You are Remarkably Made

You are Remarkably Made

Growing up, I always had great self-esteem. I knew I was cute, smart, and well-liked. I worked as a teen model for the likes of JC Penny’s and Dillard’s and, due to being a twin, was constantly being told I was “ADORABLE”. I considered myself a contrarian, my mind firmly set against being a “normal teenager”. In fact, my Nana repeatedly tells the story of me announcing this to my family. In high school, I was a huge nerd and PROUD. I loved school and the dramatic arts and flourished in them. I was well-known (again due to being a twin) and joked about being the ‘popular nerd’. Being a late bloomer, my body really didn’t start changing until late highschool/early college (making my ‘awkward stage’ exponentially more awkward). I began to gain weight in all the normal places for women and, in the beginning, never paid it much mind. I embraced my body! I didn’t care. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and looked down on those who counted calories and watched their figure. “How silly and vain!” I thought. Then college happened. Everyone warns about the ‘freshman 15’ but amazingly, I lost 10 pounds. This encouraged my horrible eating habits that lead to weight gain and a blatant disregard for the importance of exercise. But again, I paid it no mind. Until one day, I started noticing. I honestly couldn’t tell you what started it. Maybe it was the fact I lived on a campus located in one of the prettiest and richest cities in Dallas. Or the fact that girls at SMU wear heels to football games and sundresses to class. All I know is something happened and I started caring. I started realizing that I didn’t have the body that was in the magazines, on TV, and on campus. Why now? Why did I decide to notice this NOW? The next two events that stand out the most on my journey down a slippery slope are my parents separating and my trip to NYC. I remember flying to NYC the morning after a very traumatic family event (I’m choosing not to discuss the event so as to respect the privacy of those involved.), seeing a musical that almost exactly represented my family’s current situation (Next To Normal), and sitting at Junior’s stuffing my face with a slice of the best cheesecake I have ever had in my life. I was sitting there, eating this cake, feeling completely full and disgusted with my inability to stop eating. That moment changed my life. I wish I could tell you that it was a positive change. Perhaps, it started out that way. Unfortunately, my control freak nature combined with a lack of control of my family situation and me being slightly overweight, turned into an eating disorder. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic, but had an unhealthy relationship with food and my body. Though I did in fact need to change my diet and start making healthier choices, I took this to the extreme. Being an impatient person, I decided to cut almost all fat from my diet. I ate iceberg lettuce with only vinegar as dressing and gave up all fried food and most kinds of meat. I said ‘no’ to dessert and started working out daily. I would go to bed hungry most nights simply because I was afraid my body was ‘faking it’ and that I was in fact just giving in to my old “eat for the sake of eating” habit. All this sounds super unhealthy, which it was, but to be honest, I felt great! I had more energy, I was losing weight, and I had something to focus my mind on. But what started as an innocent attempt to get into shape turned into an obsession with attaining the ‘ideal’ body. Despite all my hard work, I wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror. If I could only lose X number of pounds or fit into “insert size here” pants. If only I could weigh under X amount. I ended up losing 25 pounds within a matter of months. I think the lowest amount I weighed was 111, which by health standards was the minimum on the spectrum of a healthy weight for my height and age. I was tired all the time and constantly worried about food. I had become one of those girls I had made fun of in high school. Throughout this whole process, I didn’t think I had a problem. I figured since I never skipped meals and was making ‘healthy’ choices, I was ‘ok’. I could control this. I could CONTROL this. I wasn’t starving myself or purging. I simply was hyperfocusing on my eating. Throughout all this, my family situation was getting worse and ultimately ended with a divorce. But I was ‘ok’. Or so I thought. Thankfully, the Lord brought two people into my life who cared enough about me to ask me some tough questions. I am equally thankful that the Lord humbled me to a point where I was eager to listen. A part of me was waiting on someone to call me out. Waiting for proof that someone cared about me and my life. After the confrontation, I opened up to my small group and shared my struggles. With accountability and the determination to be healthy, I adjusted my diet to a healthy one and began to teach myself how to value my body. Not by the world’s standard but by the only standard that truly matters: my Father’s.

Growing up in church, I was constantly fed the line “God made you special”. This is fact. No bells, no whistles, no fluff. God did, in fact, make me special. But sadly, this profoundly beautiful statement has become cliché. We hear it so many times we stop believing it. So about 2 years ago, I started re-teaching myself about the beauty and wonder of God’s creation: Me. I, Alexandra Braunwyn Faith Gatewood, am like no other. I was crafted in my mother’s womb before she even knew I existed (Jeremiah 1:5). I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-16). God crafted every inch of my body with an artist’s eye and a Father’s love. He designs for a purpose. He designed my height, my weight, the length of my arms, and the color of my eyes. He added special details to make me unique, different from any other person on this planet, even my twin. But the Lord made something even more beautiful. He made my soul, my spirit and being. And no amount of dieting, exercise, or plastic surgery can alter His masterpiece.

One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 31:30 which says that “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” I love this verse because it reminds me that everything is temporary, even my body. In the end, we all wrinkle, we all gain weight, and we all ultimately pass away. But the single most important thing in our lives is our relationship with the Lord. We are not here to please man, who is fickle. We are here to know the one true God.

I think the hardest part about struggling with food and exercise is the fact that, in moderation, it is necessary to live a healthy life. It’s when you find your happiness and self-worth in these things that the problems start. The Bible even addresses this in 1 Timothy 4:8 saying, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next”. The gym will only bring me temporary happiness but my quiet times, scripture memory, and fellowship with other believers will keep me eternally ‘fit’. My body is a temple and should be treated as such (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is not to be used for my glory but for His. I mentioned before that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. I recently heard a different translation, saying ” we are remarkably and wonderfully made”. I love this translation because it is true. It it truly remarkable how we’re made. The human body is complex, intricate, fragile, resilient, and made in His image. We have the fingerprints of God on every cell in our bodies. We are a miracles by every definition. Take some time to dwell on that.

Sadly, I can’t say that I am cured. It is a daily struggle and, with the omnipresence of the media, it is nearly impossible to escape the World’s view of beauty. But I am equppied to handle attacks from all sides. I have my sword of Truth and have surrounded myself with people who know the true value of beauty, loving me for the woman God designed me to be.

So for those of you out there, men and women alike, who struggle with something like this, you are not alone. You have a Father is Heaven who loves you and has put you exactly where He wants you to be, looking exactly how you look, and with the talents you possess. And He said, “It was good”.

A Double Standard

A Double Standard

On the way to work this morning, every radio station was talking about the big premiere tonight. If you hadn’t already heard, “Magic Mike” opens tonight in a theater near you, chronicling the life of a male stripper, played by Channing Tatum. Radio hosts were proclaiming tonight ‘Ladies Night’ due to the expected exodus of women from their homes and into theaters across the country. This got me thinking. If the movie was called “Magic Mary“, telling the story of a female stripper and causing men to flock to theaters, many women would be in an uproar. They would claim the movie was sexist, objectifying women, and just another way men are keeping women in their place. They would claim the media was once again portraying an unrealistic, unattainable, and unhealthy body image, perpetuating eating disorders and depression in young girls. But it’s ok for women to do the same to men? I think there is a double standard here.

As women, we should be treating men with respect and dignity. We should be edifying the qualities we want in our husbands, our fathers, our sons, and our friends. How can we expect men to control themselves if we can’t do the same?

In regards to the media’s supposed “War on Women” and the ‘ideal’ body type, I would just like to point out that men suffer from eating disorders and discontentment with their physical appearance just like women. I have watched men and women, struggle to fit into what the world deems ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’ based on the images they see on TV, in movies, and in magazines. I promise you the men in “Magic Mike” are not perfect and they are not normal. If they were real, they would not give you happiness.The ‘ideal man’ does not exist.  So, as women, why do we fill our minds with images of men that will leave us disappointed and empty? Especially when we know how it feels to never look like the ‘ideal woman’?

In the end, you can do what you want. It’s “only a movie”. So if you do end up going to theaters tonight, I just ask that you guard your heart and your mind. Ask yourself what you’re gaining from this movie and what you may be taking away. The images we fill our heads with have more effect on us than we like to think and, consequently, on others.

Let’s Hear it for the Boys

Let’s Hear it for the Boys

You’ve probably seen or heard the phrase, “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model”. This little campaign sparked out of Baylor University and caught fire. I am a huge supporter of this biblical campaign for many reasons. However, it has started me thinking why there isn’t a male-equivalent campaign. Yes, culture is attacking women, telling them they need to be rail thin, have big boobs, perfect skin, etc. etc. But culture is lying to men, too. The media is full of images of men that encourage sexual promiscuity, laziness, passivity, and other worldy passions. Any man on TV today fits this image. If I see another “family” show where the father is stupid and the wife rules the household, constantly repimanding her spouse for his laziness, I’m going to throw my remote out the window (or exit my Hulu window). This is percieved as “humor”. I don’t think there is anything humorous about a stupid, lazy man. That is not attractive and that is not ok. The other extreme is the “man’s man” who is tall, built, and highly sucessful. His success is determined by the clothes he wears, the car he drives, and the number of zeros in his salary. He controls his life by the credit card in his pocket and is admired by all. This image teaches men that money and success is the answer to all their problems and defines his worth. This leads to husbands and fathers who would rather provide for their families financially than emotionally. They would rather work overtime than spend time at home with their children. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t love their families, they have just been taught that this is the ‘right’ way to do things. The media also encourages sexual promiscuity in men of all ages. Boys are taught their worth is derived by the number women they sleep with (Just watch any show on ABC Family or even How I Met Your Mother, among others). Character’s lives are defined by the constant attempt to get laid and how to manipulate women to do so. To make matters worse, men who have chosen to remain sexually pure are portrayed as weak and are the butt of all the jokes. Staying ‘pure’ is seen as unrealistic, undesirable, and unmanly. Just like women, men are told they have to look a certain way to be handsome: big muscles, tall, athletic… Newsflash ladies, males models are airbrushed, too. Beauty is fleeting in men just as quickly as in women. Ryan Gosling is not always going to look that way. What is more important is the way he acts; His character. One’s character never fades.

As a women striving to be a Proverbs 31 woman, I can only wonder why there is such an emphasis on women. Men should be equally encouraged to pursue a Christ-like character: A man who loves his wife as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). A man who is faithful and loyal, giving honor to marriage (Proverbs 5:15, Hebrews 13:4). A man who doesn’t take advantage of the women in his life (Col. 3:19). A man who stands firm in his beliefs and who is courageous (1 Cor. 16:13). A man who is not passive, but subdues his world (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:3-8). A man who is merciful, just, and humble (Micah 6:8). A man who rules his household in a way that earns respect, not with laziness and passivity, and not in a way that engenders fear (1 Timothy 3:4-5). And, above all, a man who fears the Lord (Psalm 128:1-4).

These are the qualities and characteristics we should be encouraging in our sons, our fathers, our husbands, and our guy friends; encouraging men to be who God calls them to be, not this world.

If men would rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model, then I’d rather have a godly man than a man who defines his worth by worldly standards and worldy pursuits.