Human Dignity · Prayer Requests

Body Image for Christians 101

The new year is clearly underway by now, and Lent starts soon. What became of your New Year’s Resolutions? Are you praying more? eating less? smoking less? exercising more?

Now, What are You Doing for Lent? And why?

Most of us can say we want to “Get in Shape” and “Eat Healthier.” All well and good; but why? I’m wondering if we’re being sold—and buying—”Physical Perfection”!

I did a search for “Body Image” and, interestingly I found Victoria’s Secret first of all, courtesy of Planned Parenthood. (No comments there. We’re wise enough to reject that image, nor do we want our daughters to buy it or our sons to look for it!)

Of course our bodies are meant to be healthy, strong, and useful in the Kingdom of God. But what happens if a young daughter hears Mom say, “Don’t let yourself get fat like me!” Could that set up an unconscious desire to be thin? Even anorexically thin? Or when a slender son looks at his dad, and Dad says, “You look like a girl. Let’s see some muscle!” What does that say about a boy’s identity?                    

What we say sometimes has lasting significance! How careful we must be in what we tell our children! How much better to be a good example and to say, “I’m so glad you’re learning to take good care of yourself, eating healthy foods and having friends around you who help you mature to be the person God made you to be!” (Yes, the “best-version-of-yourself”!)

Somehow my computer knows I’m not 35 anymore. The pop-up ads keep telling me I need to fix my flabby arms, baggy eyes and saggy neck! (But I don’t want to look 15 years younger! Is maturity something to be avoided? )

So is the world pushing its own agenda of being beautiful, svelte, and strong? Is the media telling us that even maturity is undesirable? Is there something wrong with growing older? Are we becoming more self-conscious? or maybe “mirror-conscious”?

Here’s what God’s word says about our identity, simply translated:  

  • Genesis 1:26-27: We are made in the image and likeness of God. (So should we try to improve on that?)
  • 1 Samuel 16:7: “… the Lord said to Samuel:  “Do not judge from [one’s] appearance or from [one’s] lofty stature . . . . God does not see as a mortal who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.” (New American Bible Revised Edition)
  • Psalm 139: I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • Proverbs 31:30: Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
  • Matthew 15:11: What comes from me—my thoughts, words and actions—is more significant than what goes in.
  • Luke 16:15: What man values is often detestable in God’s sight.
  • 1 Timothy 4:8: Bodily training is of some value but godliness has value for all things, the promise for the present life and the life to come.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16: The outer self is made to waste away, but the inner is being renewed day by day.

Are we being sold the world’s “Fix it!” mentality? “You don’t look the way you ‘should’! We can fix that! You’re too ‘fat’? We can fix that! (Buy my weight-losing drink!) You’re pregnant ‘again’? We can fix that. You’re getting old? We can fix that, too!” (It gets scarier as it goes along, doesn’t it!)

Which is better? What the world tells us or what the Lord Jesus Christ tells us? The fact is: Imperfection is a part of life! Human life does have limits. Maturity is not a curse. Our human bodies are made to die. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus has won the victory and given us eternal life!

Consider the “Witness to Hope” that Saint John Paul II gave us! After years of physical strength and activity, he taught us how to accept infirmity. As concerned as he was for the youth of the world, he also showed a great concern for the elderly, publishing a Letter to the Elderly,  and instituting an Annual World Day of the Sick, February 11th, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

So, Lord, Help us to live with our imperfections! Help us to see the needs of the other, rather than bewailing the “less- than-perfect-me”! Help us to live with a greater sensitivity and kindness for those who are less well than we are, especially in so many other parts of the world. Lord Jesus, give us a heart of compassion, so that we might reach out with love and respect to those who live with infirmity, disability, sickness or death! We are made to be less than perfect! The inner self must be renewed day by day. As Saint Paul tells us, the outer self must waste away, no matter what the media tries to tell us!

So, yes, “Strengthen your drooping arms and your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12), but get on with life!

 

Elizabeth Ministry/RECLAiM Prayer Needs for February 2016

Lord Jesus, we need your help:

 

  • for the continued healing of our founder, Jeannie Hannemann, following her stroke last May, especially with pain management and the ongoing needs of her family: care for her elderly father, their daughter’s pregnancy and their grandson’s health issues.
  • for those who struggle with temptations related to pornography and other unhealthy sexual behaviors, that they might find freedom and healing.
  • for “Celia” who has severe pancreatitis and is at 31½ weeks gestation. She is on a feeding tube to deliver proteins to the baby, needs pain meds and meds to clear a bacterial infection. The plan is for her to deliver a healthy  baby at 34 weeks. Lord Jesus, keep Celia and her baby strong, and return her to health!
  • for Nadine whose baby boy (so far unnamed) was born by c-section at 25 weeks gestation.
  • for 7-year old Brady, who is in the hospital recovering from a burst appendix.
  • for 13-year old Hannah who has suffered hearing and vision losses as a result of brain tumors.
  • for all mothers and unborn children, and for those who grieve the loss of children due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infertility.
  • for a respect for all life, from natural conception to natural death.
  • for those with limited mental, physical or developmental abilities, that we might respond with compassion and generosity to their need for support or care.
  • for the needy of the world, especially refugees and those affected by terrorism.
  • for all who pray for our needs.

How might you join us in prayer? First of all, of course, is Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, which is a private devotion, although it certainly includes praying for the needs of others. We who are part of EM and RECLAiM are especially encouraged to pray the Canticle of Zachary in the morning and the Magnificat in the evening; please join us in these “more communal prayers.” These short prayers are part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Breviary or the Divine Office. There are several excellent ways to join in praying the Divine Office. Looking online will give you lots of assistance, examples and information. I would recommend Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and the Readings from the Office of Readings, which includes Augustine, Gregory the Great and other Church Fathers. You may also want to get iBreviary (which comes in several languages) on your mobile device. However, Praying the Rosary is also an excellent prayer, as is The Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

If you have a prayer need related to family life or sexual health and healing, or if you are available to pray daily for our needs, please contact us at our prayer requests email: prayer.requests[at]elizabethministry.com. All information remains confidential.
photo credit: suraj via photopin (license)

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