Taking a one day break from our “one word” series to share with you this great and timely (for Easter) piece from my friend Brittany at Devotion Everyday. You really need to read this and then check out her blog. Great words! (And pretty pictures too, she’s a photographer!) Today she tackles the struggle with being “fearfully and wonderfully made” as referenced in the Psalms. I’ve blogged about my own struggle on that topic in this post. Read Brittany’s impactful perspective right here.
I think my daughter is beautiful.
There’s a bit of irony in me saying that. Why? Because she looks just like me. And most days, I don’t think the same of myself.
Unlike my five-year-old daughter, my mind has been conditioned to be blind to my own beauty while seeing brightly the beauty of the younger version of myself.
Life experiences. Magazines. Harsh words. They’ve all contributed to my beauty blindness.
I’m afraid to speak on stage because a girl in middle school told me I talked funny. I worry about my body because a boy in 9thth grade told me I was “flatter than a two-year-old bottle of Coke.” And my acne, which has followed me well into my 30s, makes me look down nearly every time I’m faced with a mirror or another person.
Still, the harshest words came from someone I once loved: my high school and college sweetheart whom I once believed I would marry. Looking back, there was just one problem with that: he didn’t like my body. Or at least that’s how he made me feel.
For years after I ended that relationship, there were seven words I drew up nearly ever time I looked in a mirror. The words were often the first he’d say when he called long distance to my college apartment. It wasn’t, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” It was, “Did you go to the gym today?”
Those words always cut like a knife. I went to college on a mountain; just walking the hundreds of stairs to class each day was a workout in and of itself. Even then, amidst my incredibly busy college schedule, I managed to make it to the gym most days, not because I wanted to but because I felt pressured to, as if I wasn’t good enough without it.
The challenges with my own self-image only grew harder as I became more embroiled in that relationship and the family ties associated with it. As a teen, I was diagnosed with a hormonal disorder that doctors said could make it difficult for me to have children, and very well could prevent me from having them at all. My ex-boyfriend’s mother assured him that no one would judge him if he wanted to walk away from his potentially infertile girlfriend. Ouch.
These are all examples of my personal body image journey, and I know I’m not alone. We are all conditioned to believe that the way others view us – from the media to our loved ones to ourselves – is who we truly are.
But if we truly believe we are made in God’s image, is diminishing our own unique beauty not an insult to His handiwork?
Psychologists say we are born with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we develop is learned. Is not the same also true of our insecurities, worries and perceptions? The good news is that any fear, insecurity and worry we’ve learned can in turn be unlearned.
That ability to unlearn, to recondition, is a gift God calls each one of us to use, whether our struggle is with body image, addiction, sin or the like:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
As we are in the final days leading up to Easter, I’m reminded of the disciple Peter, one of Christ’s chosen few who just happened to deny his Savior three times before the cock crowed on Black Friday. After Jesus’ death, Peter retreated back to his fishing career. I have to imagine that the daily sound of the cock’s crow in the morning conditioned Peter’s mind to feel shame and regret for having denied the Son of God.
But oh, how I love Jesus, because He doesn’t allow the story to end there. He raises from the dead and returns to give Peter a second chance to affirm his faith. He asks of Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Each time, Peter assures Him of his love. I’m not sure if the timing here is significant or not, but I love the fact that if you back up a couple of verses, you notice the disciples were eating breakfast. Could it be that the cock crowed in this moment as well? It’s purely speculation, but I have to wonder if from that point on, the cock’s crow was no longer a reminder to Peter of his failure, but rather of his resurrected life in Christ.
Jesus reconditioned Peter’s mind to prepare him for His will, and now, generations later, He does the same for us.
You may struggle with body image or an internal insecurity, or you may struggle with comparing your body, goals or accomplishments with that of friends or colleagues. But in God’s Kingdom, you’re only compared to one person: the person He intended for you to be.
We condition our bodies; should we not also recondition our thoughts? How might Christ help you with your personal struggles today, to recondition your “cock’s crow” to see His goodness, His perfect plan for your life?
One of the spiritual practices I’ve developed over the past year is praying Psalm 139 three times per day. Not only is it the basis for my blog, DevotionEveryday.com; it’s a reminder that even in our darkest places, we can never get away from the presence of God. It’s also a reminder that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that our finite minds cannot even begin to comprehend God’s love for us. For me, it’s how I’ve reconditioned the negativity of my past and discovered the beauty that only God sees in me.
What step can you make today to recondition your thoughts? Would you join me today in beginning to pray Psalm 139 daily? Making a spiritual practice of praying this Psalm will not only recondition your mind, it will help root your true beauty, your true identity in Christ. That’s where true beauty is found, even though it’s completely contrary to what the world would have us believe.
What I discovered applies equally to each and every one of us created in God’s image. He thinks the same of me as I think of my own daughter: My heavenly Father thinks I’m beautiful.
Brittany Ballenstedt is a journalist, lifestyle photographer, military wife and mom to active children under age 5. A born storyteller, Brittany blogs to help others turn their everyday routine into a devotion to God. To learn more about living out Psalm 139 in your everyday, visit her blog at www.DevotionEveryday.com.