Body image is a common struggle for women.
We think we are too much or not enough. Too tall or too short. Too curvy or not curvy enough. Breasts that are too small, too saggy, too uneven. Hair that is too straight or too curly, too shiny or not enough shine. Big feet. Small feet. Too sturdy or too frail. Too fat, or not meaty enough.
Many of us have faced self-consciousness about some aspect of our bodies, whether it is due to a lack or an abundance.
My Body Image
I’ve certainly had my own struggles.
For me, it has been weight, klutziness, being too tall, and not having the right kind of wiggle. At some point, I told myself I had to stop caring. My body image was bringing me down too much. I told myself I didn’t care, and for the most part, I stopped stressing over it—except for any time I was reminded of how I didn’t measure up (like shopping clothes or trying to sit comfortably in a chair that was designed for someone with less substantial hips than mine).
It wasn’t just my body’s appearance, either. As I experienced physical changes over the years due to pregnancy, hormonal shifts, and general wear and tear, I often felt like I was betrayed by my own body. Faulty brain chemistry caused depression. Arthritis in my knees and lower back made movement uncomfortable and lessened my flexibility. Orgasm became elusive, I developed what I referred to as a mama bladder, and gravity assaulted my body. Periods and gynecological problems often dictated what I could do, and how, and when.
In every way, I knew that my body was not what it should be. In appearance and in function, my body was not enough.
Feelings of shame, failure, and inadequacy took up residence. Although they rarely were the center of my attention, they were always there on the mental back burner, never completely forgotten.
Even simmering on the back burner, my body image brought me down—and it dragged my marriage down with it.
Sex began to be difficult. I didn’t love my body, and I began to hide it from Big Guy. I avoided vigorous participation in activities that would remind me how jiggly I was.
My husband told me I was beautiful and sexy. Since I knew that this wasn’t true, his words made me think he was trying to butter me up so he could get sex. I seriously questioned his taste. Sometimes I even wondered how I could have chosen someone with such low standards that he would find even me sexy.
When we began to experience other challenges in our marriage, my body image made it all the easier to erect a wall right in the middle of our marriage bed.
Learning to Accept My Body
I didn’t consciously think about my body image—but it was woven into the bricks of that wall between us.
The barriers to intimacy with my husband reflected my barriers against my intimacy with God. The feelings of shame, failure, and inadequacy had sent me into hiding from both God and Big Guy.
Once I began to dismantle the wall I’d built between Big Guy and me, I had to face my body image issues. I had to learn to be vulnerable with my husband. After years of avoiding true intimacy, I had to learn to invite and embrace intimacy in body and heart.
Growth required me to become naked and unashamed in the marriage bed. First, I needed to become naked and unashamed in front of God.
As I considered how to do this, God reminded me of two important things.
First, He made me. God gave me the body I have.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
I haven’t done a great job of taking care of my body (although according to my doctor, I am making some progress in that area)—but my body is God’s design.
Furthermore, I am made in the image of God, no less than anyone else is.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
I was given this body by the One whose image I bear. My body is good.
I’d struggled with body image because the image I was comparing myself to was Cindy Crawford. When I think instead about the image of God, I know I am beautiful as God intended.
Second, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
My beauty comes not from how I look but from the spirit in me.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. Corinthians 6:19-20
I can honor God even in my imperfect body.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
I am His, and I bear His image. I can honor Him in this body by God.
In appearance and in function, I am His.
How had I ever thought I was anything less than beautiful?
Am I Sexy?
Accepting my body as beautiful in an image-bearing kind of way helped me counter most cultural messages about beauty. But feeling beautiful and sexy in my marriage bed? That was a whole other thing to work through.
Big Guy has always told me I’m beautiful and sexy. Although I didn’t feel that way, I made the choice to believe that he really thinks that about me.
At first, it was hard. All I could manage was to acknowledge that he was saying what husbands are supposed to say to their wives. I started to thank him when he would tell me I looked good.
But then I noticed something: his actions were consistent with his words. As I began to be more naked around him, I saw that his eyes would light up when they landed on me. When he was surprised by my nakedness, he sometime lost the power of speech.
I didn’t believe that I was beautiful or sexy, but I did believe that he thought I was. In fact, I believed it so much that I even let him do something I had never thought I would allow.
As much as I aim for transparency here, I do try to keep a veil around the specifics of our marriage bed. I am going to carefully lift the veil around one thing because it has been essential in believing that I am as beautiful and sexy as my husband has always said I am.
I want to tell you about two pictures I let Big Guy take of me.
One picture shows me standing in nothing but the body God gave me, in a saucy posture with a big smile on my face. I don’t like the way my body looks in the picture, but I DO love the smile. I love that I looked relaxed and confident as I saw my husband’s eyes as he gazed upon me. At that moment, I had absolutely no thought about what the world tells me sexy is. All I saw was that I was very sexy to the only person who matters. That picture reflects my response to my husband’s view of me. It is a picture of a moment when I stood in all my naked glory as my husband’s wife.
The other picture was taken when I was reaching for my husband sexually. The lighting was dim, so there are lots of shadows. The body parts I don’t like were hidden from view, and the visible curves showed sensuality and movement. This picture shows my body in the process of doing something sexual. I was using my body to bless my husband with pleasure. Others may look at me and think I’m an overweight middle-aged woman, but Big Guy and I know my real identity: super sexy amazing woman, giver and receiver of ultimate physical pleasure.
These two pictures show me gloriously as a wife. When I look at them I am reminded that in both appearance and function, I am a very sexy woman.
My God-given body reflects and honors God—and blesses both my husband and me.
What Brought Me Down Now Lifts Me Up
The body image struggle is not completely gone in my life, but I have conquered the worst of it.
My body’s appearance and function used to bring me grief. Now they help me move past the body image struggle.
In appearance and function, I am God’s—just as I should be.
And in appearance and function, I am a very sexy woman in my marriage bed—just as I should be.
When body image gets you down, consider your appearance and function.
Remember who made you, and why.
Picture yourself reflecting your husband’s desire for you and using your body to respond to that desire.
God gave you a body that bears His image and can be used to honor Him.
He also gave you a body that is sexy in your husband’s eyes—and that can be used to share the experience of exquisite physical pleasure.
You—in all your wifely glory—are beautiful and sexy, just as God intended.
Image credit nicubunu|freestockphotos.biz