That upcoming beach vacation...
The high school reunion in a few weeks...
Your wonderful wedding day...
These amazing occasions are supposed to bring on excitement and happiness, but instead, they all too often bring on the anxiety and insecurities surrounding our bodies. It's sad to think that the thought of how we'll look at these events often overrides the joy we should be feeling about such happy moments.
And what usually comes next?
We sign ourselves up for painful sessions at the gym (no pain, no gain, right?), we under-eat and obsess over every calorie we put in our mouths, and we even try dangerous strategies like unhealthy shakes, powders, and pills that can be damaging to our health. But do any of these ever really solve the problem? I would argue NO.
Think about your car. If you were asked, "what makes your car move?" you might be tempted to answer "the wheels," but if your car stopped working, would you resolve the problem by only changing the wheels? Would you get fancier rims in the hopes that the car would start up again? Probably not.
So why do we approach our relationships with our bodies in this way?
Yes, of course the wheels on the car are important, but the engine and inner workings of the car are the true source of power that make the car do all the things we need it to do. So, just as food and nutrition are very important, God is the true source of power behind your body.
But all the influences around us today tell us we should skip right to the quick fixes in the most visible solutions. We see commercials on TV to lose a pound a day with this extreme diet, or look ten years younger with this quick-fix cream. It's like we are seeing our bodies as temples, BUT we are only focusing on the exterior, completely forgetting what's truly going on inside.
1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not on your own."
"Your body is a temple" has become a rather common phrase for Christians to use when referring to their bodies. It is important to note, however, that the context of this scripture is referring to not defiling your body with sexual sin, but the verse does help us remember why we do want to take great care of our bodies... "your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit." God's gift to us is the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We are truly not our own. Let's sit and really take that in for just a second.
It is so easy for all of us (Christians and non-Christians) to fall into the trap of worshiping our outer selves before our inner selves. When we neglect our inner temples, we fail to recognize all the perfection God has created in our bodies, and we can become misled to believe the secret to maintaining a healthy temple is going to the gym and avoiding eating doughnuts. This is thinking too little of what we truly are.
In society today, skinny culture and the praising of sex culture seem to go hand in hand everywhere we go. What we see in movies and on magazine covers has begun to shape the way we view our bodies... and it has led to damaging results. We spend countless hours thinking about how we're going to lose those 20 pounds we're not happy about, but we don't give as much thought to how we are maintaining our inner temple... the one made up of God's true presence within us.
The fact that keeping our bodies looking perfect is paired with this strong sex culture implies that tending to our outer selves is the only way in which we need to take care of the temples that have been given to us, and it doesn't really matter how we treat it on the inside. It is commonly thought that our physical shape will balance out what we lack internally, but that simply is not so. And that is why so many of us have found ourselves stuck when it comes to transforming our bodies... because it all starts with what lies deep within ourselves.
Our mentality on dieting needs to be flipped around. When we think what we see in the mirror is all we are, we fall victim to this idea that everything we see is "me." And because we think this, we think we can rely on fixing the little, visible things to transform ourselves. Like the car, we think we can just focus on the outer parts and, all of a sudden, the car as a whole will improve.
1 Corinthians 3:16 says, "Don't you yourselves know that you are God's temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" There is so much more behind what we see in the mirror... in fact, we ARE God's temple! God thinks so much of you that he made your body a dwelling place for HIS Spirit! If we think that focusing on the tiny details like calories, carbs, and pounds represents the entirety of this Spirit which we are lucky enough to possess, then we will only continue to find ineffectiveness in our current methods to fix the small things, and be left unfulfilled.
Have you ever noticed that when you're buying a gift for someone, you'll go to great lengths to make sure it's perfect? Doing things for other people has a way of making us put more care into it than when we do it for ourselves. So, what if you approached the way you treat your body as if you were doing it for God and the miraculous creation He put inside of you? What if instead of thinking in the self-serving way of calories and pounds, we thought in the selfless way of giving the best possible nourishment to the genius within us that keeps our hearts beating, keeps disease away from us, provides the chemicals we call love and happiness and joy to our brains, and gives us infinite potential to make our lives into whatever we want? What if we fall into this love for ourselves so deeply because we realize it's where God lives, that the superficiality of "skinniness" just fades away? Focusing on this bigger picture will provide greater benefits to your weight and overall health than the powerless forces of calories and body image could ever do.
If you have gone on and off diets in the past, today is the day to stop that discouraging cycle and begin to treat your body the way God would want you to treat "the temple of the Holy Spirit."
Here are some great questions to help you apply the principles above...
When you think about giving your body things that aren't nourishing, how is it reflecting the state you're in mentally?
Next time you think about wanting to be "skinny," how could you take the first step by improving your inner health before focusing on outer appearance?
Next time you hear negative self-talk inside your head about your weight or your worthiness, think about how you are treating your inner temple and how it is affecting you on the outside.
Whenever you feel the greatness of God in your life, how can you honor Him inside your body instead of devaluing Him to the outer condition of your body?
Instead of thinking less when it comes to your diet (fewer calories, less weight), how can you think more, like more appreciation for who made you or more of a duty to honor what lives inside you?
And above all else, remember that God loves you and wants what is truly best for you. Trust that He is your strength and source of hope in all things.
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