My Body Glorifies God

“You’re built for speed,” my husband said the other day, when we were joking about my small figure.

And while I laughed with him and thought it was endearing, it’s a sore spot for me as a woman who is on the fringe of the bell curve. In the area of bra cup size, most women just want to be average. Even some of my larger breasted co-bloggers don’t want to be a AA, they want to be a B or C, just like I want to be. And of course there are plastic surgeons who make a living (and a pretty good one at that) off of helping women like me realize our dreams of having average-sized breasts (never-mind the 40 things that could go wrong when you initial the surgery consent forms).  And they’re doing well: from my research, 5-10 million women have had breast augmentation. It’s a pretty common and relatively inexpensive way to fix the problem of a small bust.

But the feminist in me really struggles with the idea of surgically altering my shape to fit the norm, even if I think I have legitimate reasons for it. It’s just not necessary. There are much bigger problems in the world. My money could be much better spent (and I shouldn’t have repainted my bedroom, etc). I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that women should look a certain way to be attractive, that their bodies are for men’s viewing pleasure, or that we should look like women on TV or in magazines.

The modesty conversation comes into play here. Amelia recently tweeted a post that was very much in line with her earlier post about modesty (read it if you haven’t already). Most of it was similar to what Amy said, but this part caught me by surprise partly because the language is so different from what we use in Mormonism, but partly because I’m not sure I believe it.

“. . . women’s bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! ”

WHAT? My body (even the parts I’m not fond of) glorifies God? What does that even mean? Does this bypass pleasing men? Do we please God in the same way? Isn’t that kind of gross?

Honestly, it took me a long time to digest what she said and it comes close to this idea that I didn’t really understand until I was married. Men have a (mostly) relaxed relationship with their bodies. Of course there are attributes they don’t like, and some men are pretty vain about their looks, but men I know just accept that their body parts “are.” They just exist. I remember hearing boys joke about penises in a way that women would NEVER joke about their sexual bits. For women, they seemed to carry too much weight of shame. In the book, “When Everything Changed” Gail Collins mentions a meeting where a group of women in the 1970’s ended up discussing breasts and EVERY woman complained about why she didn’t like hers (too big, too small, too perky, too saggy, etc). No one was happy with her breasts. Isn’t that a problem? Women seem to feel their bodies are not good enough when, from what I can tell, men aren’t even thinking about feeling good enough.

So, what to do?

I’m starting to think that there’s something to this idea that our bodies honor God, much like the beautiful tree I have in my front yard. It just stands there, with long skinny branches, growing leaves and dropping them. The roots dig deeper and it gets taller. It’s doing it’s thing and in the process honoring God. Can I accept that my body- the one that conceived, carried, gave birth, and breastfed three beautiful children is the same? If that’s not honoring God, I don’t know what is. And if that’s not good enough, I don’t know what is.

 

*The photo above is my three children several years ago. When my oldest (age 5 at the time) looked at it, he said, “Aren’t we glorious?” 

 

Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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20 Responses

  1. mb says:

    It’s doing it’s thing and in the process honoring God. Can I accept that my body- the one that conceived, carried, gave birth, and breastfed three beautiful children is the same? If that’s not honoring God, I don’t know what is. And if that’s not good enough, I don’t know what is.

    Amen. I will not judge other women who feel that they need to alter their bodies for whatever reason as I do not live their lives and do not know their needs. But for me, the owner of what you aptly term a bell curve fringe body, if it doesn’t hurt, and it works, then it’s good. And the fact that it doesn’t hurt and that it works is beautiful and amazing.

    • spunky says:

      I like this and the points the OP addresses, but what if your female body doesn’t work like the average body, can’t be “fixed”, or can’t or won’t give birth? Does the thinking of the body glorifying God only apply to the average woman who’s body works normally? Probably not. But that creates another issue about those who have malformed bodies, imperfect conditions and otherwise– does God hate us because our non-avergae bodies that need medications, surgery, or physical aids (walkers, hearing aids, wheelchairs) do not glorify God in the same way the average woman’s body glorifies God?

      How does one who is very obviously not of average body recognise and love thier body in a manner that would be considered glorifying God?

      • In our front yard, we have some flowering pear trees. They will never produce fruit, but will still create beautiful flowers and foliage each year. Olive trees are some of the most stunted, ugly trees there are, but are still used in a number of scriptural allegories.

        Its hard to love an imperfect body, which is odd because no one has a perfect, or even average, body. The first step to loving is learning to be content with what you have been given. Looking forward to a perfect body is nice, but impractical – you have no frame of reference as to what perfect will be.

        Every body can glorify God in the same way that every physical Temple can glorify God. Not just the shiny, varied temples we build, but the natural temples created by His hand as well as the remnants of temples past, like the remaining wall of the temple in Jerusalem. Each body gives glory to God because it houses one of His special children whom He loves very much.

      • Jessawhy says:

        spunky,
        I can see what you are saying and I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t thinking along these lines when I wrote the post.
        I’m not sure that the functionality of a body is important when acknowledging that a woman’s body glorifies God. I was mostly thinking about it’s looks (and mere existence) and kinda threw in the motherhood thing at the end.

        I’m sorry if this post upset you, and I think you make an excellent point, one that I will be more thoughtful about in the future.

      • mb says:

        Perhaps I was unclear. I didn’t say my body “works perfectly” or “works the way I’d like it to” or “works the way other people’s do”. I just said, “it works”.

        I’m alive. I’m breathing. Each of those things and every other part of me that works at least somewhat I can use for good. And my experience is that the parts of my body that work only poorly or don’t work at all teach me and others truths I might not otherwise have learned. So challenging as it may be to me in some aspects, my less than “ideal”, not totally “average” and sometimes contrary body (which will continue to work less and less perfectly as the decades pass) still reflects and will continue to reflect the glory of God.

        The glory is not it that it works perfectly or is well-shaped or fully functional or is capable of all we think it should be or want it to be. The glory is in it’s creation and life. And, when you think about it, it truly is an amazing creation.

  2. I think part of the work for some of us is to learn to be content with the body we have (while still keeping maintenance). I’ve not met a woman yet who was happy with all of her body, no matter what others think. I have, however, met women who loved what they had and learned to let their perceived imperfections go. Me, I try as often as I can to remind my wife of how beautiful she is, especially in those time when she remarks on how pretty some other woman or actress is. In those times I get to pull out my look that tends to make her blush, because she can see how much more beautiful I find her than them.

    In another odd thought that’s related but may be a tangent to the thread – does anyone else have a different image in their mind of what they look like that is different from what you see in the mirror?

    • Jessawhy says:

      Frank,
      I’ve seen similar things from women I know. Even when looking at photos, women tend to be really critical of themselves.

      I think I saw a cartoon once of a beautiful woman looking in the mirror at herself, imagining she was an ugly hag. On the other side was a pot-bellied bald man looking at himself in the mirror and seeing what he imagined- a stud.

  3. jen says:

    I love the idea of loving my body because it is ME, not because it looks a certain way, or does a certain thing, or doesn’t do a certain thing… I hated every part of it for so long, and it turns out there is NOTHING to hate.

    • Jessawhy says:

      I love this,

      “I hated every part of it for so long, and it turns out there is NOTHING to hate.”

      Why does it take so long to get to this place of acceptance?

  4. Ziff says:

    Men have a (mostly) relaxed relationship with their bodies. Of course there are attributes they don’t like, and some men are pretty vain about their looks, but men I know just accept that their body parts “are.”

    So true, Jess. It’s just another manifestation of men being assumed to be subjects of their (or I guess “our” since I’m a guy) own lives, while women are largely forced to see themselves as objects in someone else’s. I feel quite fortunate to not have to add worry about making my body presentable to my list of other anxieties; I totally concede that it’s an unearned privilege. I wish it weren’t this way (that is, I wish women weren’t barraged with messages that they don’t look good enough so they could also feel their bodies just are.)

    WHAT? My body (even the parts I’m not fond of) glorifies God? What does that even mean? Does this bypass pleasing men? Do we please God in the same way? Isn’t that kind of gross?

    LOL at this! Sorry to complicate things, but doesn’t the Mormon idea of an embodied male God mean that glorifying God is no different than pleasing men? I mean, unless we can get Heavenly Mother into the equation to add some sense! 🙂

  5. Jessawhy says:

    Ziff,
    I was talking to my husband about this post last night, mostly to make sure I wasn’t misrepresenting men who are secretly worried about their bodies all the time.
    His thought was that it might be because I’m a SAHM. He said that if all he had to focus on was the house and himself, he might spend more time looking at his receding hairline and love-handles. 🙂 I don’t know if that’s true, but maybe. . .

    Yes it is kinda of funny, isn’t it? So, does a woman’s body glorify an embodied male God more, less, or differently than a man’s body? Anyone?

    • Caroline says:

      “His thought was that it might be because I’m a SAHM. He said that if all he had to focus on was the house and himself, he might spend more time looking at his receding hairline and love-handles. :)”

      I do think there might be something to this. Particularly when I think of the fact that apparently so so many Mormon women get plastic surgery. Doesn’t Utah have the highest ratio of plastic surgeons to regular people in the whole country? I mentioned to my husband a few weeks ago that that might be in part because Mormonism encourages women to be SAHMs, and when one is a SAHM, one usually has time to be concerned about one’s body and looks, probably has enough $ for a gym membership, etc. At least that’s how it is in my area. So many women who don’t work spend a chunk of their days at the gym working on their bodies. I think another factor in Mormon women getting plastic surgery is the perfection ideal that so many want to live up to.

      Jessawhy, thanks for your terrific post. Reading a bit about your relationship with your body makes me realize that the grass really is always greener when it comes to bodies. I think you look amazing — what I wouldn’t give to be so beautifully fit. 🙂

      • Naismith says:

        Another factor regarding Mormon women and reconstructive surgery is the higher-than-average number of children that they have, and repairs to that damage.

        My body held out through baby #3 and then did not do so well after the last two. I dislocated my pelvis due to the sacroiliac joint being so loose from five births, and I will never be the same. I am sure that my back pain would be better if I had surgery to remove the fat in my tummy that is a drag on everything, but we can’t afford it and I am concerned about any surgery without health insurance (they wouldn’t pay for any complications).

        I do spend a lot of time at the gym, but it isn’t to make myself look better. It is to keep things in alignment and functioning as pain-free as possible. Also because I am from a long line of small Irish women who broke their hip and were dead within a year. I just had my first bone density scan, and it was normal because of all those years of working out with weights at the gym.

        Most folks who have reconstructive surgery do not look like Cher. They look like the person in the pew next to you, just without the huge bust that was causing back pain or the rolls of skin left over from when they lost weight.

    • Naismith says:

      Um, when I was at home fulltime with children, I spent far far more less time on myself and my appearance than at any other time in my life. This notion that moms at home have nothing better to do with their time seems an insult to the hard work that women do when they work at home in nurturing and teaching children and managing a household.

      • Caroline says:

        As a (mostly) SAHM myself, I know what you mean by saying that this notion seems to insult all the hard work SAHM’s are doing. However, with the way gyms work these days, and the fact that they have child care available for extremely little money ($3 for 2 hours), going to the gym is actually one thing that a woman can do relatively easily with her small children. The kids like it, the mom feels better for having exercised. I think it’s a win win and it definitely makes sense for those SAHM’s who can afford the membership. So as someone who does the gym thing, I don’t really see it as an insult to make the connection between SAHM’s, gyms, and therefore, some amount of interest in fitness and body image. Though I can see how someone could take it like that.

      • Annie B. says:

        I can relate to what you’re saying, and I think it depends on the specific situation. When my oldest daughter was in school and I had a part time job as a hike guide at a weight loss retreat (more like a gym membership that I got paid for than a job) I felt I was at my best, but once I had another baby and was home all day every day with her and not able to afford a gym membership, I felt like a shut-in. I was having other issues too, like social anxiety and post-partum depression and there were many days I didn’t even get dressed. I feel it’s near impossible to find time for myself when I have a baby or toddler, and it’s probably the same for moms that home-school. When I don’t have as much time for myself I definitely feel more self conscious when I do get a chance to get out of the house.

  6. Annie B. says:

    I feel ya on the small boobs issue. I’m a small A cup and this used to bother me. The first time I was pregnant and nursing, the accompanying natural breast enlargement was fun, the second time around I was just annoyed. I don’t know what changed. Possibly being more active the second time around had an influence, but I also think my perception of beauty increased to include my own body dimensions. I actually prefer my girlish figure now, and I like the style of clothes that fit and flatter my small chest. I like being able to wear a slightly lower cut shirt without looking inappropriate. I like being able to wear a push-up bra when I want a certain look and then go back to my regular size for everything else. Focusing on ideas like “Comparison is the thief of joy.” also helped. I realized my discontentedness was causing me to miss out on enjoying what I had. I truly believe now that the body I have, though it might differ from someone else’s ideal, is beautiful. Thankfully my husband agrees. I wouldn’t judge someone for getting implants, I’ve entertained the idea myself. Ironically, giving myself permission to someday get implants is what made me realize I didn’t really want them. I think doing good with what we have is what honors God, and I think getting implants is no less worthy than straightening teeth to make them look better. More medically risky maybe, but no less worthy.

  7. Miri says:

    It’s weird that in most LDS settings, we talk about our bodies being glorifications of God and then, in the same breath, say “and that’s why we should respect them by keeping them covered up.” Which would be fine, if our attitudes about modesty really were about respect for our bodies, rather than about fear of sexuality. In reality, we turn around and objectify the female body even as we talk about how it’s created in God’s own image (well, sort of; we need to pull Heavenly Mother into the mix, like Ziff said). Sad, ironic, and contradictory.

    I’ve been working to adopt this spirit for myself for a while now. My philosophy is basically that whatever is natural about our bodies is good–so I’ve stopped straightening my super curly hair, decided to like it when my husband’s hair gets shaggy instead of feeling like he needs to cut it to look more sophisticated, etc. And I’ve started trying to relax the super-Victorian paranoia I feel about letting people see cleavage. I never intend to have cleavage, but since I’ve gained weight I pretty much can’t help it anymore, and it really has always been a terror to me that someone (especially a male family member) will get even a tiny glimpse. What I am now trying to learn is… Calm down. They are just breasts. They are a part of the human body. Half of the population has them. Almost all of the adult population has seen them before. It’s already obvious that I have them anyway. IT’S NOT THAT BIG A DEAL.

    I have a human body. That is okay. It doesn’t need to look a certain way in order to be “right”–it a human body, and therefore is its own validation.

    • Annie B. says:

      I like that philosophy 🙂 I remember being around some middle aged european women at a swimming pool once and being amazed at how comfortable with their bodies. They seemed totally at ease, even happy with their bodies and not concerned at all about covering up their thighs or tummies like I was as a self-concious teenager. I wanted their peace of mind and confidence.

  8. MB says:

    In response to Annie B.’s comment about homeschooling moms. There hasn’t been research done on homeschooling moms and their sense of their physical self, but, interestingly, there has been a fair amount of research done on homeschooled girls and their relationships with their bodies and their sense of their own abilities. That research indicates a significantly higher level of self-acceptance and also a greater comfort level of being “different” or “developing at a different rate” among girls who are homeschooled than among those who are conventionally schooled.

    It would be interesting to research the attitudes of their moms to see if there is a correlation.

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