Friday, December 16

I Pledge Allegiance to Their Standards (No Thanks)

The bath water was warm and inviting. A cup of chai tea sat on the edge of the tub. I wondered if I'd even drink it. Hot water on the outside of the body paired with more hot water poured into the inside is sometimes too much.

The door was locked and my laptop sat sturdy atop the hamper. A show would be nice. Time alone would be nicer.

Children aged nine and under were tucked in bed at the Bacon school-night standard time of 7:30 p.m. All was well. Chances of a knock on the door were slim to none, lest there be a fire or other emergency. Even then I'd question leaving this haven.

I sunk into the water like it was the day's saving grace. Why does warm water feel so good? So comforting?

In the womb, warm water comforts too. Maybe there's a connection, I thought.

As the flash of the laptop began to cast a blue-ish light on my skin, I notice the white streaks painted on my abdomen, hips, and legs. Stretch marks. I hadn't noticed them in a long time.

There were more than I remembered. The marks paved roads to places I didn't realize. The dark room paired with the glowing light made them stand out.


I don't make a habit of inspecting my body in front of the mirror or otherwise, so I just hadn't noticed or thought about them for some time.

Five pregnancies did this. 

Growth and life did this. 

I'm okay with this. 

I've never loved gushy words about embracing your stretch marks. I just don't think enough about them to actually devote time to embracing them.

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone care?

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone ever despise them?

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone attempt to cover them?

If it weren't for vanity's sake... a thought to investigate further.

I stopped using cocoa butter to stave off the stretch marks after my third pregnancy. Creams didn't stop them from coming anyways.

But the real reason I didn't slather my bulging belly with those magic potions any longer was because I was done trying to stop what my body naturally did as a response to the life growing in me.

Trying to stop a natural process from "ruining" my body was feeding my natural inclination to care too much about my appearance.

Here's the part where I say the words we aren't so happy to hear.

If we're struggling with despising our bodies or are desperate to look good, that's a form of pride.

I would know. For the last 16 years, I've struggled with the way my abdomen looks after growing and birthing babies. The marks don't bother me, but the shape of my body does at times.

Pride says, "I need to look better to be better. What I think and what others think about my body matters." 

Pride. It's one of the battles we face daily. It's one of the battles I find myself in more than others.

The American culture feeds this pride and internal battle of ours by shouting:

"You're not at your best unless you look your best."

Really? Says who?

"You don't need to look like you had a baby!"

Um, but I did. 

"Your body is your shining glory!"

No. Just no. This is false on so many levels.

Women apologizing for their bodies is an atrocity.

Women viewing their bodies as a god detracts from their love of God.

Women despising what growing a life does to the body takes away from one's appreciation of life itself.

Women spending the bulk of their time, money, and thoughts on their appearance, means little is left to serve and give to others.

What are our lives and our bodies for, but to be lovingly given away in service to God and others?

In love, not coercion.
In love, not fear.
In love, not guilt.
In love, not shame.

If God doesn't require our bodies to be perfectly aligned with the current culture's standards, then why should we invest our energy and resources to do so?

Can we not be of service to Him otherwise?

On the contrary. If we are worshipping the god of self and appearance, we are less useful to the kingdom. Our allegiance lies elsewhere.

Our worship.
Our attention.
Our standards are shifted from God to man.

When it's laid out like this, it stabs. But I think we need to lay it all out. We don't realize how we hinder God's work through us by staying focused on ourselves.

I wish we could snuff this problem out like we do a candle's flame, but it's not that easy. It takes time to change this way of thinking.

One prayer at a time.
One captured thought at a time.
One less jab aimed at ourselves at a time.
One day reading God's truth at a time.
One more abiding moment at a time.

Their standards are not the measuring tool.
Our value is fixed and unchanging according to God.

A zillion stretched out miles of life-giving skin does nothing to change that.