This piece is the second in a two-part series on fitness and self-image. Jenny James and her neighbor, Emily Kelch, are the founders of SoulStrength Sisters, a women's fitness ministry that prioritizes community, feminine strength, and the wholeness of who women are created to be. Read Emily's reflection here.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. - Song of Songs 2:13-14
How did I know my husband was the one? He was deeply interested in me--not in a falsely flattering way, but in a way that was drawing out the good in me. He sought me where I didn’t know that I was: curled up in a ball, in a cleft of a cliff, walling off the best parts of me in order to protect my heart.
Under his gaze, I opened like a bud in spring. Tentatively at first, but in the warmth of his love, I blossomed into the real me. Over the past eight years, he has loved me as I’ve struggled with body image and doubts about my worth. No matter how many times my husband affirmed, “You look great! You’re beautiful!” I didn’t believe him.
God loves beauty. He created beauty. He is beautiful.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful, healthy and strong. Our bodies are his temple, and he wants us to take care of them in the best way we can.
What is wrong is putting my worth into a distorted view of what I think beauty should look like in me. What is wrong is wanting to change the temple he gave me into something it is not, or into someone who I am not.
Slowly, with much prayer and effort, the Lord has given me the wisdom and discipline to eat healthier and become more consistent in my workouts. He’s even graced me with a love for weight training. But the bigger lesson is still being drawn out of me.
As my Savior calls to me, “arise my love, my beautiful one, let me see your face,” He beckons me away from my walled-off hole in the cliff where I self-analyze, tear down and obsess. He wants to see my face just the way I am.
If I turn my gaze to him, I will stop thinking so much about me, me, me.
I still have a long way to go. There are times--like tonight--when it’s that time of the month, I’ve had one too many dark chocolate pieces, and I hide myself from my husband while changing clothes before bed. What is this? I’ve crawled back behind my walls, hiding in that most miserable kind of pride: the pride of sensitivity that masks itself as humility.
I can’t force these thoughts and feelings to go away. Through prayer, though, the Lord is changing me. He reminds me of my worth as his beloved. And gently, most gently, he takes my face in his hands, turning my thoughts away from me and towards him and others whom he wants me to love.
If you haven’t read Song of Songs in awhile, go back and revisit it. Imagine you are the bride and Jesus the bridegroom. Then hear, a thousand times over, Jesus saying to you: Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful.
About the Author: Daughter of the King, wife to the strongest, most loyal man, mama to three blossoming littles, Jenny left a "real" job at a solid company after (finally) recognizing God calling her to be wife and mother first. After struggling for years with fluctuating weight, Jenny found stability and consistency in weight training. When her dear friend Emily asked her to start a fitness coaching business with her, she jumped at the chance to teach other women about the beauty and success of weight training. Along with Emily, Jenny is the co-creator of SoulStrength Sisters.