Body Image and The Baby Bump

Body Image. What woman does not struggle with these two words!? Over the past two years, I have found myself struggling with this issue in a way that I have not struggled since I was a teenager. My twenties was a period of intense spiritual growth, and, by God’s grace, I began to find contentment in the way God fashioned me. Not that I didn’t have moments where I wished I looked a certain way, but I found myself relaxing in my own skin and accepting who God had made me to be. When I got married two years ago, I had long put the battle of body image to rest, and I was moving on with life. Then it happened…motherhood.

I have been married for 26 months, and for 15 of those months, I have been pregnant. Seven months into our marriage, my husband and I were ecstatic to discover that we were pregnant with our first daughter. Four months after Makaylan was born God decided to bless us again with another pregnancy. Right now I am in the middle of my second pregnancy and with a body that never “recovered” from the first pregnancy. In the midst of feeling tired, bloated, stretched out, and overwhelmed, the enemy began to attack my self worth through attacking my body image. At times, I even found myself frustrated at my children for their effects on my body.

In the midst of this battle, God began to speak, and He used a familiar passage to teach me a new truth.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” This statement comes at the end of Paul speaking on the importance of sexual purity, but I also see other spiritual implications for these verses. Too many times we use our body for unholy things, and we dishonor God’s temple. When we eat unhealthy foods, fail to exercise, consistently deny our bodies the rest we need, and over-caffeinate our bodies to keep them working, we do not glorify God with our bodies. Instead, we treat our bodies as if we were the owners rather than regard God as the Ultimate Designer. In my twenties, God used these verses to convict me about my lifestyle, which caused me to make the needed changes to bring my life back to healthy living. But, over the last 15 months, God has shown me a new meaning for these verses as my body has continued to change.

Through this passage, God gives us two choices in how we use our bodies: for holy or unholy living.

Pregnancy, which is God forming another life in a woman, is one way He uses our bodies for His glory. The problem that many women face is that, often times, we get so caught up in the world’s view of us that we do not see the glorious thing He is doing in us as He forms this new life within. Instead, all we see is our expanding bodies and our desire to look a certain way. As I am learning, the process of carrying a child for nine months changes your body to such a degree that your body may never look the same again…There is a reason that mothers often refer to their figure as “before I had children” and “after I had children.”

In her book Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, Rachel Jankovic brings great insight into the reality of how God uses a woman’s body for His glory. She says, “Our bodies are tools, not treasures… Motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used. Those are the right kind of damages…We are not to treat our bodies like museum pieces. They were not given to us to preserve, they were given to us to use. So use it cheerfully, and maintain it cheerfully. You want to fix your body up in order to be able to use it some more,” (emphasis added). 

When women allow God to use their bodies to produce life, they use their bodies as God intended.

Yes, pregnancy and motherhood changes your body to such a degree that you often do not recognize it, but we must remember that God is the one who made our bodies. We are to allow Him to use them as He pleases. I have often heard women exclaim that they do not want children because they do not want their body to change. Though that is a very popular thought, it is also selfish. Remember God’s word: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20)

God gave me my body in order to be a good steward of it. But there is a huge difference between being a good steward of my body and refusing to allow God to use it as He deems appropriate. Will my body ever be the same? Probably not. But, as a result of giving my body to God for His use, I have had the joy of giving birth to one incredible daughter and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second daughter. I want to encourage you mothers to see your bodies as instruments for God’s use and not a museum to be preserved.

Rachel Jankovic.  Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. (Moscow: Cannon Press, 2010).