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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Reed

Redefining Ideal

I recently saw an article on the ideal woman. The premise of the article was on what an ideal woman looks like physically. Someone had taken a photo of a woman and distributed it to be photoshopped to accommodate the ideal looks for different countries around the world. The author did say that the ideal woman should not be found ideal based on looks alone, but also on her personality and nature. These things are what make her attractive.

As I was reading it and looking at the photoshopped images, I couldn't help but think, "None of these look remotely the same".

I also couldn't help noting how the ideal woman (also pointed out by the author) has changed drastically throughout the centuries. What was attractive to Henry VIII, as the author gave example, would most likely not be found attractive by today's standards.

I also found my heart feeling saddened that we can place the measure and value of a person on such changing whims and fancies. Furthermore, a personality may be desirable, but not everyone has the same personality, so how can we find ourselves confident and worthy of value and acceptance when our personalities and character most likely will change and develop as our lives change? Most of us can probably say we are not the same person we were ten years ago. This is a basic fact of life.

So, how can we reconcile who we are in light of an ever-changing dynamic of acceptance and value?

The answer to this cannot be found in articles and beauty magazines. It cannot be found in opinions or tiktok trends. It cannot be found on Instagram or on photoshop. Nor can it be found in the latest self-help or exercise regimen.

True value must be found in what is true.

For example, if I go to the store and buy a $5.00 container of ice cream, but try to pay for it with a $1.00 bill, the cashier will tell me I do not have the right value to pay what the ice cream is worth.

The same can be said (though on a much higher scale!) of our worth as a person. If I place my value based on the opinions of someone else or on some photoshopped image instead of on what is actually true, I am attempting to pay for something valuable with something that will never reach the true worth of that item.

$1.00 will never be $5.00.

So what is actually true about me as a person? How can I define myself when I am changing and growing and developing physically, mentally, emotionally?

Truth, as we must define it, can only be derived from truth. This is our essential launching point for forming who we are. Truth comes from, indeed it is, God. God is truth. So, therefore, everything, including our identity, must be viewed through the lens of God's reality, his truth, his word.

His word says that men and women are created in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). He says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). He says we have purpose and have been chosen by him (Epehsians 1:4-6). He says we are adopted children, beloved of Him (Galatians 3:23-29). He says we are priests and royalty (I Peter 2:9). Our identity should be formed within the frame work of the inner working of the Holy Spirit who helps us become more like Jesus Christ in holiness, faith, wisdom, knowledge, discernment, love, and so much more (Romans 5:1-5; Epehsians 5:1-21; Galatians 4:16-26). This is ideal. This is who God, our loving and wise Creator, calls us to be.

But, what do we do when the world tells us we get to define our own truth? What about all those images around us that scream our bodies are not good enough? How can we find joy when the life we are living doesn't seem good enough or important enough to be worth something? When we are told our personality is dull or strange or boring or too much, how do we embrace who God says we are? How do we demonstrate the realities of these truths when confronted with lies about our identity? What do those lies look like and how can we effectively combat them?

Ephesians 6 tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers and dark forces in the world. When we are confronted with phrases and ideologies that do not match up with the word of God, we must recognize these as attacks from the ruler of darkness. What God shows us in his word about our realities as his children have been revealed to us as light in darkness. Jesus himself, as described in John 1, is the light who came to bring us out of darkness and reveal himself as the truth we need to live in his righteousness and by his grace. He alone is the answer for the hope we crave and the joy we desire.

The forms by which different viewpoints and opinions can shape our beliefs are varied. Perhaps we grew up being teased for how we looked or acted or the things we enjoyed doing. Perhaps some outside-inflicted trauma has tainted and colored your view of your body and your worth. Maybe the mere fact that every area of our lives is visually charged with glaring lights and colors and action cause us to hide within ourselves, wishing we could be as free and alive and vibrant as the flashing images on our screens. Maybe you find it hard to accept the ways you are different, whether in your body or in your personality and desires and abilities.

All these examples, and more, can lead us to become discouraged about who we really are. This discouragement fleshes itself out in our lives through a lack of confidence, stemming from fear, anger, jealousy, and more. Sometimes this lack of confidence reveals itself through our becoming either too loud, too flashy, too attention-seeking or too quiet, too closed-off, too "hide-me-away".

In I Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul is describing the believers in Jesus as a body. He explains how each person in the body has a certain job and contributes something particular which makes the body grow and work and thrive. If that one part does not contribute, the whole body suffers. He further explains that it is necessary that there be certain differences in function, otherwise the body would be lacking that which can make it better.

Here we see the great wisdom and love of God in designing us the way he did. Should he have given all of us a dynamic personality, there would be no one to inform us to step back and consider and wait. No one would be willing to do the "behind-the-scenes" stuff that doesn't make us feel dynamic! On the flip side, if we were all more reserved and cautious, no one would be willing to take the plunge and confidently say, "Let's do this!" Should he have given us all bodies that looked the same, we would never appreciate the varied and creative aspects of beauty and form and design as God has shown us in all his other creation (planets, animals, birds, fish, plants, and more!). As we approach our lives, then, we must ask the question: If I am God's child, what does he want me to do?

The basic answer is: "Love the Lord your God... and your neighbor as yourself" (Mathew 22:24-40). From this principle stem all other reasons for living. Should we hate or despise our bodies and personalities as God has given them to us, we certainly are not loving him as he has instructed. And, certainly if we despise our own bodies, that naturally follows that we will despise others for being different than us, responding in jealousy, envy, anger, discontent, and more.

So, how can we love God and others? How can this help us fight the lies of insecurity and jealousy?

Here are a few ways I, personally, have found helpful in this battle:

1. Confession: Confess areas where you feel discontent or ashamed of how God made you. Confess people you have been jealous of or angry at and ask God to change your heart toward that person. Sometimes writing these things down in honest, introspective assessment helps break down to the root of where our fears and anxieties lie.

2: Repentance: Repent of any ways you have been holding sin in your heart regarding the ways God has made you- whether anger at another person or God, jealousy, discontent. Ask God to forgive you for ways you despised his creation and wisdom and spurned his love toward you.

3: Claim: Claim the promises God has made to you. If indeed you are his child (having recognized your need for Jesus' righteousness on your behalf), he has called you to a specific plan and purpose: to glorify him through your love and service toward him and others. Look up verses about your position as a child of God. Memorize them, write them down, have them easily accessible so you can use them effectively in times of attack.

4: Give Thanks: Thank God for the ways he has made you. Thank him for the parts and aspects you might not like. Thank him for his redemptive work in your life. Thank him for the people and circumstances in your life. Thank him for who he is and for his unchanging character.

5: Act/Serve: Act on the work God is doing in your heart. Maybe he is wanting you to share the Gospel with a friend. Maybe he is wanting you to be more faithful in your study of his word. Maybe he is calling you to a certain mission or work, but you have been too afraid to try. Maybe he is asking you to take that step of faith, but discouragement has been weighing you down. Service to God and others takes the attention from ourselves and re-aligns our focus. We are not meant to live in our own bubble; we are a body and we need to do our part.

God in the enabler and the master designer. He is faithful to his work and his promises. His word is always true and sure. Should we say to him he has not done it right or that he is not capable of doing good works through us? Should we say his words are not good enough for us to believe? Indeed, not!

And, who are we to question what God can do through a willing, yielded, humbled heart?

Today could be the tipping point into that next step God wants you to take. Claim his promises, give thanks for his work, and act on the truth that you are loved beyond measure and have great, immeasurable worth and purpose. Serve him with joy, knowing his ideal calling is the greatest work and way you can live.

"For I am sure of this that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

Additional songs for meditation:

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