“I wasn’t made to be her.”
I had to say it out loud last night as I walked out of the gym last night. It had been just a tad too long since my last work out and, well, the size two on the bike next to me was just a bit too much for my weary heart. The weekend – oh, how I love you – was a refreshing break from exercise and health conscious eating. And, seriously, I don’t regret it in the least. We need breaks. We need weekends. We should eat the tea cookies for breakfast with our best friends and go on a late night ice-cream run. Not everyday. Not normatively. But every once in a while, a little indulgence does the heart good, I think.
And then we come back to reality – back to routine, back to discipline, back to the every-day choices that simply have to be made because not every day can be a Saturday. We put our running clothes back on and lace up our shoes. We go back to the gym and we hit the “start” button the treadmill.
Just staying on, just putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again is half the battle.
And the other half is walking out the door.
There’s something about the gym, isn’t there, ladies? Something mesmerizing and enchanting. Something that tells us how big we are and how small we need to be. Something enticing about those mirror-lined walls and knowing that the girl on the machine next to you has been going for 32 minutes already. That “something” makes our thighs feel heavier and fit our hearts to match.
I mean, what did we expect? We see that skinny lady on every channel, every billboard, every magazine cover in every check-out line. Her skinny little legs and thin arms resting on narrow hips entice our curiosity – how does she do it? what does she eat? what is her workout routine? She is powerful, isn’t she? Or at least so she seems. And we want to be her. We want her appeal and her authority and manipulative manner. We flip the pages and find just the tutorial we seek. But soon enough we know, we lost the power in those how-to pages because the manipulation they taught was the manipulation of self. We learned to feed ourselves less, to convince ourselves to do more, to treat ourselves with distain in a self-perpetuated effort toward flat tummies.
I’d like to imagine there was a day when the message was subtle and subdued, like a whisperer behind our ears saying, “Perhaps if you lost 10 pounds…” But our culture has long since traded subliminal messages for outright demands: nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, feel sore or feel sorry, ten exercises for the body he can’t resist. Women’s bodies sell, well, everything. Women’s bodies sell furniture and hair cuts. Women’s bodies sell allergy medicine and hamburgers. Women’s bodies sell sports jerseys and dental floss and tires.
Hmmm, I suppose here we have reached the bottom line. Women’s bodies sell. We live in an economy where the bartering chips are slender torsos and toned backs; where the slim are praised the rest of us regular folk have learned to think if we could just tighten that up there or just loose a couple of inches here…
For me, this lie is never more present than when I’m trying to do just that. When I’m in the weight room looking up at the subtitled TV I can’t help but notice how “things” are so much different on my side of the screen. Things here in my world are softer and rounder and, yeah, they jiggle a bit more than that model’s. I sweat and work hard and put one foot in front of the other…
And then I walk out the door.
If I let myself, it is easy to be sucked into the world of self-manipulative perfecting. To say, just one more lap around the track or I’ll just skip lunch today is easier that you would think. It is astounding to me that after so many years, so many counseling courses taken, so many sermons spoken from these lips how quickly I can be caught up in the mess of the media-woman. In an instant, I can trade lessons and learning for trying to get some space between my thighs.
It’s easy to sell out for a body that sells, isn’t it?
But our Creator didn’t create me to be a size two. He didn’t make me with long legs and a flat stomach. No, He made me to be silly and creative and bold and to put my foot in my mouth a remarkable number of times each day. He made me to think and debate and to learn and read. He gave me legs to run and arms that lift and sweat to sweat and feet to walk out at the end. He gave me an identity that is hidden in the cavities of His being so that I don’t have to go to the gym to find it.
And I’m not alone. You’re with me in it all, friend. You, too, have been crafted and created in a specific way for a specific purpose. You have value and worth encoded on your DNA because of the hands that formed you – so don’t sell out! Don’t trade your particular imprint of the Creator for a generic Barbie figure. Don’t buy into the economy of beauty and body, because the asking rate is that you surrender your unique self. And that is far too high a price to pay to be like everyone else.
I know it’s hard, girl. I know. The voices are loud and the pictures are everywhere. But I have this itsy bit of hope tonight – hope in remembering how our God has fashioned each of us with tender fingers of delight. He has given us potent lips that speak truth, strong bodies that work hard, and discerning minds to know where the two meet. And it is this same God that will give us the peace to live at home in our skin, the faith to believe His creating pronouncement of “good”, and the courage to walk out the door.