It took me only a short time between moving from Massachusetts to Phoenix to become hostile to my body. The admittedly matronly look that I had worn well in Massachusetts came as a badge of honor. With full-time work, five kids and definitely no gym membership, I was satisfied. I was still sort of cute, had great skin and what I lacked in other areas I made up for in charm.
Phoenix was a different planet. The blonde sophistication that had migrated from Southern California was a whole new world. Slowly the satisfactory image that I had of myself began to fade and a new image was cast.
It was an image where the hair was not high lighted, the teeth were too crooked and the boobs? Well. The boobs were just completely wrong. For one thing, they were real.
In short I was not pretty enough, sophisticated enough and I didn’t have “the look”. And because I was so focused on this I lost the charm.
The internal struggle began as I bowed more and more to this false image fashioned by man and endorsed by me, the willing follower.
When you begin to bow to a false image, no matter what the area, you lose perspective of reality, of what is important. If you bow to a false image of what your work should be, you become dissatisfied or your identity becomes that work. If you bow to a false image of social justice, you forget that the reason social justice is important is because it’s an outflowing of the character of God. If you bow to a false image of what a relationship should look like, you take a dangerous step off the road of reality and see that person you love as less than adequate. If you bow to a false image of appearance, you become a narcissist.
But how do we escape these false images? It began for me with an understanding of what a real image is – If I don’t know what real is, how can I spot false?
I was much like the Velveteen Rabbit, who one day in conversation with the Skin Horse asked the question “What is Real?”
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
So like the Velveteen Rabbit I ask “What is a real? A real image?” No matter how great my highlights look now they fade and there will come a day when they will look ludicrous. No matter how firm my boobs, (actually not very…..) there is gravity. No matter how many skin peels or Botox, at some point the wrinkles remain.
Real is knowing what lasts and what doesn’t last. Real is peace with my state and stage of life. Real is healthy communication with my spouse and kids. Real is giving myself permission to age. Real is caring for my soul. Real is that my body is a shell, but my soul is eternal.
When I am bowing to a false image, I can’t look up to a true God. Only as I look up will I see who I am and whose image I should bear. I don’t want to be bent toward man, instead I want to look up to my Maker.
Today may we look up instead of down and ask the that question borne through the wisdom of a children’s book “What is Real?”. And in looking up may we see the stamp of His image and become people who bear that image.
Communicating Across Boundaries Readers – Today CAB will reach 100,000 views since it’s start – thank you all so much! In celebration I look forward to a guest post series So.Many.Stories. Each of you come with so many amazing stories that come out in bits and pieces through your comments. This is a chance to get some of those into posts! Stay tuned for more information and thanks again.