What an interesting paradox. We are told that the inside is more important than the outside and that bodily exercise profit little and yet we have to keep this body maintained and in order to point others to Christ we have to have some degree of fitness.
You see, it is all about our heart and our heart’s attitude, but a heart that has a desire to please God and bring others to Him will also want to take care of his or her temple so that it does not distract from the Gospel of peace.
We’ve spent a lot of time here at MInTheGap pointing out that the beauty we see in photographs is not real. We’ve talked about how beauty pageants emphasize a wrong aspect of the feminine ideal, and I’m not taking that back. But I fear that if we spend too much time talking down keeping our body presentable, we begin to encourage an apathy to good health and exercise to our own detriment.
What has gotten me thinking about this is an article by Garance Franke-Ruta in the Opinion Journal, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all that she is saying, she certainly makes this point:
What is clear is that, over the past century, American women have changed their shape. Most noticeably, they have gained so much poundage that, today, more than half are overweight and a third are clinically obese. The sharpest spike in obesity has come since the late 1970s. There are all sorts of reasons, of course–from the rise of corn syrup as a sweetener to the increased portion sizes of our daily meals and our increasingly sedentary styles of life. And yet the doctrine of “natural beauty”–so favored by the self-esteem brigades of the 1970s and still confusing women today–asks women to accept themselves as this unnatural environment has made them.
What the critics of the beauty industry further fail to recognize is that the doctrine of “natural beauty”–and the desire it breeds in women to be accepted as they are or to be seen as beautiful without any effort–is a ruthless and anti-egalitarian ideal. It is far more punishing than the one that says any woman can be beautiful if she merely treats beauty as a form of discipline.
Do you see the point I think she made? I believe she makes a strong point here (and following) that beauty– and not the Photoshop variety– is a lot of work. We shouldn’t be saying that we can all be a vision of beauty on the outside without work. We Christians know that Proverbs 31 and the Peter passage I linked to at the beginning says that true beauty is from within– however, we must not kid ourselves into the place where we believe that we should just “come as we are” and “everyone should think I’m stunning.”
Neither should being stunning be our goal– since we are not to be drawing attention to ourselves. I certainly don’t see anything wrong in being fit, presenting an attractive figure to our spouse, or any of that. We need to have a good energy level to serve and raise children. We need to have some strength in order to do things around the house, church or in service to others. We just cannot let it elevate itself to dominating our lives (the 3 hours a day some exercise) OR say that we don’t need any of it. For the truth is somewhere in the middle.