In my life, there has consistently been one area that I have begged Christ to help me find victory in, and that has been around the issues of food and body, or shorthand: body image. As it now is for pornography with men, so it is with body image for women- you will be hard-pressed to find one out of a hundred women who doesn’t struggle and who in some way has come to have disdain for her body because she just doesn’t believe it measures up. I have, over the past ten years or so, experienced small victories in this area, but they have been far from Olympic. In stops and starts, in tiny obediences, I am finding freedom. Ultimately I believe that the gospel of Christ has something to say about every issue that we as humans could ever deal with. Jesus is not clueless about how women feel about their bodies, and about our struggles. Hebrews 2:14 declares that Christ himself partook of flesh and blood. He knows our struggle most intimately.
As part of my journey in freedom, the Lord had me go through a fitness instructor training with a Nonprofit ministry called Revelation Wellness that longs to help women see their bodies holistically through the eyes of Jesus as they “move in love.” I am now certified to be a group fitness instructor, and I have started a business called Rebel Joy Fitness, LLC. I am brand spanking new at this, and nervous as anything. Still, as I read the pages of Salvation Accomplished by the Son, I started to clearly see how the saving event picture “Christ Our Victor” might speak to this struggle and this ministry God is launching me into.
It is my strong longing to help women walk in victory in this area and to boldly ask the question in light of the gospel: What are bodies for? Should we feel badly if we want to lose weight? Perhaps my greatest fear in this area of my life is wondering if God truly cares about issues of food and body. In my most scared moments, I ask: Am I separated from his love in this issue? Does he look at me and roll his eyes? There are some questions that seem far more easily answered. Does God care about children starving in Africa? Absolutely. Korean Pastors? You bet! Body image? I am starting to truly believe that yes, even in this area Christ is making victory for his people and will ultimately give us full victory. Romans 8:38 and on says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He knows me even in the darkest places of my self-obsession, including body image. This is a message that women longing to feel safe in their skin need to hear. If literally nothing can separate me from the love of God, not even my sins of self-obsession and fixation, I can trust him to meet me and these women I’m longing to help. He finds us, as he found people in the gospels, in that exact place of their deepest wounding, the places where they desperately needed victory. I know that Jesus is THE overcomer. Under his blood we are overcomers, not in some “hokey” everything is fine, rainbows and butterflies sort of way, but in a real mud and dirt and guts sort of way, in the everyday stuff of life. Christ came in the middle of our mess, and was victorious even in his death. It only served to lift him higher, to place him at the right hand of his Father! What a Savior!
On popular Christian radio there is a song about “overcoming” that while catchy, I find misleading. It seems to say that complete victory can come this side of heaven, and I’m not so sure. However, the fact that I’m not fully sanctified until I see Jesus face to face doesn’t depress me in the slightest. Rather, it pushes me to depend fully on Christ in an area where I so often attempt to be self-sufficient. I believe in some respect I will have a need for healing in the area of body image every day for the rest of my life, and that doesn’t mean that Christ has failed me. On the contrary, on an eternal level, and in some visible ways from day to day, I believe that my struggles with body image are under the feet of Christ (Eph 1:22). The lies that Satan tries to tell me about myself are under his feet. The number that the scale tries to tell me is how I should measure my worth is under the feet of Christ. There are indeed “spiritual foes more powerful than we whose bent is to destroy us (439).” It often feels like those foes will overtake me, but I am freed from the kingdom of self-obsession (Col 1:13-14), I have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ. Evil powers are subject to Christ, they are underneath Him and they cannot reach Him. His banner over me is love (Song of Solomon 2:4), and I don’t have to attempt to enhance my beauty for the sake of the world, because all my beauty is Christ, who has overcome the world. In line with this, Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” WOW. Do I really believe that? Satan, even in this area of my life, is disarmed. He can speak His lies, but I can speak the name of Christ my Victor, and find help and healing in my moment of need.
2 Corinthians 2:14 says perhaps the only thing more beautiful than even that Christ has triumphed over those who seek to put his people to shame. It reads, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” Not only does Christ, our victorious Lord– lead us in triumph– but also he uses us to spread the truth of who he is! I want to be a burning incense stick for Christ, spreading his victory everywhere that I go. In Rebel Joy Fitness I want to lead others into the presence of Christ, to worship him, to rely on him, to know that they are safe in him. Safe enough to bring their real junk and allow him to put it beneath his feet, where it belongs, covered by His victorious blood, not to be “picked up” again. He has taken victory over it. As the beautiful hymn It Is Well says, My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Much like the breathtaking words of that hymn, Ephesians 1:19-21 makes such a bold claim I can hardly fit it into my tiny brain: Christians have access to the mighty power of God. He longs to show us “the immeasurable greatness of his power.” I do truly believe I will see so much of that power in my life in this area and as I serve others, but first I must repent, and call other women to do the same. Under the sure victory of Christ, knowing I am safe in His love, I am called to repent of the ways I have tried to be my own “victor” in the area of body image and failed miserably. In my addiction with constantly trying to “fix” my body, I have made myself an idol. We have made ourselves little gods. In some ways, I have even created a religious system- one marked by rules (working out, eating or not eating certain things) as a way of me trying to “save” myself and make myself worthy in the eyes of others. This is not the way of Jesus. This is not true freedom. It’s captivity. I am stuck if all I have is any victory I can work up. It just will never work! I am much like Israel, who, as Longman and Reid (418) state, “Israel cannot boast in its own strength, but only in the power and might of the Lord, who gives victory in spite of overwhelming odds.”
Here is what I know: The odds in this area for me feel absolutely overwhelming. It seems overwhelming that Christ is calling me to minister to women through fitness in places were I have yet to find full healing. But the truth remains: Christ is a warrior for his people. He does battle and he never loses. Claire can do battle on her own, and she loses, always. The final victory, and all the little victories in-between are truly his and his alone. As I meditate on his incarnation, his sinless life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his session, Pentecost, his intercession, and his second coming, I see how in every possible way he has been and will be victorious. He cannot lose. The bliss of this thought: one day, I will be whole and holy, unbound by the chains of my struggle and sin with food and body. In the meantime, I am going to follow the Victor and spread his fragrance like a woman on a mission, grateful that he has entrusted me with such a joyful responsibility.