Excerpt was taken from If You Could See as Jesus by Elizabeth Oates with permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Women are strange creatures. We sit around comparing and contrasting different body parts with one another as if this body bashing will somehow result in a magical transformation.
“You’re so much skinnier than me.”
“Whatever. You got the good hair. It’s so much thicker than mine.”
“Yeah, but you have the rockin’ booty. I go to boot camp three times a week, and I still don’t look like Beyoncé.”
“Stop whining. I’d kill to have your abs. I do crunches every night, and my tummy always looks like I’m three months postpartum.” The list goes on and on and on.
Back to the movie Mean Girls. (Can you tell I really like this movie? I’m a sucker for anything Tina Fey.) In one particular scene, Lindsay Lohan, who plays Cady Heron, a homeschooled student transplanted from Africa to the United States, realizes this wicked game American girls play with one another. She watches with a bewildered look on her face as her friends, aka “the Plastics,” tear themselves apart in the mirror.
“My hips are huge!”
“Oh, please. I hate my calves.”
“At least you girls can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders.”
Cady hesitantly walks toward her frenemies while the monologue running through her head quips, I used to think there was just fat or skinny, but apparently there’s a lot of things that can be wrong on your body.
So it seems, Cady. So it seems.
AS JESUS SEES … YOU
I recently talked with a friend, Martha Kate, who battled anorexia for twelve years. Martha Kate is compassionate, brave, and kind; and most importantly, she is a survivor.
“The first time I became conscious of my body, I was three years old. I was taught what a diet was and how to do it. I was taught we could control how we looked. When I was five I was called ‘fat’ on the playground. From then on I was very conscious of how I looked and how other people looked,” remembers Martha Kate. “In the fifth grade, I began controlling what went in and out of my body. From age ten until my junior year in college, I battled with food and exercise and restricted what I ate.
For more related reading on childhood taunting and bullying:
“During those twelve years of battling anorexia, there was lots of negative self-talk and lies. I basically had a tape of lies playing on repeat in my head: ‘You’re ugly. You’re not worth it. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not thin enough.’ All that negative self-talk affected how I ate, what I ate, how I exercised, what I wore, how I did my makeup, who I interacted with, how I interacted with them. It affected how I lived my life,” she recalls.
Fortunately for Martha Kate, she knew her eating disorder had a tight grip on her, and she eventually sought therapy. “I joined RUF [Reformed University Fellowship] and heard this sermon, and it just clicked how Jesus loved broken people. I had always thought that meant other people. But I finally realized Jesus loved me even though I was messy and broken.
“Someone once told me, ‘It’s okay that you’re not okay, because Jesus is better than being you being better than everyone else.’ That became my motto. I don’t have to be pretty enough or thin enough. Jesus is enough for me. From that moment on, I embraced grace. Things changed in my head. It wasn’t an overnight process, but slowly I was able to embrace grace and leave my eating disorder behind. And once I understood the Gospel was about grace and Jesus was about grace, it was okay if I messed up. It was okay if I wasn’t perfect, because Jesus paid it all, and my works and my striving to be perfect didn’t add anything to what Jesus did on the cross.”
Can you relate to Martha Kate’s story? Can you relate to her struggle to see herself as Jesus sees, through His lens of beauty? Once she did, she experienced such grace and freedom. If you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of beauty, how would it change you? How would it affect your self-image? Would you spend less time in the gym and more time in prayer? Would you spend less time in front of the mirror and more time reflecting on His Word?
Now that we have discussed what beauty is not and we have defined what true beauty is, take a few moments to write down what your life would look like if you could truly embrace God’s view of your internal and external beauty. (Use the few questions above to get you started.)
AS JESUS SEES … YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Someone once told me, “Treat every person you meet not as a stranger, but as a soul.” If we neglect our own souls, how can we nourish some- one else’s? If we are not treating ourselves with kindness and compassion, how can we extend empathy to someone else?
When we criticize ourselves, we belittle others. When we focus on our flaws, we see the weaknesses in others. However, if you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of beauty, how would this affect your relationships? Could you peer into your sister’s heart and find her inner beauty instead of focusing on her outer shell? Could you appreciate your colleague’s work ethic instead of berating her shortcomings?
Scripture tells us that the world will know we follow Jesus Christ by the way we treat others: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” ( John 13:35).
Think of the tidal wave of change that could occur if we channeled all our beauty-focused energy into loving and supporting one another. Take some time to write down any people in whom God is calling you to find true beauty. Ready. Set. Go be that tidal wave.
AS JESUS SEES … YOUR COMMUNITY
At a recent Bible study, a friend said that we are called to live out our purpose right where we are. Then she posed this question: “Where are you every day? Are you at the grocery store? Are you at work? Are you at home?” Wherever you are on a daily basis, that’s your community. Those are your people. You might not know them intimately, but that girl who bags your groceries every day needs to know she is beautiful. Your three-your-old daughter needs to know she is precious. Your mother who is dying of cancer needs to know she is radiant. Yet how can we look these women in the eye and convince them of their own beauty if we don’t accept the truth that God created us with this same inner and outer beauty?
If you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of beauty, how would it affect your community? Based on our definition of true beauty and knowing how we can live out our beauty, how would you be able to minister to those whom you encounter on a daily basis? Take a moment to answer this question.
AS JESUS SEES … YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
During a tornado warning, while most of our friends were hunkered down in hallways and pantries and bathrooms, we took our chances and watched the movie Heaven Is for Real with our children.
In between all the complaining—“This is boring” and “This is creepy”—we actually enjoyed it. Making memories, I tell ya.
My favorite part of the movie is when the little boy, Colton, is in heaven and Jesus approaches him and takes his hand. For just a split second, I tried to imagine what that moment will be like when the Savior of the world, who died for you and for me, walks up to me, looks me in the eyes, and takes my hand. I could hardly catch my breath.
King Solomon wrote to his bride, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7). I think Jesus would say the same thing about us. There is no flaw in us because God created us. So let me tell you, friend, you are altogether beautiful. There is no flaw in you.
If you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of beauty, how would it change your relationship with your Creator? Using this verse or any other part of the chapter as your guide, take some time to journal your thoughts.