I just finished up an eight-week series called Imago Die Women. It’s a bible study designed to take a close look at what God meant when he called women his image bearers. One of the lessons focused on work in the garden. What kind of work did God do and what kind of work did he give for woman and man to do in his likeness? By the way, woman’s work was more than having babies!
Work in the garden was meant to reflect who God is – creating, caring and cultivating so that all of God’s creation will flourish.
An interesting conversation ensued when I asked, “How can we recognize when work openly violates God’s patterns revealed in Genesis 1& 2?”
One woman, who works to get women out of the sex industry, said, “Yes, pimping violates God’s patterns of work in the garden.” Yup, that’s true.
Then another woman spoke up, she’s an esthetician, and wonders if her work violates God. She proceeded to say her works includes trying to convince women they aren’t beautiful enough and they need her services to make them “look more beautiful.” The next thing out of her mouth cracked me up. She pointed to the wrinkles between my eyebrows and said, “I noticed you need some work on right there.”
I busted out laughing. I love that our studies are raw, open and honest.
But the thing is, I like my wrinkles. They say something about my age, my state of life. More importantly they say something about God. About life and decay and death and resurrection. I believe my body communicates God’s story. I don’t want them gone because they speak an important story.
Women think I’m crazy when I say things like that. But it’s true. And I wish women would stop letting society define their beauty, their story. Our story in God’s Meta narrative.
An acquaintance invited me to a gala hosted at one of the fanciest country clubs in Dallas. Not my kind of thing, but went because I wanted to grow in my friendship with the woman. I’ve never attended something like this so I felt like an outsider observing the women and men in the room. The insecurity and comparison among women was palpable in the room. My heart hurt. Here we where, God’s image bearers, so desperately wanting everyone, anyone, to notice us, think we were beautiful, capable, desirable. We wanted women to envy us and men to lust after us. It was hovering over the event. The group of women at my table took some pictures and one woman immediately stated, she “hated how she looked in iPhone pictures.” The conversation ensued about how you can buy an app that reshapes your appearance while skyping and “make you look better than you do.” Again I was standing there in shock and awe. What? There were so many questions and indications darting in my mind and I could feel myself about to speak out, actually speak out against…
I told myself, “Jackie, let it go. Don’t say anything. You don’t know these women well enough to pipe in.” But I piped up. I can’t stand by and let women build a belief system that does damage to them, puts them in bondage. It’s not as Jesus would have it. So I spewed out a whole lot about why God gave us a body and how that body was given to make us known and there’s meta narratives about God being told in and through our bodies, and when we change them we have to ask are we messing with God’s story? They looked at me like, “Huh?”
I get that a lot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against “changing the body.” After all, I color my hair and I have body piercing and tattoos, but to immediately distain our bodies, and to want to change them without asking any questions is not okay.
Recently I finished a book called “Social: Why are brains are wired to connect.” It’s not a Christian book; it’s a scientist writing about how they are discovering the brain is designed to be connect with others, to be social. It turns out when the brain is at rest the brain default mode is to rehearse and reconsolidate “various kinds of social information that will benefit our long term social abilities.” (Lieberman, 301) In other words, our brains’ default mode is to be social. To figure out what cues we are reading from others etc. Our brains are wired to be social. No kidding, Genesis 1 & 2 tell us that! I love it when science confirms theology. But here’s the other thing the dude said, it turns out there are all these small muscles in our faces that the brain moves to give social cues to those we’re engaging with. I get that; we know most of our communication comes through our bodies. And I’ve made myself a student of watching others’ body language in a meeting or social setting. So much is said that’s never spoken. Dr. Leiberman went on to say that when we Botox our face we freeze those muscles that are sending social cues. Get that, it curtails our ability to be social. And it turns out when the muscles freeze, the brain stops sending it signals. It hampers your brain from being social – connected. (I’m simplifying what the dude said; I’m not a scientist.) This is important because fundamentally we were made to be in community, connected, deeply engaged with others. (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18) therefore we should ask questions about things that alter our social connectedness.
And now I’m back to the wrinkles between my eyebrows (and by the way, the lady is right- there are deep lines there!). But I want to embrace my age, my stage. I’m not supposed to look 30, I’m 50, and I should have a body that communicates the truth about my life. I’ve had kids and nursed and things are sinking and I kind of love it. I won’t lie, it can be shocking to look down and see the skin on my arm look like a grandmother but all in all I love what it represents. When I was young, my body said something about hope and expectations. Now my body says something more about God’s story… that with hope and life there is also decay and fallen-n
ess and even death. My preaching God’s word says something about who God is, but so does my embodied self. The wrinkles say something about Him and me and His big story and that’s important. I want to age with dignity. I want other women to be free to age well. We will sag and our chin may not look great on Skype, but we are more than that.
So, no thank you, I think I’ll pass on the Botox.