Thursday, March 8, 2018


My daughter Ivy is a ballerina who dances at a fairly high level.  She is currently teaching at the studio she grew up with, and she is honored to dance the featured role in many local productions.  She has not chosen to pursue ballet professionally, but she is all too familiar with the pressure ballerinas face to be thin. 

So far, only one dancer from her studio has become anorexic.  Thankfully, she seems to be doing well at this point, but one of the first things she did as she and her family began to do battle with this monster was to quit ballet.  Hours every week in a leotard in front of a mirror were not helping the cause.

Next week, this gal we will call Macie, is coming to speak to the young dancers at the studio about her experience with anorexia and what she learned about the issue of body image.  The tricky part of it is that the studio director, although she has the best heart in the world, operates under an opposing set of pressures, so to speak.  The sweetness of her heart and intentions is reflected in the fact that she is the one who invited Macie to come speak in the first place.  But honestly, she would like most of her dancers to lose weight.  I suspect she secretly believes just a touch of anorexia would do them good. 

For many years, she wanted Ivy to lose weight.  A happily trim teenager by everyday standards, Ivy was a little too fleshy by ballet standards.  Ivy has been deeply scarred by this pressure.  She has been cut to the quick by various conversations with this director over the years.  In the director’s defense, to call her remarks cruel is laughable compared to what she endured from her director growing up.  Ballet can be a cruel, cruel world indeed.

However, whereas Macie responded to this pressure by not eating, as many ballerinas do, Ivy had the opposite reaction.  The pressure certainly created in her an unhealthy fixation with food, but ultimately caused her to gain, not lose weight.  More tears.  More consternation.  Deep wounds.

Right now, however, Ivy is lovely by anyone’s standards.  She is at a healthy weight for a young woman (at the low end of her healthy BMI range), and even thin enough for a ballerina.  What happened? 

Josiah happened.  Josiah, her boyfriend, also a dancer.  He came along at the height of all this trouble and began telling her she was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  He thought she was beautiful.  Stop worrying.  Stop thinking about that.  You’re beautiful.  I think you’re beautiful.  You look perfect.  You’re beautiful. 

And the next day: You’re beautiful.  I think you’re beautiful.  You’re perfect.  You’re beautiful. 

They have been dating three and a half years now.  And she still knows, Josiah thinks she is beautiful. 

Ivy lost interest in what the ballet world thought of her.  She only cared about what Josiah thought, and he thought she was beautiful. 

So, what do you think happened then?  With the reassurance that she was beautiful, do you think she let her appearance go?  Do you think she gained weight and began dressing sloppily?  Stopped wearing makeup?

No.  She didn’t.  She enjoyed dressing beautifully all the more for him.  She enjoyed putting on her makeup for him.  And she was careful about what she ate.  Whatever her body was doing before with weight seemed to correct itself naturally, and she is currently a full ten pounds lighter than what she was during those years. 

She still bears some scars.  She doesn’t like eating in front of other people, especially anything unhealthy.  I see her looking around to see who is looking when she pours cereal for herself in the morning or puts food on her plate at dinner.  I am careful to avert my eyes.  It breaks my heart.  But she is getting past it, all because the young man she loves calls her beautiful.

Jesus calls us beautiful.  He calls you beautiful.  As we draw near to Him in repentance and obedience, we enter a joyful union with Him that God Himself likens to the wedding of two young lovers.  This is what we were created for.  This is what the depths of our hearts long for.  Do you believe it?  Can you believe it?  Most of us do not have Josiahs, but we do have Jesus. 

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.   Song of Solomon 2:2

Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.             Song of Solomon 2:13

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!                 Song of Solomon 4:1

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.           Song of Solomon 4:7

Ballerinas suffer with a damaged body image.  Most of us instead suffer a with damaged soul image.  How would our souls be healed if we basked in this truth day after day?  

If day after day after day,
as we drew near to the Lover of our souls,
as we bared our hearts in confession and repentance,
as we knew His forgiveness and grace,
as we sought His direction and will,
and we saw in His eyes
that we
            to Him
                                    are beautiful.

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