Frame Your Stretch Marks: Love God, Love Your Body
If I could I'd frame your stretch marks
You only get them two ways
Giving birth or dropping weight
Either way, serious pain
~Propoganda, Framed Stretch Marks
If you're an adult female of any size or shape, you probably hate your body. If you are an adult male, there is also a good chance you have issues with your body. Some have a mild distaste for their image in the mirror and might even laugh at their flaws, but others - many others - have serious issues with the way they look.
There is a name for this disorder. It's called body dysmorphic disorder. Though I'm not a fan over our obsession with over diagnosis, this disorder is to me something we need to categorize so we can kill it. Whether or not BDD is a legit mental condition I do not know, but let's just use that as our junk drawer term here for anyone who struggles with body image (read: most people).
How did we get here? Why are so many people convinced they're fat and ugly? Well, for one, our media has put forth airbrushed images of unrealistically skinny women and dudes who magically have no body hair who look like Greek gods. Further, the statistics state that most people (sadly, including Christ-followers) have looked at or continue to look at porn, which gives a completely unrealistic view of the body and healthy sexuality. If you take these two aspects away, there are other mental health factors, histories of abuse, etc. that could come into play.
Regardless of the cause, we've created an impossible and unhealthy standard of beauty - and it's putting a ton of pressure on people. Mostly women I think, but also plenty of men.
But we can do something about this.
How to Regain Love For Your Body
1. Consider Your Design. God is not sorry he made you the way you are. You are literally a masterpiece. Now that's hard to believe sometimes, isn't it? In middle school some kids called me "oddball", I think because of the way my face was shaped. I felt defective and I withdrew into myself for a while. But each of us are truly oddballs in a good way, one-off creations of the Most High. Embrace the fact that your height, hip size, hair line, whatever - is not an accident but rather a loving stroke of God's paintbrush.
2. Pursue Modesty. You know those people who post their two week post partum pictures to show you that their six pack is back? Yeah, not helpful. Neither is it helpful for men or women to try to present their body in such a way that it gains attention - on social media or in person. You know what's really attractive? Self respect. So regardless of what your body looks like, present yourself in such a way that shows you have respect for yourself and other people.
3. Pursue Optimization, Not Transformation. If you've had a few kids, your body will never look the same. If you're old, you'll never look young again. If you have narrow shoulders you'll never look like Arnold. Get it? You cannot morph into another shape or size. But what you can do is take care of the body you've got. Optimize your body. Feed it good foods, work up a sweat. But come to grips with yourself. You don't need to be someone else - you need to be you.
4. Frame Your Stretch Marks. If you have scars from war, limbs missing from an accident, old faded tattoos, or a body which has changed as a result of bringing children into this world, please hear me: celebrate it. Life is a long and winding crazy ride, and if you look like you've lived that means you have. Stop being ashamed of the fact that your body has been affected by this beautiful yet broken world. Consider your scars and stretch marks trophies.
Do Not Be Anxious
Maybe I haven't made my case, so I'll bring in the words of Jesus:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. (Luke 12:22b-23)
Jesus goes on to explain how much we are valued. He explains how much God cares for us and how he is into the details all the way down to the molecule. Instead of worrying about the surface level stuff (i.e. our appearance, food, possessions, etc.), if we will seek the kingdom of God we will find that the other stuff either falls into place or simply falls away as less important.
Anxiety is, at its root, a lack of trust in God. The antidote to anxiety is not confidence in self, but in the God who can do something about that which makes us anxious. We place our fears and insecurities and worries in his hands. And then we exhale, knowing we've done what we can do.
In Closing, a Word For the Dudes
First of all, some good news. God made females to be the beautiful species, so we can happily be the colorless bird. Be hairy and big and however God made you - but just be a man. Own your masculine body, whether you look like a gazelle or a dump truck. Both have function.
As part of being a man, if you care about being a godly man - listen up. We need to talk.
Porn is not a victimless crime. It in fact victimizes three parties: the partner of the viewer, the actors, and the viewer. So who does that leave? The producers. The producers are the only ones not exploited, though I'm sure they're being damaged by the darkness of their trade.
If you look at porn, you're hurting yourself and other people. Straight up. You are giving part of yourself to someone you'll never meet, and that means there's less of you to give to the woman you are devoted to or someday will be devoted to. Jesus says a lustful tent is akin to adultery, so habitual porn viewing and the activities associated therewith is corroding the foundation of your relationship. I know I sound like the old church lady or like some dude in pleated pants, but that's fine. This is serious.
How you treat women and how you value women will affect their self image. You have a huge part to play. Love your woman for who she is, regardless of how she looks, because she's the one God gave you. She is a diamond, and she's someone's daughter - and his name is God. Cherish her and admire her specific beauty, stretch marks and all.