Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Lord Looketh on the Heart

A long time ago, I was paroozing through the internet world when I came across a blog. It was written by a wife and mother of many (let's call her "Jane" because my pregnant brain cannot remember diddly squat right now ;); she had been the victim of an accident which left almost her entire body burnt. Her appearance was different because of this - she had scars covering almost her entire body - and she experienced great pain doing normal, every day things like getting dressed, cooking dinner, showering, etc. I was touched by her faith and gratitude to Heavenly Father even in the face of such a trial. One thing that she said struck me deep into my heart and I've never forgotten it. She said:

"I am Jane. And I am not my body."

Later on she also said:

"As women we want to be beautiful and attractive. And I struggle with that. But I also know that it is not everything."

"Body image" has been on my mind a lot of recent. This pregnancy has brought with it a slew of comments (mostly unwanted comments) regarding my physical appearance. One evening I came home from running some errands. Hunter and I fed the kids and finally lulled them off to sleep - we sat down together and were just catching up on each other's days. He asked me how my day was and I thought about it for a moment and described that I was feeling quite upset because of some "unwanted comments" that people had made in regards to my body:

"Wow, you are so huge! Are you sure your due date is right?! Your belly is hanging SO FAR out there!" 

and

"Oh my goodness your boobs are so giant right now! Have you noticed?!"

A giant sized wave of emotion came over me and tears came to my eyes. It was not the first time I had experienced a day like this; it seemed like it was becoming more and more frequent every single time I left the house. And I was (and am) so over it. I decided that evening that, in an attempt to fend off at least some upsetting comments, I would discontinue telling people my due date.

Side note: I have loved not telling people my due date, and one day I would love to share my experience with that. But in hopes of staying focused on one issue at a time, I'll save that for later ;). 

While the comments made to me were rude and intrusive (although they were made with good intent) the part that upset me the most about them is that it felt to me that all anyone ever cared to discuss with me was my physical body. I felt that everything that was most important (my spirit, my heart, my feelings) had all but disappeared behind my body, which those around me were so determined to discuss and comment on every. single. time. anyone saw me.

I felt like saying: 

"Hey! I'm still in here, ya know!"

a visit to the dino museum with my boys when I was about 6 months pregnant with baby #3


While the unwanted comments have increased since being pregnant, I also experienced this before pregnancy. After having Beckum (my second) my tummy never really returned to it's original appearance. At least once a week someone would say to me: 

"Hey, when are you due? Nice baby bump!"

And I would smile and say: 

"I'm not actually pregnant."

And then they would awkwardly and painfully sputter, stammer and sometimes even trip over their own feet in horror at what they had just said and say something like:

"Oh. Well you look beautiful still!"

And I would smile again and say something along the lines of:

"Thanks, I feel awesome." 

Before I even ever had children I remember during a "pudgy" stage in my life when I was around 11 years old an individual saying to me: 

"You sure have gained a lot of weight! You look like you are SIX months pregnant!" 

Then when I slimmed out and grew into my body (and grew out of my "tom-boyishness") and figured out how to brush my hair and teeth and shower on a regular basis, the majority of comments made to me were: 

"Wow, you have such a great body! You are so beautiful!"  

For so, so long during my teenage years I was trapped in the belief that my worth was completely attached to my body. When I lost a few pounds, the comments would flood in: 

"Wow! You are looking so skinny and beautiful!" 

And so I soon began to realize that people flooded me with compliments whenever I changed my body (which, trust me, I rarely did in a healthy way). I found that all other successes I had - emotional, spiritual, etc - were usually ignored entirely by my peers or mentors. 


I'm not saying that trying to have a healthy body is a bad thing; it is not, it is a wonderful thing and I believe with my entire soul that my Heavenly Father wants so much for me to have a healthily functioning body. Because He knows that having a healthy body is important He gave divine instruction through a prophet regarding how to have a healthy body (the Word of Wisdom is its name and you can learn more about that by clicking the link here). The Word of Wisdom offers a guide on what foods to avoid completely, what foods are healthful, and what foods should be consumed sparingly. I've looked through the Word of Wisdom and nowhere does it say:

"Thou shalt have a size 0 body." 

or

"Thou shalt have a thigh gap."

or

"Thou shalt have a perfect body mass index."

or

"Thou shalt have abs of steel."

or

"Thou shalt not have a pregnant belly that measures larger than the average pregnant belly." 

or

"Thou shalt have perfectly sized, 'c' cup breasts." 

or

"Thou shalt be big boned and heavy set." (Which I insert for all of my friends who get "skinny shamed" for having tiny bodies.)  

You can pretty much add almost any body image trend to the above list and correctly assume that it is NOT contained in the Word of Wisdom

In some of the most important teachings from Jesus Christ, the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:3-12 & Luke 5:20-23), there are no statements that instruct becoming more like the Savior through physical and outwardly attributes either. 



And why does this matter? Because it tells us what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ care about vs. what the WORLD cares about.

The world cares about our outward appearance, and quite often disregards the inward. 

Our Savior and Father in Heaven care about our inward happiness and health, and never focuses on a specific body type or physical attribute.

1 Samuel 16:7 says: 

"...the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily believe that it is a sin to comment to someone on their physical appearance. Just the other day, I was a sweaty, hot mess wrangling two kids, a babe in my belly that was insistent on jamming her little feet into my ribs, also pushing a cart heaping full of groceries in +33 weather and a kindly friend walked by me and shouted "You're looking beautiful, Megan!". It was an encouragement to me that maybe no one else was noticing my sweaty forehead and sweaty pit stains on my shirt. And I so appreciated that. 

But maybe there are also many occasions when we can shift our focus from a physical one to an emotional, spiritual or "inward" one. 

Maybe we should think twice before saying to the insecure and easily influenced teenage girl:

"Wow, you are looking so skinny and beautiful today!" 

or

"Wow, you have the most beautiful body, have you lost weight recently?"

Maybe we should reconsider before complaining about all the parts of our bodies that we hate (especially in front of a young girl). Saying things like:

"Oh, if only I didn't have these ugly legs, arms, butt, boobs, etc." 

sends a strong message to those around you about what you care about and what is important in life. 

Maybe we should refrain from obsessing over weight loss techniques especially in front of the younger generations who are looking to us for cues on what things are the most important in life.

Maybe that pregnant lady with the awe-inspiringly huge belly has heard many, many, many times already how "big" her body/belly/boobs look and would so love it if you instead said something like:

"How was your week?"

or

"What is new in your life?"

or 

"How is your family doing?"

I have come a long way from my insecure, teenage years. And I am grateful that I feel my Savior's perfect and unconditioned love for me when I remember the words "I am not my body." Because I am not only a body; I have a heart and feelings and a spirit. 

And I hope that some insecure, teenage girl or boy who may or may not be struggling with an eating disorder, 
or some achy pregnant mama who has just heard the ninetieth comment on her body, 
or some any aged woman or man whose life is controlled by diets and obsessions with having a different body,
or some tired and pain riddled man or woman whose body is overcome by illness or injury or failings in their body,
can remember those words too. You are not just your body; you are so, so much more than that. We are children of God who loves us perfectly. Our Heavenly Father and Savior show us that perfect love by "look[ing] on the heart". I believe that we can also try to emulate their love more perfectly by showing ourselves and those around us that perfect love and avoiding the temptation to obsess over our physical appearance.

"...the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

     






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