She is more than a body…

My youngest sister stares at picture books and compares her thick, well-muscled frame to the bean-pole ballerinas and wishes she was thinner. The blind, unquestioning hunger in her desire makes me feel sick.

Yet when I sit on my computer and look at ravenously gorgeous, curvy lingerie models, and wish desperately to be more beautiful, I rationalize it. That’s freedom from cultural standards. That’s what diverse beauty looks like. That’s what art looks like. Come on America, let’s respond to Victoria Secret’s sexualized beauty with more sexualized beauty!!

(Have we ever stopped to think that maybe, the answer to fantasized, airbrushed lingerie models isn’t to post more diverse lingerie models? Consider just not taking commercialized photos of women in their underwear. Novel concept.)

I am overwhelmed by our cultures lopsided emphasis on sensuality–even in the bold, possibly laudable attempts currently popping up on every newsfeed–the #imnoangel and facets of the Dove campaigns, to normalize many different types of outward appearance, the focus of everything is still physical, sexual beauty. Human beauty is so much more nuanced and subtle and vast. It can’t always be captured in a photograph, or video. Sometimes it comes in packages that are scarred and vaguely unattractive. It’s always really, really complicated.

This summer, a friend commented, “We forget the intrinsic beauty of a soul, and the fact that a soul somehow shines through something physical, and makes a shell that might not otherwise be attractive…somehow, attractive. Some of the most beautiful women I’ve known weren’t necessarily what you would call physically attractive. It’s complicated like that. Because people are complicated.”

I wrestle every day with feeling unattractive. I think most girls do. But it stopped mattering so much this year when I realized that those emotions, and in some ways, that reality, couldn’t stop me from being beautiful. The people who loved me usually don’t notice the things I hate about myself, and if they do notice them, they have too much grace to care.

There’s a subtle, important difference in proclaiming, “My body is beautiful” and saying “I am beautiful”. I want the confidence to say that when I slather thick layers of foundation on to hide the scars and marks I dread so much. I want the grace of Christ to show my best friend how radiant she is when all she can do is compare our dress size. I need the honesty to tell my little sister that yes, she won’t ever fit the ballerina mold, but that doesn’t keep her from being one of the most jaw-dropping, shining lionhearts I’ve ever encountered.

Let’s stop acting like we’re just cadavers, please. This is my heart…

To my sisters

Baby girl
You are a beautiful soul
Whole, each piece wrapped around this slice
Of flesh, that the world will sexualize and
Dichotomize and tell you to flaunt
Or hide, according to their current whim
To celebrate, embrace or generally plaster
Their minds with your allure, failing to master
The simple concept of your essence
Preciousness, not slut to be pasted everywhere
In the name of beauty, equalized, your
Consciousness exploding past their small
Stereotypes, as something to be treasured
Worth loving in the wholeness of your being
Regal. Soul. Spanning eternity with your
strength and kindness, grace rupturing
into infinite beauty transcending all their words
And size two (size X) boxes. Baby girl,
You are beautiful, precisely because
Some parts of your body are not. And this is grace
That we are made
Of shattered categories, loved in unity
Under the stars of forever, grace, to see
A piece of God in brokenness
What privilege.
Beautiful, precious human being.

4 thoughts on “She is more than a body…

  1. So true, Marli. Reminds me of the quote, possibly from C.S. Lewis, that people are not bodies with souls, but rather souls with bodies. This is why I personally hesitate from talking about or describing people strictly by what they look like- people are so much more than their outer appearance, whether that be attractive to anyone or not. And I think when we fall into the trap of focusing on that appearance, we cheat ourselves of the chance of learning from and about the complex, beautiful and broken creation that another person is.

  2. Oh how I wish we could teach little girls that looking like the women in magazines is not something to be desired. To be healthy and whole with an educated and thinking brain that can reason out side of hormones and emotions. That is to be desired. To seek after what God wants for their life. Yes, that is the goal.

  3. Your baby sister’s sweet round cheeks are part of her infectious, endearing smiles. She came to our world, round. That’s how we know her. She looks healthy, in the best way possible. That she loaths the thing I love about her breaks my heart, a grandmother’s heart. Is that how God feels, do you suppose? Is he sad when he sees us loath the very thing he loves most about us? The things that we wish could vanish from our lives but have contributed to building our character, our compassion for others, our passion for serving at the foot of the cross. Satan makes a mockery and a lie out of every good gift God has given us. Fight the good fight, little daughters. The pressure never lets up. I’m in my third tremester, God willing, and the message is still about being your most “beautiful” self. I pray that my soul is the thing that shines through in all of this. Stay strong in the Lord!

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