I am in a beauty pageant almost every day.
In my head, I constantly subconsciously compare myself to what I see around me. Whether it’s the celebrities on the tabloids at the grocery checkout, my “friends” on social media, seemingly normal people on reality TV, or the heroine of a blockbuster movie, I see the same image over and over. The impossible cocktail of women who are thin yet buxom, exotic yet classic, and sweet yet irresistibly sexy raise my every insecurity.
This gauntlet of female requirements—that are only achieved with the assistance of Photoshop or complete mistreatment and manipulation of my pre-designed body—tends to rip apart my confidence.
According to me, here is the brutal truth: I have obscenely wide hips, hilariously long femur bones, “go-join-the-circus” feet, swollen knuckles, freckles on my nose that you can’t help but see, two bottom front teeth that are so crooked you could use them to open a can of soup, and very tiny nail beds. I stand at an overwhelming six feet three inches high and weigh about 170 pounds. My husband’s great-grandfather proclaimed I was a “full-sized-lady” the first time he met me.
I get asked, “Do you play basketball?” approximately seven days a week. I have had toddlers yell to their mother in disbelief in the grocery store, “It’s the tallest woman on earth! WHY IS SHE SO BIG?!” Really, y’all. This is my life.
I work out four or five times a week because I enjoy it. I also eat pretty healthy because I like to. However, true to my Italian roots, I love to eat copious amounts of pizza, pasta, and drink cheap wine (in moderation). I have been known to completely massacre a pint of ice cream in record timing on the couch with nothing more than a spoon—directly after a workout. Call it my spiritual gift.
Time and time again in my life I have been crammed into a fitting room at the mercy of a smiley sales associate helping me select clothes. I have successfully shocked the unassuming sales girl when I hand over the pre-selected size four blouse and request a size twelve. Seriously. Numbers. Figures. Sizes. Pounds. Petites. Longs. Plus sizes. Inches. Inseam. Bust. Waist. Hips. What does it all even mean?
“I want to fit into a size 4 pair of jeans.”
“I won’t shop again until I lose 7 more pounds.”
“I need to lose one more inch around my waist.”
“I have to be 15 pounds lighter by the beach.”
“I’ll feel confident when I can wear that size 6 dress.”
Want. Until. Need. Have to. When I can.
Do you see the common terms? I see the common problems.
Dissatisfaction. Anxiety. Pressure. Stress. Insecurity.
Matthew 6:25-34 shows us that the worries of what to wear, what to drink, and what to eat cannot just be chalked up as a sign of the current times. Obsession and fret over what we put in and on our bodies has never been and will never be honoring to the Lord. In Scripture, the Lord declares that our bodies are carefully constructed and intricately woven by His flawless craftsmanship (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 193:13-14, Ephesians 2:10).
It is no accident that my femur bones are so long that capris instantly become Bermuda shorts when placed on my legs. It is no coincidence that my face pops with freckles when I’ve been working in the yard all day no matter how much sunscreen I apply and reapply. I don’t gaze down at my minuscule nail beds as I type and think, Hallelujah! God’s goodness poured out on me! The Lord’s mercies are new every day! Praise El Shaddai for these dainty nail beds!
BUT—the nitty-gritty, Jesus-centered, gospel truth, reality is this: God has designed, intended for me to be this way. My response to Him is to honor how He has created me. Dressing appropriately to fit my body, finding modest clothes, and wearing items that create confidence in what my Creator has tailored versus what a designer concocted are ways that I can choose to honor God with my figure.
Throughout years of working in retail and cultivating a sometimes idolatress love of fashion, I’ve been freed from the threads of transient trends, desire for expensive garments, and the I’ve-just-got-to-have-it feeling over a fabulous makes-your-whole-house-smell-like-leather messenger bag. But through my embarrassing worship of these things, God has shown me His truths about my body and fashion.
First, that clothing to cover my body is a necessity with which I can either point towards or away from Him. Second, that style and fashion can be fun. And third, that no matter what I put on my body—good or bad, demure or hoochie, honoring or trashy—my true identity must be found in Him alone. And when I rest in Him, I find freedom in what I wear, fun in taking risks, and justified conviction in dressing to ultimately honor the Lord.
God has shown me that the impossible cocktail of the world around me is nothing of what He has for me. However He sees me—an intricately woven piece of His flawless craftsmanship—that is how I want to be seen.