Reflecting God’s Design for Radiant Womanhood
For a moment, I studied the beauty that stood before me. The feathery brushstrokes, the pastel hues, the way light and movement were perfectly expressed on the canvas. Artwork lined the expansive gallery walls, and I was transported from the bustling Denver art exhibit to the water lily gardens in France once belonging to Claude Monet.
A dear friend who shares an uncharacteristic excitement for fine art accompanied me to get lost in Monet’s vast canvases that contained so much more than the classic water lily scenes I had grown up remembering him for. There were jaunty windmills from the Netherlands, peaceful scenes of the watery Seine, and the accurate blanket of smog that all but covered London Bridge. Many times, the masterful skill paired with unparalleled beauty evoked a wonder-filled response. Wow. Overwhelming beauty brought unscripted praise!
Beholding the work of the masters makes you feel like you’ve witnessed something memorable, something valuable, something worthy of respect and praise. Which led me to think — a work of art always points to its creator, and when you know who put pen to paper, clay to wheel, or brush to palette, you gain a greater appreciation for the masterpiece itself.
The Master’s Hand
In the same way, earth is a masterpiece of planetary proportions, formed and fashioned by the Master’s hand. Our Creator stretched out the heavens like a curtain, assigned the sea its limit, and designed each animal with creative flourish. But the crowning glory of creation was when the Almighty decided to leave an indelible proof of His existence and created man in His own image as an expression of who He was and is. And, we are told, it was very good. (See Genesis 1:27, 31.)
We are the work of His hands, yet our own hands have vandalized what God called good. When humanity sinned, we forever marred His beautiful design and fractured our world and everything in it … including the way we view ourselves. When it comes to body image, it often feels like we are walking down a hall of cracked mirrors — touring a distorted, dysfunctional gallery in our mind that contains a mismatched collection of abstract paintings with no symmetry or congruence.
Have you ever had these thoughts?
I’m too short.
If only I were two jean sizes smaller.
I’m painfully awkward in social situations.
No one will want me because of who I am or how I look.
I, too, have had similar thoughts, but God’s truth remains clear in spite of our warped view. His Word proclaims that, “…we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, emphasis added).
Picture with me a nimble weaver at her loom, skillfully twining threads together in a specific pattern to create a marvelous tapestry that depicts a singular image. The completed tapestry is her workmanship, ready to fit the purpose for which she intended. In like manner, we are God’s workmanship — His masterpiece.
Yet instead of beautifully bearing the image of God through our earthen tapestries, we defaced the image of God through our disobedience. The image we were created to display was damaged. It’s now as if we stand as broken mirrors in need of a Savior — reflecting a shadow of His original intent, but not the full expression. Our bodies and minds have warped because of sin’s decay. And part of that decay is found in the ways we, as the creation, question our Creator.
God warned His people in ancient times about the danger of questioning His all-wise design, saying, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! … Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ … Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’ ” (Is. 45:9–10).
It’s as if God was giving His people a picture of a lump of clay raising its earthen fist to question the wisdom of the Potter’s intentions. We are prone to doing the same thing, wondering why God made us the way He did, questioning the fabric of our femininity, despising the bodies He entrusted us to steward, or harming that which He desires to indwell. May we remember this truth at all times when viewing ourselves: “…the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us … He is the painter, we are only the picture.”
He is the Artist, we are the painting. Or, as God’s Word says, He is the Potter, we are the clay. So, how does clay begin to reshape its thinking with the perfect ways of its creator rather than its earthen perspective?
God’s Word gives us unique insight into this question. It says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him … they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Rom. 1:21, 25 ESV).
Even though people had a deep knowledge of God, they forgot a few things that ended up being detrimental to how they viewed Him and, subsequently, themselves.
Truth was exchanged for lies.
Honor for God was extinguished.
Gratitude was not practiced.
I firmly believe that if our thinking is restored with truth, honor, and praise, then the way in which we view the canvas of our bodies will be restored as well. Let’s uncover three important steps to seeing ourselves as God does.
NO. 1 Knowing our Maker
Recently, while participating in a fitness class, my ears perked up when I heard a seemingly encouraging comment from the instructor, “You are infinite.”
Wait a minute, I thought. My heart quickly corrected what I had just heard. My God is infinite; I am most certainly not, as this workout is quickly proving! It may have seemed harmless, but I knew that the comment undermined the truth about God and, therefore, the truth about myself.
When it comes to a fractured body image, the fault line stems from not having a proper knowledge of God. This is where a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus and His Word will provide both beauty and strength to a woman of God. No matter how we feel, we must purpose to remain close to what the Bible says is true. When there is a lack of abiding, we stop growing in our knowledge of God and lose sight of who we really are.
His design says, “Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3, emphasis added).
We must know God’s character and nature. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.“ If you were to list out what you knew about who God is and what He is like, how long would your list be? May we seek to add to our knowledge of God by looking deep into the Word to “behold the goodness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22 KJV). Remember that He is our Good Father, Loving Creator, and Master Artist who has made us expertly — not we ourselves. It is not up to us to define who or what we are; that is our Heavenly Father’s wise responsibility. And when we know who God is and what He is like, we can detect lies that will corrupt our mentality about who we are and how we have been made. He is the light through which we are able to properly see our world, as the Word of God firmly supports, “…in thy light we shall see light” (Ps. 36:9 KJV).
NO. 2 Honoring the Creator
While walking through the gallery and etching Monet memories into my mind, I leaned into the originals to find his signature brushed in a corner of the painting. As God’s grandest creation, we too bear His signature on our “canvas.” His Word tells us that His invisible attributes are clearly seen in what He has made — which includes you and me, dear reader. (See Romans 1:20.) However, our culture has begun chiseling God’s signature off of our bodies with damaging negativity. Marking our bodies to the point where they are unrecognizable, inflicting injury through things like self-harm or disordered eating, or even using medication to alter God’s original design all detract from God’s glory rather than enhancing it. In short, we have dishonored the Artist.
One would never think about taking a razor blade to one of Monet’s originals and making ribbons out of a valuable piece of art. But culture doesn’t think twice about taking a razor blade through our words, our actions, or our habits to tear down the priceless worth of our souls and our selves.
God’s Word models how we are to view ourselves: “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). What a contrast to how we often refer to our body image!
Both men and women are fearfully and wonderfully made to uniquely express the glory of God. While men chiefly represent God through strength, a woman’s design showcases God’s glory through beauty. Together these reflect that God is both strong and beautiful. Both attributes are important. Both are needful. Both are equal and benefit from each other. For example, a world with only beauty would be a world without protection and structure, and — conversely — a world with only strength would be cold, rigid, and unwelcoming.
This is one of the reasons why it is important that we stay within the design God ordained for us. For when we cease to embrace femininity, we aren’t merely robbing ourselves, but we are also robbing our society of the beauty, grace, kindness, gentleness, and joy of God that is uniquely showcased through biblical womanhood.
One of my favorite speakers on this subject is Elisabeth Elliot. In her book Let Me Be a Woman, she articulates the importance of this concept. “It is a naive sort of feminism that insists that women prove their ability to do all the things that men do … Women can and ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that they participate in the human race. And femininity has its limitations. So has masculinity … To be a woman is not to be a man…”
In light of this, we should honor God’s design by honoring our bodies — embracing our femininity as the gift that it is with all its liberties and limitations. Our lifestyles should bear the practical daily outflows of respectful and responsible living that are evidences of the deep conviction that our bodies are dwelling places of God’s Spirit. By His grace, we should aim to steward our bodies as vessels that are fit and pure for the Master’s use and able to be filled with the good works that He has marked out just for us.
This can be practical and each of us should prayerfully consider things like:
- Whether we turn to food for comfort when we are stressed.
- If we exercise excessively (or not enough).
- Are we guilty of obsessing over healthy eating to an unhealthy level?
- Do we tend to overwork ourselves to find our value through productivity?
Or, it can be spiritual: taking down the lies we have painted in our minds about our bodies and replacing them with truth or not allowing depressing thoughts to rule our minds. Each of us must prayerfully seek the Lord on attitudes, habits, and thought patterns that do not shine forth His beauty through our lives into this dark world.
NO. 3 The Restoration Process of Praise
Masterpieces can be damaged from exposure to natural elements over time. But an art conservator can look past a grimy exterior and behold what the piece could be with gentle finesse and careful handling. A once-tired painting can be given fresh life after a successful restoration process is complete.
In the same way, our bodies bear the scars of our damaging habits and thought processes. It takes a restoration process that includes being washed in the water of the Word and living in light of God’s lavish love for us that can cleanse us from our own marred perspectives. One of the most beautiful ways that God loves us back into life is through inviting us to participate in the process of restoration by articulating and expressing praise for what He is working within us!
Instead of complaining and becoming as those who “knew God but did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him,” we can choose to thank the Lord for our strengths … and even our weaknesses.
Weaknesses can be turned into strengths when given to God with praise and thanksgiving because it is in weakness that God’s strength can be made perfect. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9.) Similarly, areas we are strong in can be used as an instrument with which to bring glory to God, as we point others to Him rather than back to ourselves.
Praise turns a liability into an asset and ashes into beauty. It’s not that we praise the Lord for sin wrought against us or sin we participated in ourselves. However, we can praise the Lord for His promises that remain true in the midst of injustice or personal hurt, and we can offer tears of gratitude for the goodness of God that leads us to repentance when we have sinned.
A woman who bears a calm countenance, a joyful demeanor, and gracious communication is attractive to this wasted world. It’s undeniable that when our hearts are full of praise, our mouths will be as well. For the heart that declares, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), belongs to a woman of rare beauty in this world.
One day Monet’s paintings will disintegrate. In like manner, our frames show the wear and tear of time, but our souls are eternal, and therefore, have the capacity to know, honor, and praise our Maker for time without end. Let’s not wait until we see Jesus face to face to offer Him praise with our lips and our lives. Instead, may the fruit of our whole being declare boldly and beautifully that there is a God, and we are made in His image.
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A Look in the Mirror
Here are a few questions I ask myself when looking in the mirror of my health, habits, and body image. I pray they help you to properly look at yourself and, most importantly, our Savior.
- Am I pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus more than I am pursuing relationships with others?
- When was the last time I thanked the Lord for how He designed my femininity?
- Do I lean more towards self-control or the holy spirit’s enablement in areas of health, discipline, fitness, etc.?
- What truths in God’s Word do I need to cling to when it comes to my body image?
- Are there practical steps I need to take to honor the Lord with my outward appearance or the hidden person of my heart?