By Annalise Harrison
[email protected] (photo credit to Beth Rumley Photography).
Image: "Woman painting self-portrait," Boccaccio, early 15th Century
My stomach growled. My mouth watered at the sight of the delicious meal as I mentally calculated the calories spread across the table. I passed my hand across my stomach and reminded myself that one hundred thirty-three lbs does not deserve to eat dinner. Only tan, toned, and thin was worthy of food. Grabbing my water and cucumber, I ran out of the house with two hours of exercise before me. I couldn't consume real food. I needed to be skinny, for only then could I be beautiful, happy, and full of life. And I was willing to do much to get there. I worked hard, pushing the numbers down on the scale. Less food, more exercise, and I passed down in sizes. My god was my weight; my salvation, a waistline; my life, calories.
Eating disorders are seldom talked about within the church, but it is a struggle faced by Christian youth today. Those who struggle with an eating disorder know how real, terrifying, and self absorbing this lifestyle can be. It manifests itself in different ways and extremes, and though many do not have a disorder, we are all faced with its fundamental question: where do we find life and beauty?
The world is ready with an answer. The media promotes it, fashion insists upon it, and the culture confirms it. One's value is wrapped around a waist band and weighed by a number on a scale. Only the beautiful are happy, and to be beautiful means to look good in skinny jeans, be radiant in a bikini, and, all in all, to be a sexy, slender human being. The world lifts up these things as the highest pillar of beauty, the only way one can live to one's fullest. But is this really where beauty and life reside?
Our frail bodies are sick and dying. They are passing away, returning to the dust from which they came. Our efforts to find happiness come to nothing for our bodies can and never will give us the perfection we seek. Weight becomes a millstone around the neck; waistline, an expanding chasm; calories, an empty pit. The beauty and the life they have fade. We impossibly chase after them, but they are gone like the wind. If beauty is not of these earthly vessels, then where is beauty found?
In our Lord Jesus Christ. He, the Son of God, humbled himself to be born in the same flesh like us. Jesus came bringing life to us, and not merely for our souls, but our physical and fallen bodies. He touched the sick, the dying, the fat, the anorexic, and healed them. Then, taking on our ailments, His body suffered the punishment for our bodies. He was marred beyond all human recognition, nailed to a wooden cross, and deserted by all. Christ died, taking our shame and ugliness with Him into the grave. But death could not hold him! Our Lord rose bodily, conquering the grave! One day He will come again in glory, granting us life eternal.
As we are baptized into Him, we share in His death and resurrection. Our dirty rags, our fat, our skinniness, our ugliness are all washed away through our baptism, crucified on the cross, buried in the tomb, and we rise anew with Christ. He then gives His very own body and blood, granting forgiveness to both our bodies and our souls. In eating and drink His body and blood, we become one with His body and thus find beauty, life, and happiness in Him. Our beauty does not belong to our bodies, but to His. He has redeemed us, body and soul – what more is there to be done? Culture may point to sexiness as god, the world may proclaim skinniness for salvation, but we preach Christ crucified and risen. All life, all beauty, all things come from Him. Through Him, in Him, and with Him, we are. We are because He is. And in His being, that is enough.
Originally published in Higher Things Magazine Summer 2014 issue