Wonderfully Made

wonderfullymadesmall

I did not love my 16-year old body. The mirror said: “Your teeth aren’t straight. Your thighs wobble. Your skin has too many moles and freckles. Your smile is more gum than teeth.” Every picture I saw of myself at 16 was a painful reminder of each flaw.

I did not love my 26-year old body. The mirror said: “Your teeth may be straight, but it’s still more gum than teeth. Your thighs wobble. More than they used to. Your skin has even more moles, and some scars to add to the mix. Your chin is too round.” I avoided pictures whenever I could.

My 27-year old self got married, and my body had to come along for the ride: insecurities and issues wed with intimacy. “He loved me despite my gummy grin,” I thought. “Despite the wobbly thighs.” But my husband loved my 27-year old body. He loved it without criticism, without comparison, without complaint. He seemed delighted with my asymmetrical form. His voice began to compete with the shrill accusations of the mirror. “You’re gorgeous,” he would say. “You’re blind,” I would reply.

My 30-year old body got pregnant, and as that little seed began to grow in my hearth, so too a new seed began to grow in my heart. What if bodies were meant for more than looking at? What if, after three decades of believing that the mirror doesn’t lie, it turns out that the mirror was lying after all?

I watched in wonder as my belly swelled with life. This tummy that had never been flat enough, thin enough, pretty enough for a bikini … this same tummy was enough to grow a human being. What if my stomach wasn’t for looking at, but for sustaining life?

In the hours after my daughter was born, I sat amazed as my asymmetrical, pencil-test-failing breasts produced first colostrum, and then milk. The perfect combination of nutrients and antibodies, custom designed for my infant and served at exactly the right temperature every time. I thought: what if my breasts were not for admiration, but for my husband’s joy and my baby’s nourishment? Are they not wonderful? Yes. They are wonderful.

I shouted in triumph as I gave birth to one, then a second, and then a third baby. This body that had never been athletic enough, never fast enough, was enough to go through labor and delivery, and recover three times.

My arms, which had never been toned enough or bronzed enough, were strong enough to hold my newborns for hours. To soothe them to sleep. To snatch them from harm. To feed them their food. My legs, which had never been thin enough, were perfect for walking up stairs, carrying the umpteenth load, for teaching toddlers how to play hopscotch. My face, which had never been pretty enough to turn a head at high school, was delightful enough that my babies would stare and coo and grin at me for hours.

My body was made for more than looking at. It was made for me: to live in, to laugh in, to touch with, to serve with, to feel with, to nurture with. It was made for use. It was made for enjoyment.

I love my 36-year old body. My teeth are the same. My thighs even wobblier. My stomach squishier than it’s ever been. My skin has added wrinkles to the moles and scars. But I love my 36-year old body, and the mirror is no longer allowed to speak. From time to time it tries to shout its accusations, but I’m learning to walk away. And now that the mirror is quieter, there’s another voice I am able to hear more clearly:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)

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About

Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born mama of three, braving the wild frontier of mothering in California. Once upon a time she trained as a lawyer and worked in vocational ministry, but her specialties now include speed-diapering and minivan-parking. When she gets to hang out with grown-ups, she loves to study and teach the bible. She blogs at Bronwyn's corner. You can also find her on Facebook, contributing over at StartMarriageRight.com, and on Twitter.


  • Michelle

    This is wonderful! What you’ve shared is a blessing. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Michelle. it has been such a good journey, and I so badly want to communicate freedom and grace to other women too.

  • I love this. And I love that you discovered it in your 30’s! I know you probably struggle from time to time with this as most women do, but tot share it who beautifully. I am about to turn 53 and that mirror still bullies me. Thank you for this insight.

    • Thank you, Mindy. my original working title for this piece was “mirror, mirror on the wall – shut up!”, but I love the edited title which so much more clearly conveys God’s grace on the topic of body image. may we let the Word speak ever more clearly than the mirror.

  • What a wonderful testimony, and such a helpful perspective — yet I must admit surprise to read of your inner thoughts and emotions! I’ve always looked at you and thought, “Wow, she has such a natural beauty and poised confidence about her!” :-) I guess that just goes to show that we all struggle with discontentment, and only He can fully satisfy.

    (P.S. Have you read Sophie DeWitt’s book, ‘Compared to Her’? SO helpful!)

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Bronwyn. So glad to see you over here at Ungrind!

    • Thanks, Kate. Yes, we all keep our insecurities fairly deeply buried, don’t we? God’s work has to be DEEP with us :-)
      Sophie’s book is on my “must read” list, but I haven’t had a copy in hand yet… maybe it’s time to pay amazon a visit.

      • Fantastic piece, Bron! And, yes, I agree: definitely pay Amazon a visit! ;-) Sophie’s book is excellent and is worth reading alongside Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. Brilliant stuff!

        • So many wonderful books to read!! I have 6 days sans kids in October and I think every spare minute is accounted for… all with my nose in a book :-) Thanks for adding Tim Keller’s book to the list.

  • Heather

    I am so grateful you wrote this post. I am 26 and have been riding the weight roller coaster and have been critical about my body for years. I am also engaged and your words have definitely helped me put things into perspective. I am looking forward to all the wonderful things that God has created me and my body for.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Heather. I remember standing in front of the mirror one day in my early twenties and complaining about something I saw, and my mom saying “My baby, one day you will have a husband and he will love your body just exactly the way it is, and it will be so good for you.” She was so right. May God continue his good, transforming work in us! Every blessing to you in your upcoming marriage.

  • Bronwyn, what a beautiful testimony to how God really created our bodies! I love this, and I can’t wait to have children someday and discover more about the way God made me! Love Katie

    • Thanks Katie, and I know you will have gorgeous, worshipful photos to document the journey!

  • Tim

    Bronwyn, you’ve written a post that men can relate to as well. Bodies never look the way we think they should.

  • Keiz Pipkin

    Bronwyn, this is lovely. I sometimes wish we lived without mirrors because they wouldn’t have such power over us. Although I find them helpful after eating spinach ;-) It really is amazing what God has crafted our bodies to do!

    • What a wonderful idea: maybe we should have a world without mirrors except for a small compact just big enough for spinach detection….

  • Thanks for your input, Tim. I only know the women’s side of this struggle, so it is encouraging to know that this is something we ALL need grace and truth in.

  • Betsy

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! You have a real gift for writing, and I thank you for being so honest. I am three months postpartum with my second daughter and this is the message I want and need to hear over and over. I’ve shared this with my facebook mom’s group that includes hundreds of moms and hope they will be blessed by it as well.

    • Thank you, Betsy, and thank you for sharing the article – it’s a message I hope us women will deeply take to heart and know we are MARVELOUSLY made. Congratulations on your little girl’s birth! What a wondrous season.

  • Jessica

    Excellant! You know it’s funny, I have a friend who has been a model (done small jobs) and to me she is flawless. She looks in the mirror and sees nothing BUT flaws. The enemy of our soul lies to us all simply to stop us from singing praises to our Creator!

    • The enemy has pulled a fast one on us in this department, that’s for sure. I am very deliberately trying to put some “voices” in my daughters head to combat the enemy’s shouting: I tell her “there’s nothing more beautiful than a smiling, kind face”, and when she’s all dressed up in the morning and ready fr kindergarten to say “you look all ready for fun and play!” Instead of “you look so cute!” (But its hard, because she really is so very cute….)
      Thank you for your kind comment!

      • Betsy

        This is such an important topic – how to talk to our daughters. It would be awesome if you decide to write a post about that as well. I tell my toddler she’s so cute all the time cause I just can’t help myself, but I avoid talking negatively about my own or other people’s bodies, and don’t allow disney princess stuff or cable tv in our house. I would love more tips on how to foster a healthy and godly body concept in my girls.

  • Well-written and very poignant in our culture of looks, money, and power as supposed aspirations. Equally important is the ideal that we, as mothers, should teach our young boys that beauty is, indeed, inside a person and in the eye of the beholder simultaneously. My wish and my prayer would be that we would all feel as loved and treasured by our husbands as you do yours.
    Cheers and kindness,
    Sheila

  • Nancy Lambrechts

    Well said Bronwyn, you write so well. I’m going to share this.

  • Thank you for sharing this! I don’t know you, but saw this on a friends ‘Facebook-wall’ and was drawn to it. Thank you for reminding us what’s most important and for telling it in such a beautiful way.

    • I love finding great surprises on facebook! So glad you found ungrind :-)

  • Thabile

    Thank you, I really needed to hear this. I have always felt that way about my body. I am slowly starting to accept it but … Thanks for sharing.

    • Bronwyn Lea

      Thank you Thabile. I’m so glad we are on the journey to appreciating God’s handiwork together.

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Wonderfully Made

by Bronwyn Lea time to read: 3 min
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