Warning: the above video contains some graphic images.
I ran across this video (one in a series Dove is making) on Melissa's blog, along with some sobering statistics (read them here). I physically cringed watching this video, partly because I have a little girl and partly because I realized again how much I allow our culture to affect the way I think about myself. Too many times I have pulled back the skin from around my eyes as I looked in the mirror or watched a commercial featuring thin models and wished I looked like them. Sigh.
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize how much God wants us to simply rest and find our all in him--and that includes how I think about who I am. Identity is a core issue. A few years ago, I went through an intense period of identity crisis when in my late 30s I stepped out of my professional career life (after working since I was 16) to take care of house, home and kids. I couldn't believe how much my identity was wrapped up in my career--the respect, the ability to make a marked difference and the sense of accomplishment bringing in a salary. (These aren't bad things, but it didn't take long to see that they took way too much space in my heart.) If I'm not a writer, I thought, who am I? A mother? A wife? But even those identities, I realized, could be taken away. What if my husband died? I would no longer be a wife. And my children would grow up some day and I would no longer have the same role I do now. So, who am I? It took awhile to work through those questions, but eventually I realized who I am and began to settle into an identity that never changes: I am a beloved child of God, a follower of Jesus.
But the temptation is always great to find some other identity to wrap my fingers around. Even though I know who I am, I get distracted. Instead of resting in God and his love, I begin to chase after or long for things I think will satisfy my desires, assuage my fears or comfort my insecurities. And I catch some of that playing out in how I think about my aging body and appearance. This video is a sober reminder of how often I and my daughter are bombarded by messages playing on the insecurities and fears we have about who we are.
And that reminds me again of just how important it is that we cooperate with God in forming firm roots in who we are and where we find our identity, rest, strength and purpose. All those spiritual disciplines--meditating on the Word, talking with God, confessing our fears and ways we give into the bents inside us, confessing our need for God, practicing his presence, paying attention and countless other actions--are ways we cooperate with God as he by his oh-so-amazing grace changes and transforms us into who we are designed to be, who we are already-yet-still-transforming-to-be: his children in his Kingdom.