Yesterday, I led a body image workshop for a Wednesday evening church gathering. Present were young women, moms, grandmothers, and one middle aged man. We begin by talking about what we see in the mirror. I liked having the male perspective, as my workshop attendees are mostly female. He said that he still views himself as a man 20-years younger and is sometimes surprised by the “old man in the mirror.”
I get that. We are only as old as we feel, but sometimes the reflection in the mirror betrays our age. And as my work in this field notes, the reflection also reveals that we do not look like the “ideal beauty” as sold to us by media – fashion, entertainment, music, magazines, movies, TV, etc.
The sole man around the table yesterday had a bit of an epiphany – that there are not only cultural ideals in media, but in the professional world. This makes sense; even from the pictures in the magazines we discussed, the men wear power suits and convey prestige, while women are less clothed and positioned in less powerful poses.
According to this young-at-heart man, regardless of vocation, there seems to be an “ideal” – that promotion, that publishing deal, that power and respect. We, society at large, don’t only lift them up as “ideals” but as “idols.”
When we focus on efforts on achieving ideal beauty or ideal success, as society shapes, then we are less able to focus on the divine ideal of loving ourselves, our neighbors, and God. When we make idols out of the mirror or money, we are not truly honoring God.
There are ideals in every aspect of life. Some good. Some not so good.
But as I speak and preach and pray, I believe that we are all made in the image of the Ideal, Divine beauty as informed and infused by God.
The same is true for whatever our life’s work is. Before leading the workshop last night, I was given this scripture on which to meditate:
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Let us not make an idol out those things (beauty, buying-power, buildings, etc.) not true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, worthy of praise. For only these things are the ideals set forth by God.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.