I had a real honest-to-goodness melt down in a department store dressing room last week. I wish I had as much to wear as I did when my pre-pregnancy self thought I had nothing to wear. Nothing fits. The shape and size of my body is completely altered from pregnancy. Getting dressed in anything thing other than gym clothes (shout out to LuLu Lemon for making me feel like that's a classy option) is a real struggle. Can I get an amen?
But when I looked up and saw the lowered eyebrows and hot tears on my red face (it was an all out war trying to get that last dress off), I was so convicted. This struggle had become a stronghold. When was the last time I had gotten dressed or undressed without ill feelings towards my body? In this moment of grief, as I repented of my disdain for this body, God kindly bathed each of my sad thoughts in his word, giving way to these comforting truths:
My Postpartum Body belongs to Christ.
The apostle Paul urges us to honor God with our bodies because we were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). It would follow that there is a place for physical fitness in the life of a believer... but, if anything that is done apart from faith is sin, exercise done with any intention other than glorifying God with my body through pursuing its health is to be repented of. It is wonderfully freeing news that our bodies and not just our souls belong to him! We can exercise with freedom and joy instead of in bondage and fear because he has freed us from the lies the world tells us about our bodies. It is not wrong to desire physical fitness ... but to desire our pre pregnancy body to the point that it controls our emotions and robs us of the joy we have in Christ is not just sin, its senseless. Have grace for yourself. He certainly has.
The function of my postpartum body matters far more than its form.
Because of the finished work of Jesus, I am a new creation. My body, within the cosmic story of redemption, has a dual purpose as a vessel and a vehicle. As a vessel, it houses my soul and the Holy Spirit. It is also the vehicle through which God enables me to walk in the good works He has prepared for me in advance (Eph 2:10). It is far less important that my clothes fit the way I would like, than that I am clothed in strength and dignity and adorned with the good works that my body carries out (Prov 31; 1 Tim 2:10). The change in shape and appearance our bodies go through during and after pregnancy present us with a unique opportunity to delight in their function rather than despair over their form as our misunderstanding is exposed by our dissatisfaction and impatience.
God is sovereign over stretch marks.
If God truly keeps us in such a way that not a hair can fall from our heads without His will, then we can assume that not a stretch mark can appear on us without his sovereign hand allowing it to form there (Matt 10:29-31; Luke 21:18). The form of our body can serve as an indicator that we are not honoring God with our diet or with its use, but when we loathe the things about ourselves that we cannot change or have no impact on, we insult his design. For whatever purpose, if it is true that all things work together for our good (Rom 8:28), then because they are on us, they are his grace to us. We can therefore do more than hate them or simply learn to live with them... we can thank God for them.
Turning despair to praise
The serious confusion taking place in that department store dressing room concerning the role of my body led to despair, but the work of Christ in the believer redeems her perspective of her postpartum body and leads to praise and thankfulness.
My breasts may look like a road map, but God has used them to sustain the life of another person, who we pray will grow to make His name famous.
My tummy may be squishy, stretched out, and still look 5 months pregnant, but it is an ebenezer of God's faithfulness to answer our prayers for a child.
My hips my be too wide for any and all of my shorts and jeans (thank goodness for J Crew's new elastic waistline shorts), but they spread according to His grand design to give birth to a miracle.
My arms may be thicker than ever, but they are strong and fashioned perfectly by their Creator to tote that infant car seat and to provide tangible expressions of His love as I pick up, hug, and hold my child.
My face may be fuller than I would like, but it is no less capable of communicating my joy, delight, empathy, and emotion to the little eyes it holds captive.
The next time you are tempted to look down and pinch your midsection, wiggle the loose skin under your arms, or stare with disdain at the stretch marks your little one caused when he or she grew inside of you, ask the Holy Spirit to take that thought captive by bringing to mind what God's word says about who you are (and what your body is) because of who God is and what Christ has done.
What about you? How have you wrestled with these thoughts since having a child? What can you celebrate about your body now? What steps are you taking to love God with your strength within your postpartum body?
ps: if you're struggling with comparing your postpartum body with those of other new mamas, you may want to check out my earlier post on envy.