Everywhere we turn, we see images of men and women who look good to us—beautiful, happy, healthy, connected. Whether online or at the mall, at church or the coffee shop, images of the human body catch our attention and point our desires toward something to fill our longing.
Consider the ways you’re longing for more in life, and these images seem to hold the answer.
Do you feel lonely? You probably notice the images of happy people gathered together.
Do you feel undesirable? You probably notice the images designed to attract.
Do you feel like you’re failing? You probably notice the images of wealth.
Do you feel weak? You probably notice the images of strength and health.
The suggestion in the images is that if only you’ll get what they have (e.g. clothes, haircut, diet, education, etc.), you’ll be beautiful, happy, healthy, and connected, too.
The images of human bodies in front of us seem to hold a promise of the goodness we so desperately long for. This is why so many of us keep buying, why we keep clicking.
The point is not that physical appearance doesn’t matter. God created beauty and created desire for beauty in us. The problem is when that beauty is used to point us to something or someone other than God to satisfy us.
What are we to do?
The cross of Jesus holds our hope. This is counter-intuitive because Isaiah tells us Jesus’ appearance was nothing noteworthy to begin with (see Isaiah 53:2). Add to this that once flogged, spat upon, stripped, and hung by nails from a Roman cross, Jesus’ appearance was one from whom men would turn their faces away (Isaiah 53:3).
And yet, this One is the beauty, happiness, health, and connection for whom we’re longing.
As we allow the Cross to do its work in us day by day, our “pallet” for beauty can change. Jesus’ invitation to eat His flesh and drink His blood is an invitation to partake the true bread and true drink that satisfies. In other words, His body given for us on the cross can redirect our desires toward that which does in fact satisfy.
As we bring our desires to Christ on the cross, the way all these other images “taste” changes. As we take in Jesus’ selfless humility and quiet courage there, our impression of what goodness looks like changes.
The way we see other people’s bodies can change. The way we feel about and see our own bodies can change.
Why? Because Beauty Himself became all our ugliness, hatred, bitterness, selfish greed, division, arrogance, vitriol, and violence that we might become beautiful again. Divinity took upon Himself the worst of humanity that we might become one with the Divine again.
Question to consider: What does it do to how you feel about the beautiful bodies you see in media when you gaze at Christ on the Cross?