I’ve dug my heels in. But I may not be winning.
I make a conscious, daily effort to take a stand against the cultural norms of our day in the area of body image. Yep, that’s me: middle-aged, suburban rebel. Americans worship youth and beauty, thereby shackling women (in particular) with concern over their appearance. We pay thousands of dollars, and spend countless hours, “managing” our bodies as measured in pounds lost, grays dyed, wrinkles stretched/treated/injected, breasts implanted, cellulite extracted, teeth whitened, and the like.
I want something different for my daughters and the young gals for whom I lead Bible study.
My fair skin has been ravaged by sun damage: I’m wrinkled beyond my years and scarred from removing multiple Basal Cell cancer lesions. My brown mop has enough gray hairs in it that nobody can mistake them for ‘highlights’ anymore. My teeth are anything but brilliant white. I’m over 40 and overweight.
And sometimes all of that undermines my confidence, when surrounded by the features of my slender, tanned or blond female peers. Our society values those physical attributes more than the ones God gave me genetically. In today’s American culture, the ones I posses are not regarded as beautiful.
Why did God make me this way?
This was my child’s lament in the throes of algebra-induced frustration. I tried (unsuccessfully) not to cry, too; I ache for it to be different for her.
Despite her struggle, she acknowledges God’s power to cause a change in her abilities. Yet, she was, to some degree, blaming Him; her comment indicts God for not allowing it to come easily for her.
I am powerless to change this for her. I know that God can, yet to this point has chosen not to. I felt my role was to help lead her to see what God was accomplishing in and through it. When I asked what she thought, she came up empty. I reminded her that God made her perfectly, wonderfully (Psalm 139:14), and shared with her what I have observed:
For more than six years, on and off, I’ve been battling an injury to my left foot. As someone who classifies herself as a runner, this has been a major disruption to my singular choice of physical activity. I have pursued multiple interventions: rest (temporary and prolonged), chiropractic, oral and injected anti-inflammatories, boot immobilization, taping, and physical therapy. While each mitigated the effects, none corrected the problem completely.
That’s because I continue to cause the problem with my biomechanics. My stride is shorter on my right foot than on my left so, over many miles, I spend a disproportionate amount of time on the left, resulting in stress that mimics a fracture. The only long-term solution is to retrain my gait. As a human born with Adam’s sin, my relationship with God is dysfunctional apart from the sacrifice of Christ. After trusting in Him for my salvation, His Spirit begins the work of sanctification in my life: reshaping my spiritual gait. The lessons I’ve learned from running while retraining my gait had striking similarities to the process of spiritual formation.
I have had multiple running comrades over the years. Some of them have near-flawless form and rarely suffer injuries. Their good form didn’t rub off on me; I had to do the work. My fellow sojourners play a role in my salvation by sharing the truth of the gospel and inspiring me to mature in my faith. But I am not saved by their words or proximity to them: I must square my accounts with God myself through Christ.
My right adductor is weak, allowing my right foot to turn out. As a result my stride is shortened, which in turn has permitted my hamstring to tighten up. My efforts to keep my feet parallel are fatiguing my puny little adductor and causing intense stretching in my hamstring. Bringing my life into conformity with Christ stretches and reshapes my mind and heart. I surrender habits, thought patterns, language and maybe even suffer the loss of some friendships when I pursue God with all I am.
I have to focus my mental energy on every step I take. When my mind wanders, my wayward right foot goes with it. I must continuously and deliberately place my plantar with every turnover. My natural gait is defective and detrimental to my health. Similarly, my sinful nature is corrupt and costs me my life in eternity apart from Christ. Though I can do nothing to earn the gift He gave, I can strive to live a redeemed life that gives Him the glory. It will require effort and a continual submission to His will and the instruction His Word offers.
It’s about progress, not perfection:
My gait will never be perfect. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), but my body suffers under the curse of a fallen world. Every degree of improvement I make to my stride will garner me more steps that aren’t as prone to injury. Though I will never attain perfection this side of heaven, I know that with every step I move closer to Christ, He is honored and more visible in me.
It requires perseverance, but is profitable:
It will take a long time to have the new gait feel natural instead of alien. My body was designed with the capacity for running, but my form must be true to the design to avoid injury. I must be dedicated in my effort: giving up would only end in further injury, robbing myself of something I was meant to enjoy. If I persevere, the result will be less pain in my foot. Likewise, I can continue to live according to my flesh and never look any different than one who doesn’t know Jesus. But He meant for me to know and experience the abundant life of a believer abiding in Him transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12). What greater gain could there be?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
— Hebrews 12:1-3
Let’s run! I’ll see you out there…
Thanks to Beholding Glory for hosting the link up!