You may wonder What in the world does God have to do with bathing suit season? For Diane, a whole lot. This is the first year that she left the dressing room, bathing suit in hand, without shame and degradation. It's not because Diane has lost a lot of weight, or had cosmetic surgery. What is different this year is that Diane has learned to see her body from God's perspective.
Diane even had to buy a bigger size than her dress size in order to find a bathing suit that fit good. Buying a larger size didn't detour her into an escapade of self and body loathing. Rather, it helped her recognize how something that used to hold her down, in past, has lost its power over her. She gives all the praise and glory to God.
What about you? How will bathing suit season reflect your relationship with God? Will it provoke anger with Him for making you the way He did? Will it sidetrack you into a mission to get your body into shape and take away your time with God? Will you fall into a depression and away from sensing God's love? Will it create in you a desire to exhibit your body in order to get attention from others that replaces your need for God? Will it be another opportunity to enjoy the sports and activities of summer that involve wearing a bathing suit?
In my book Loving Your Body, I write that a healthy body image involves three aspects. One, respect for your body. I want every woman who reads my book to be able to say about themselves what David did in Psalm 139:14; I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Second, a healthy body image involves care for your body. At bathing suit season many women start doing things that may look like care for their body, but it is motivated by hate for their body, so it really isn't care. Others, exhibit some very uncaring behaviors, such as starving, crazy dieting, and obsessive exercise. None are actually caring for the body. You care for your body when you recognize that it is God's gift to you and that you have a responsibility to keep it as healthy as you can. The third aspect of healthy body image is perspective. Don't compare how you look in a bathing suit with the Sports Illustrated models. First of all, most have eating disorders, and other unhealthy practices to look the way they do. Most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women (USA Today, May 10, 2001). Don't be unwise and compare your body shape with other women. Accept who you are, and do the best with what you have.
As I help women overcome negative body image in my counseling practice it involves several things. First they need to identify the lies they believe about their body and what they need to look like. When Diane walked into the dressing room to try on a new bathing suit, she had a different perspective than last year. She didn't believe that she was supposed to look like a Swimsuit model in her bathing suit. She accepted that a thirty-five year old mother of three will have a different bulges, and muscle tone than a woman who earns her living by how her body looks. Diane had also changed in caring more what God thinks about her body than what the world tells her. She realized that God really doesn't care where she has a bulge, or if her hair is turning gray. God cares that she loves and serves Him, and that she live her life focusing on the right things.
Another difference about Diane this year, is that through counseling she identified how she got so hung up on her body. She forgave her dad and brother, past boyfriends, and drill team instructor for the death words they spoke to her that fueled her past negative beliefs. But, the most dramatic experience of her recovery from negative body hate was doing the action that revealed that the changes had taken place. Diane was the most surprised by herself as she walked to her car, bathing suit in hand. She was different. She was free. She celebrated God's goodness to her.