn’t fit into my clothes and felt like I didn’t have time to exercise or do anything for myself.
After Micah was 5 months old, I realized that I was struggling with postpartum depression. I didn’t see the signs myself, but Chris and my close friends had noticed changes in my behaviors. Looking back I realized that I felt like a terrible mom who couldn’t do anything for my family.
Now I’m feeling better and being treated for the depression, thankfully I’m much more like myself again, and I can see more clearly that having children and balancing my life looks different than I anticipated, but I do love my children, my husband, and even myself. I realize that no mom is perfect, and that my body will never be the same, but then it never has stayed the same.
As for my body… I do fit into my clothes again and actually have dropped a size… probably because of nursing and running after two kids all day. But I still have marks on my tummy from where Micah stretched me out, and my skin is not toned, but I’m okay with that. I actually laugh at it sometimes because it reminds me how much bigger I was with Micah than I was with Malia. If you saw me you would agree 🙂 My tummy was much more stretched by him, but he was also almost 2 lbs. bigger!

3) How has that experience affected the way you relate to others?

I think I am able to look at even the moms who I think are perfect, and realize that they too are managing in the best ways they can, and while they make some things look so easy they are probably struggling in other areas. I think I also have a greater understanding of the fact that after children we don’t have the same energy we use to, and therefore sometimes things like exercise and eating right get thrown out the door because we’re too tired, or eating on the go in between balancing the kids naps, meals, nursing, and other activities.
I find that I relate more to moms who feel like life is always on the go and that having a family is a juggling act. I learn a lot from moms who can give me advice on the importance of time alone, or “quiet time” for mom. I also find that I’m more vulnerable to share what’s going on with me because I know that if I can talk about what I’m going through and experiencing, my guess is that someone else has been there or is also there and can relate.

4) How has that experience affected your spiritual life?

I’m learning more about patience and grace daily. Patience for my kids and grace for myself. I’m not a super mom, even though I joke about being one. I’d like to think I’m super enough for what God’s given me.
I do find that my quiet times are not like they use to be. I miss having time alone, but I realize that my prayer life goes through seasons and those seasons affect my spiritual journey. I’m discovering that I spend more time praying in the car, in the shower, and when I’m nursing Micah than when I can carve out my own quiet space. So I look forward to times when Chris can take both kids and give me a few hours of quiet that I can refresh myself.
Having kids makes me wonder about how God feels about us as his children… life gets busy regardless of kids and feels exhausting… yet God always finds and makes time for us.

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Give yourself lots of grace. God knows what you are going though and more than likely you are not alone. Find people you trust that you can talk with or sit with. Take deep breaths and remind yourself that your kids are a blessing, and imagine the way God is smiling at you even when you do crazy things.



What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.


Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Exercise (with George)


with George Ratchford

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with exercise. If it has changed over time, describe the change.

I have never been one to exercise for the sake of exercise. I need a goal or a purpose. In the past I have stayed in shape so that I can play sports and be strong for surfing. It’s also for the purpose of feeling better, sleeping better, and self-confidence. Recently, I trained for my first ever half-marathon. The great purpose was to raise money for clean water wells in Africa through Team World Vision. I trained with a team of 30 people from two churches. It was communal, it had a greater purpose and allowed me to push myself to new limits.

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

It makes a lot of difference. I feel sharper mentally and spiritually. I feel like I look better and have a better “bounce” to my step. It just feels good.

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

Since it is mostly about sports and surfing it has all been connected to the relational side of things. The recent Team World Vision experience was phenomenal as it connected the team on a deeply spiritual level.

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

Brings me discipline. Gets me outside. Allows me to connect with others. These are not always the most powerfully spiritual moments, yet they have a way of drawing my attention to God more often. So I would say that it affects it in a subtle yet profound way. It is a discipline that keeps me filled with joy and Christ said he came to bring us a fullness to life (John 10:10).

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Allow exercise to fit into the Great Commandment. Make sure the discipline is a part of loving God with your entire self. Also, to use it as a way of self care and loving one’s self more deeply (confidence). Lastly, make sure exercise is communal in some aspects so it allows you to connect with your neighbor.

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Dating/Singleness (with Tammy)


with Tammy Waggoner

1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness.  If it has changed over time, describe the change.

Hmm. I’ve been single for 31 almost 32 years. For the most part I consider my relationship with singleness like riding a roller coaster. There are times where I’m perfectly fine, I look at families or couples and I’m happy for them without a hint of bitterness. But I admit to times where I am absolutely bitter toward everyone else that has exactly what I want.
It’s funny because I was a boy chaser even when I was a kid. In Elementary school I used to trade boyfriends like pudding cups at lunch. I would chase boys hoping that one would be my boyfriend.  In High School that didn’t change much, I was now chasing them around the church and kissing them in the red room (a day care room with a bright red EXIT sign). In college I was still boy crazy and went to parties kissing boys and sitting on their laps. I was a tease but I always had a man on my arm and at bars I always had a dance partner.
In my adulthood I have dated using less out there forms of trying to be in a relationship. I’m internet dating which brings its own stigmas and problems. 
I know that I am complete in my singleness. I am a complete person who sometimes gets lonely and misses the fun of being in relationship during the in-between times of relationship. I’m not looking for someone to complete me just a partner in crime.

2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

My self-image is pretty intact. There are moments when I doubt my ability to catch a mate but that rarely has to do with my self-image or my body image. Most of the time it has to do with how much of myself I should show at the beginning or even at the superficial stage of a relationship. My body image is pretty healthy but I do have certain parts of myself I wish I could change.
The one thing that I wish I could change is my brokenness. I have a past that is full of damage and brokenness and scars and there are times when those scars seem insurmountable. But other times they feel behind me. So it’s a toss up. Not quite like a roller coaster, more like I take two steps forward and seem to take one step back so that I am constantly getting somewhere while also being stuck in the past, a contradiction no matter how you look at it. 
No matter my past and brokenness, I love me. I love my tattoo even if that make others turn away from me. I love my glasses even if they present my smarts on the outside, let’s get serious there’s no way to hide them. I love my breasts, their just the right size and I’m proud of them, for years it was like two bee stings :). I love my legs, they’re long and yet I’m short. I love my dainty hands and my hips and my eyes and some-days my hair, but that’s mostly because I’m growing it out and the in-between stage is annoying. I am completely happy with me, which I think makes me less likely to fall for any line or anyone because I am confident in who I am and what I offer and bring to a relationship from the inside out.

3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?

I kind of already answered this above but I’ll give it another go just in case :). Because my self-image inside and out is strong I represent a strong person. I relate to people from a real place with real understanding of who I am and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant but I’ve learned along the way that changing yourself for another person does nothing for you. In the end you lose part of yourself and miss out on something because you chose not to be yourself.

4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?

The brokenness that I was talking about earlier plays a huge part in my spiritual life. God through prayer and God through friends has taught me how valuable I am and he works at chipping away every part of my self that is still false. 
For this to make sense I need to reveal a bit more about myself. Abuse, of a sexual nature, has been a huge part of my life. I was abused as a child, in my college days and a little right after college. Abusers are never silent in their abuse. They are MEAN and if they say crap often enough and with enough VIOLENCE you begin to believe them. They put in your mind a false self, a self that allows them to chip pieces of you away. 
Over the past 5 years God has been guiding me through smashing these false pieces to oblivion. He still works with me on certain pieces that have held on a lot tighter. We work together to smash the false to let the real shine through. 
I am transparent with God so that together we can beat back the false pieces of me.

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Advice. Hmm….don’t present a false self to anyone. Be yourself in any situation. If you spend your time presenting a false self to anyone then you won’t know when you are really being yourself. 
Also boundaries are really important. We don’t lay our entire selves out on the line for everyone at the beginning because people need to earn our trust. It’s not something we should freely give. In my earlier days, I used to broadcast my virginity (now that you know my past you know how false that was) or my desire to go to seminary because I thought I could scare people away from me. The problem with that is BAD or misguided people feed on that crap and it allows people into your life that have no business being there. 
Trust yourself that you are enough. For an entire season in my life I had a post-it note on my mirror that said you are beautiful and soon I began to believe it. Put reminders all over your space to remind yourself that you are enough and you are worth protecting and worth waiting for. Don’t settle for half your worth and keep forging and pursuing what you are worth, soon the roller coaster will reach another high point and your bitterness will falter and you will see your singleness for what it is: a time to get yourself right and prepare yourself to be with someone else without losing who you are.
Pinterest Bridesmaid dress

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

The Illusionists

You may have noticed this picture trending on Facebook and Pinterest this week.


I ran across it myself, which led me to discovering The Illusionists, a documentary that is currently in post-production and promises to be a balanced and informative look at the commodification of the human body.  That’s right up our alley here at HBTB, so I thought I’d do a little plugging for them.  Check out the video below.

I’m in no way affiliated with The Illusionists, but I’m looking forward to their finished product!  You can also find out more about body image and media literacy on The Illusionists blog.

Will I Be Pretty?

I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Holy Week or Easter or anything in our theme last week and this week, but I couldn’t resist.  If only we were all so enlightened, there would be no need for blogs like HBTB!

Imaga Dei

My brother complained recently that my blog is too often about “women stuff.”  Well, he’s right. I write toward a holistic body theology from my perspective as young, white, female, married, member of the 99%, seminarian, and writer — just to name a few descriptors.  I don’t speak for everyone’s experience. I can only speak for my own and hope that some part of my story may inspire, inform, or challenge part of yours.

But lovely readers, today is an especially “women-stuff-filled” day, so prepare yourselves.  If you are a woman, perhaps you will find something of yourself in the post below.

If you are a man, I hope that you will keep reading and recognize within yourself as you do the way you feel as you read on.  Do you feel somewhat excluded? Do you find yourself doing some mental gymnastics to get at the part that relates to your own experience?  If so, then you are on your way to discovering what it’s like for women to experience God in a patriarchal framework.  My hope is that you will find the experience useful in your own spiritual growth.


If you follow my profile on Goodreads, you’ll know that I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd‘s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.  I could have quoted half the book for you, but the following passage stood out to me as particularly necessary to inform our holistic body theology.

In Christianity God came in a male body. Within the history and traditions of patriarchy, women’s bodies did not belong to themselves but to their husbands.  We learned to hate our bodies if they didn’t conform to an idea, to despise the cycles of mensuration–“the curse,” it was called.  Our experience of our body has been immersed in shame.

Let me interrupt to say that the understanding that patriarchy has had a negative impact on female body image is not a new idea for this blog.  We’ve touched on this idea here, for instance, and here and here, and even here.

This negative impact must be recognized as a lie and uprooted so there is room for planting new understandings of the body that are more in line with the truth about who we are as human beings: male and female, together we are created in the image of God. 

We’ve talked before about how the foundation of holistic body theology is our identity in Christ, but this truth is much more difficult for many women to embrace on a heart-level and experience in their own bodies than it is for men because we first have to break down the gender barrier.  We have to “enter into” our identity as the image of God “in a new way,” through an embracing of our physical selves.

Waking to the sacredness of the female body will cause a woman to “enter into” her body in a new way, be at home in it, honor it, nurture it, listen to it, delight in its sensual music.  She will experience her female flesh as beautiful and holy, as a vessel of the sacred.  She will live from her gut and feet and hands and instincts and not entirely in her head.  Such a woman conveys a formidable presence because power resides in her body. The bodies of such women, instead of being groomed to some external standard, are penetrated with soul, quickened from the inside.

I’ve been working on this process for a long time.  At my awakening to the need for this “new way,” I struggled to give voice to my experience and name my pain.  Now, I am still in the process toward accepting the truth about myself in my physical being and experiencing God in myself in this new way.  The journey is not complete.  There is more work to be done.  One day I trust that I will be able to see myself fully — both spiritually and physically — as the embodiment of God, the imaga Dei.   

This is where I am on my journey toward holistic  body theology.  Where are you?

What did this passage stir up in you?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below, or drop me a line on Facebook or via email: bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

I turned 29 recently and have been reflecting on my life’s journey thus far. I have come a long way personally and spiritually and am no longer the person I was when I was in high school or college.  If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, here’s what I would say:

29 Truths I would tell my younger self

  1. It gets better. I promise.  Keep on keeping on until it does.
  2. Know who you are.  When your identity is sure, you will stop believing the lies other people tell you about who you are.
  3. You are beautiful and worth loving.  You will fall in love and get married sooner than you think.  Live with confidence in who you are.
  4. Let people in. They may bring pain, but they may also bring healing and joy.
  5. God loves you. No, really.
  6. Stand up for yourself. Ignoring the problem behavior only makes them try harder to hurt you. Show some backbone and they’ll never have the guts to cross you again.
  7. Acknowledge pain others caused you, deal with it, and then move on.  Pretending it didn’t hurt doesn’t make it true.
  8. You don’t have to be always right.
  9. You don’t always have to prove you are right to everyone else. Sometimes it’s more important to maintain a relationship and open conversation.
  10. It’s okay to let go.  You don’t have  to carry everything all at once.
  11. It’s okay to fail. The world will not fall apart. Plus, you can always try again.
  12. Practice self-care.  Rest is as productive and necessary as work.
  13. You don’t have to take care of everyone all the time forever. Share the burden. Give people the opportunity to learn to care for themselves.
  14. Quoting Bible verses to support your argument to people who don’t read the Bible can be alienating.  Meet people where they are.
  15. Allow people to be who they are, where they are in their personal growth, and trust that God will get them where they need to go in time.  Offer people the same gentle patience God shows you.
  16. Instead of focusing on what divides, look for common ground, what unites people, and build on that foundation.
  17. Be willing to admit you could be wrong.
  18. Admit when you’re wrong.
  19. Your voice has power. Speak.
  20. Pace yourself.
  21. Don’t judge others. I know you think you don’t, but you do. Stop it.
  22. Have more compassion.
  23. Show more compassion.
  24. Life is not black-and-white. God is not black-and-white.
  25. Stop correcting people’s grammar out loud.  People make mistakes. Don’t rub their faces in it.
  26. You think you’re motivated by love, but you’re not. You’re motivated by fear. Let go of the fear, and there will  be room for the love.
  27. Own your mistakes. Say you’re sorry. Make it right. Pretending it didn’t happen does not make it true.
  28. All-or-nothing is easy, but it’s not healthy. Aim for the happy middle.
  29. Keep writing. It will save you.

Holiness, Beauty, and Body Image

How do we engage culture and image and dialogue with truth?

Is there anything holy to be found in our visually driven culture?

If the line between secular and sacred is truly blurred, then how do we bring the holiness of God into our cultural conversations about what is beautiful?

In my own experience, it has been very healing to speak God’s truth into the lies I received from culture about my body image that I believed for so long without even being aware of their influence. This is one reason having a holistic body theology is so important and why I have dedicated my blog to writing about it. We have forgotten who we are.  We have forgotten who we have been created to be.  Educating people about ways to deconstruct the advertising and entertainment industries can go a long way in bringing truth into cultural light.

Take, for example, Alison Jackson‘s photographs and her discussion of voyeurism in this TedTalk from 2009.  In the video she describes how photography seduces us into believing things that aren’t true or into seeing things that we want to be true even when they aren’t possible:

I’m fascinated how what you think is real isn’t necessarily real. The camera can lie, and it makes it very, very easy with the mass bombardment of imagery to tell untruths. (Alison Jackson)

Our consumerist culture buys into nearly anything these days that will feed into the need for instant gratification. Marketing and advertising firms spend their resources on finding out what we wish were true or what we wish we were and then coming up with ways to exploit our wishes by making us feel inadequate, making us feel the need of something we didn’t even know we wanted — and suddenly that need is urgent and insatiable.

In other words, we are driven by fear.

Fear — which is the opposite of faith– and sin — which certainly gets in the way of experiencing God’s holiness — are the roots of many body image issues, especially in our western culture.  There is that appealing quality about Gnosticism, for instance, which perpetuates the fear that the body will somehow hinder the soul’s search for enlightenment or perfection or completion. Or that fear of being out of control, which is certainly a known root cause of many eating disorders.

But we were given bodies, and our bodies were pronounced good — a fact we often forget in our effort to retain control.

We need to be reminded that experiencing abundant life necessitates a willingness to release control and by doing so open ourselves up to experience something extraordinary, something unknown, something beautiful — which is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Next time you stand in line at the grocery store and stare at all those magazine covers, ask yourself what messages culture is sending you and whether those messages are designed to send you into a spiral of fear and sin or to open you up to the quiet beauty that is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

What cultural messages have you noticed recently? Share your experience in the comment box below.  Let’s grow together in our discernment of culture and the media.

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