One month after our wedding day, my new husband picked me up at the Fresno airport which we lovingly referred to as FAT (well because that’s actually it’s acronym). I had been gone for several days, so we made small talk about my travels in the car. Then, with a sort of unusual excitment, he said, “Oh, guess what! The wedding picture proofs came today!”
My stomach churned. “And?” I responded. The pressure involved with these photos had almost killed me. Now, it was judgement day. “How do they look?”
“Good. I think they are good.” He responded.
“Uh, just good. Oh, great. I’m going to hate them aren’t I? Do I look bad?” I rambled off a few more questions when he stopped me.
“Heather, it doesn’t matter what they look like. You always hate the way you look in pictures. What I think of them doesn’t really matter either.”
He was right. Deep down I didn’t care what he thought of them. I only wondered what I would think.
And, he was right about another thing too. I always hated the way I looked in pictures. No matter what.
My wedding day. I had professional hair help, professional makeup assistance, and I was down to my junior high school weight. Wouldn’t that combination have been enough to be confident that the pictures would at least look decent?
Not for me. Looking good in those wedding pictures became a burning desire. I spent months preparing for that day, for those photographs. How they looked was very important. Too important.
New Identity Means New Desires
In Ephesians 4:20-24 Paul talks about our human tendency towards deceitful desires. For me, my desire for beauty could no doubt could be characterized as corrupt and depraved according to Paul’s explanation below:
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul tries to get the church at Ephesus to realize their new identity in Jesus Christ. Yet, what prevents them from righteousness, holiness and experiencing the renewal that comes through rebirth in Christ Jesus is their desires.
The Greek word for this particular type of desire is epithumia–which literally means inordinate or burning desire. Paul calls these desires corrupt. They are characteristics of the old man, not the new self we have through Jesus.
Over the decades those deceitful desires generally lead my thoughts and actions. I wanted to look better. I thought that beauty would give me things it couldn’t. The truth didn’t matter. I had a burning desire for a better body. It enslaved me.
What do you think about when you are alone?
These thoughts often reveal what our heart desires, what we truly long after.
For me, it was a perfect body. Not that I ever magazine cover thought perfection was attainable, rather I just knew that if I could weigh a certain number or wear a certain size I’d be free. So, I thought about how to get there. All. The. Time.
A Scottish minister named Thomas Chalmers wrote about finding a “greater affection” in the early 1800s. His thesis: to rid ourselves of the fleshly desires we have to find something we desire more than the desire we need to suffocate.
Allow me to explain: I used to love to sleep. We all need it. Of course. But, I really enjoyed my sleep. Then I had a baby. Suddenly, there was something I desired more than sleep–to take care of that little boy. I could actually survive without as much sleep (for a season!) because I had another desire driving me: the care of my baby. A greater affection replaced my previous love for sleep.
If your burning desire is for a better body, if your driven to do everything in your power to meet that goal and you know that’s what your heart meditates on in your solitude, let me encourage you today to find freedom through finding a new desire. Allow your desire for Jesus and the freedom he offers to out burn your desire to look better.