I’ve got some great news for us all right now. Ready? Here it goes: we are not defined by our bodies. I know that seems like a very basic statement, but do we realize how much this rules our lives? Looking at magazine covers it’s a litany of: lose weight, retain your beauty, how to be sexy, lose more weight, blah blah blah. The models in these magazines are skinny (and wonderfully photo-shopped–wish I knew that when I was a teenager) and happy and adventurous and NOT REAL. The magazines for men aren’t much better, I assume. Men appear with hairless rippling chests, regal, chiseled faces crowned with lots of non-grey hair, all wearing confident smiles flanked by adoring ladies (and probably a fancy car or something in the background). Every commercial we watch, every movie we see reinforces this impossible standard. And it doesn’t stop there. Are you smart? Are you creative? Does your home look immaculate and artistic? Are you athletic? Every day our culture tells us we aren’t smart enough, creative enough, skinny enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, exciting enough, active enough, and the list goes on. Ironically it trumpets the very things we really have no control over–nobody picks their DNA.
Growing up as a non-believer, I struggled to understand from where my value came. Now understand this, I was a skinny, popular girl who was at the top of her class. And I felt a huge, terrifying fear that one day someone would see through my act and see who I really was. I lost sleep over it. You see, in my deepest heart, I was afraid I was nothing. I was afraid that I couldn’t be loved because I had nothing of real value to offer. Being somewhat pretty and smart wasn’t enough. In college, I read a book about a man who came to know Christ. He spoke of the beauty of being loved and the feeling of God’s presence. Even though this man was kicked out of his house, he was so in love with Christ that he couldn’t, wouldn’t give it up. I remember finishing that book. I was by myself in my dorm room and it was getting dark; everyone else had gone to dinner. I knew that this man had what I wanted. What I needed. Love. Value. Purpose. I was sold out 100%. If this was the truth–I wanted all of it and I wanted it now.
I admit that for the first couple of years I transferred my idea of value from physical things to spiritual things in a way that God does not intend. Instead of measuring myself by beauty and intelligence, I measured myself by spiritual discipline and Bible knowledge. I read, I fasted, I prayed, I evangelized. I also failed pretty miserably because try as I might, I still wasn’t good enough. I hit my low spot in Papua New Guinea as I told you before when I realized that I didn’t really make a good Christian. And I was amazed when God communicated that this really wasn’t what He was looking for anyway. He wanted me, not some glorified idea of the model Christian. He would take me as I am and then free me to be who I was really meant to be. A person with talents in various areas and many weaknesses in others, but still valuable. Not because I performed. Not because I produced. Because I was.
So that brings us again to the good news. You are more than your list of attributes or faults. You have an identity in Christ that cannot be touched. Ephesians 1:3-14 lists off this identity in beautiful detail, but here are the highlights.
- blessed (God has good plans for you with your best in mind.)
- chosen (You aren’t a cast off, but were specifically chosen by Him. He wants you.)
- adopted (You belong to Him. You are the Beloveds and He is yours.)
- redeemed (Your sins, your weaknesses, and those bad choices you’ve made can be turned into something beautiful by His beautiful power.)
- forgiven (You no longer have to carry the burdens of your sin any longer–they are taken care of.)
- heirs (You have a future and it’s better than anything this Earth has to offer.)
- sealed (Nothing can take this away from you–it’s yours forever, and it’s not going to decay or get broken.)