Where do we get our concept of beauty? Why is that some of us feel “too fat” or “too thin?” Who has set the standard in our lives? I once saw television show featuring a group of women in Africa who were getting ready for a special day with the men in their tribe. They were stuffing their clothing full of things that looked very much like pillows to make themselves appear larger. Let me say that again. They were stuffing their clothing with pillows to make themselves appear larger! Some time ago, a friend told me of a family member who went to Africa on mission trip and for the first time in her life, felt really beautiful. By America’s standards, she was very overweight. By the standards of the country she was visiting, she was incredibly beautiful. How freeing it must have been for her to feel really beautiful for the first time in her life! And how sad that when she came back to America she was once again thrust into a world where she was considered unlovely. These examples demonstrate to us that the standard of beauty is not objective, but subjective to our society, our culture, and our influences.
What should be our response to all of this be? How does a woman, who doesn’t meet the standard of beauty in her own society, make herself beautiful to her husband? After five children and poor eating habits, I certainly don’t conform to the standard of beauty set by America! When I read Mrs. Parunak’s article, A Garden Enclosed: The Importance of Modesty…and Immodesty my eyes were opened to the importance of being revealing for our husbands, but I was still having trouble breaking through the barrier of my own self-consciousness. I’d always had a difficult time feeling comfortable with my body and often felt the desire to hide during more intimate moments with my husband. A short time later, in response to a question I’d asked her, Mrs. Parunak wrote a second article on the subject, (Of Baby Weight and Nightgowns and Being Revealing for our Husbands) that addressed many of my particular concerns. After reading these two excellent articles, I felt it was time to have a talk with my husband. I wanted to know exactly how he felt about the issue, and what I could do to make our relationship healthier in this regard. In the course of our conversation, my husband shared many things with me that were extremely helpful and I thought it would be beneficial to share them with other women. I asked him to write an article for me, and he graciously agreed. I hope this will be helpful to other women who struggle with feelings of inadequacy about their own bodies. Here is what my husband has to say:
When a Godly man gets married, it is expected that he is going to be sexually faithful to his wife. This not only includes the physical, but the visual, mental, and emotional as well. The man who does this places himself in a position of total dependence upon his wife in the area of sexual intimacy. He refuses to indulge in the sensuality of the world, either through television, magazines, or in public. He rejects the world’s standard and embraces his wife as the model of beauty. This creates a desert island effect and keeps his marriage bed from becoming defiled (Hebrews 13:4). The man who does this has made a decision that the fulfillment of his sexual needs will be met by his wife alone. Obviously, this means that he will not be physically intimate with another woman. It also means that he will choose not to look at, or “check out” a woman other than his spouse. In Job 31:1, Job says “I have made a covenant with my eyes, why then would I look lustfully upon a woman?” The Godly man who chooses to marry makes a similar covenant.
Men are visually oriented. This is one of the reasons why pornography is a billion dollar industry. There is an intimate gratification that comes to a man when he is visually stimulated and part of his sexual drive comes through his eyes (Mat 5:28). The Bible often speaks of this desire. Solomon frequently praises his wife’s beauty and Ezekiel’s wife is called the “desire of his eyes.” A man’s sexual fulfillment includes his ability to look upon his wife during physical intimacy. If a husband has chosen to live according to Godly principals, then his wife is the only one who can meet these needs.
It matters not what a wife “looks like” for the man who practices these kingdom principles. It doesn’t matter because on this “desert island” of his own making, there is no one to compare her to. The Godly man has removed her competition by controlling his eyes. The idea that wife could be “too fat” or “too thin” or what have you is eliminated because there is no one to rival her. She is the only one who exists on this deserted island of his choosing. Whatever she looks like, she has become the standard of beauty in his life – the “desire of his eyes.” She has become, by default, the most beautiful woman he will ever see… because she is the ONLY woman he will ever see.
This is good news for the woman who sees herself as too fat, or too thin, too short, or too tall. She can be free to trust that her husband thinks she’s beautiful – cellulite and all. She can know with certainty that her body is amazing to him and that her bre@sts – no matter what they look like – “satisfy him at all times” (Proverbs 5:19). There is a tremendous freedom in knowing that you are the only person your husband ever looks at. YOU now set the standard. And that woman on the cover of Vouge? She doesn’t hold a candle to you.
Wives, our husbands need to be able to see our bodies. They need it as part of a fulfilling sexual relationship. When they married us, they did so with the understanding that we would be their only source of sexual gratification. They trust us to be available to them and have given us – and no one else – that role. Let us embrace the freedom our husbands have given us. Let us honor the commitment they have made and learn to share ourselves – all of ourselves – with these wonderful men in our lives.