To my sweet daughter,
As you begin junior high this month, the atmosphere about you is crackling with excitement. So many new doors are opening, and I am rejoicing with you. But now is also the time when we have to revisit a topic that may seem a bit awkward: your body.
I want you to think of this letter as the culmination of the many conversations we’ve had over the last decade. This is simply another step in helping you see our fallen world from God’s perspective: a sea of lost creatures in rebellion against their Creator, entirely deceived in their (failing) efforts to find love, acceptance, and beauty in all the wrong places.
For the sake of your heart and your soul, I want to share five truths to help anchor your identity in Christ and crystallize the purpose for which he created your body.
1. Your body is a gift to be treasured, not sold for a trifle.
Culturally speaking, we have moved from casting scorn on public sexualized behavior to distributing accolades and demanding encores. The lewder, the bawdier, and the wider the audience, the better.
But my dear, this is not what Jesus had in mind when he paid the ultimate price for your body and soul (1 Corinthians 6:20). Your value and worth are rooted in your image-bearing nature (Genesis 1:26–27). You have innate value not because of a growing numbers of “liking” friends, but because of the infinite love and finished work of your Lord (Ephesians 5:1–2).
2. Your body was created to be poured out, not merely admired.
American culture happily feeds those who crave sexual sin. The appetite is insatiable. It will require supernatural wisdom for you to understand that your body is not a spectacle for greedy eyes, but instead a tool to be harnessed for the economy of God. He made your brain, muscles, and bones to work, to serve, to learn, to play, and to worship him.
From centuries of rib-crushing corsets in Europe to centuries of foot-binding in China, cultures have repeatedly misunderstood (and abused) the very nature of the female body. You are not an object to be petted or paraded about for pleasure (Matthew 5:28). Rather, my love, you are a co-laborer in the many good works God has prepared for you in advance (Ephesians 2:10).
3. Your body does not constitute the whole of your identity.
While your peers interact with you on a physical level — they only see your outward parts, as it were — your essence is actually a fully united body and spirit. Your soul will live forever, and your body will be resurrected (Philippians 3:21).
Both your soul and your body are valuable, which makes all the more virulent the cultural lie, rooted in pagan Gnosticism, that your body can live and flourish separately from your heart. In truth, the desires of your heart determine every word and action you make with your body (Luke 6:45). And while physical flaws and failures abound in this world, these marks of the fall are neither a cause for concern nor the point of your existence. You are more than the sum of your body’s features. The purpose for which you were created is this: to give praise and glory to your heavenly Father (Psalm 63:3–4).
4. Your body is a life-giving temple.
I’m referring here not to Beyoncé-style goddess worship for the benefit of prime-time television viewers. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). And as such, God designed your body to give life to others. Not just your womb, but every part of you.
Your heart gives life by loving Jesus, your neighbor, and (likely) your future husband and children (Matthew 22:37–38, Titus 2:4). Your lips give life by speaking words of truth and singing melodies to Christ (Ephesians 5:19). Your hands give life by covering themselves in the muck and mire of serving others (Romans 12:13). Your legs give life by supporting a lifetime of ministry inside and outside the home. Your eyes give life by seeing (and loving) people enslaved to the powers and principalities of this world (Ephesians 6:12). Your tongue gives life by forming the words of gospel hope that are capable of breaking the manacles of sin (1 Peter 3:15).
5. Your body will show your neighbors whom and what you worship.
You will no doubt wonder about the cultural obsession with maintaining a youthful and beautiful physical appearance. To some degree, this is a struggle for every woman in every age. But remember Lady Wisdom’s warning: evil often masquerades as a beautiful and seductive siren (Proverbs 5:3–6).
In one of the greatest epic poems ever written, The Faerie Queen, Duessa is a beauty who symbolizes deceit and folly. She is contrasted with Una, also beautiful, but who represents purity and truth. You will encounter some form of Duessa’s superficial charm in nearly every image you see, and unmasking her deception will require superhuman strength. Thankfully, such strength is at your disposal. The spirit of the living God resides in you and will be faithful to nurture your affections in a way that seems entirely otherworldly to your peers (John 14:16).
The way you treat your body reveals more than your preferences; it reveals whom and what you worship. Pray that the Lord will make you known for your internal, imperishable qualities rather than your external appearance (1 Peter 3:3–4). Physical beauty should certainly not be scorned, as it is a gift to be stewarded from God, but it is not an end in itself. All the beauty we see in human and natural form should constantly remind us that we serve a delightfully creative and powerful God.
As you embark on this next leg of your journey as a young Christian woman, I pray you will quickly identify and reject the lies shaping so much of modern Western culture. The enemy may appear to be winning, but his victory is temporary. His defeat was assured on the cross, and it is there that you will find your identity and strength.
Hold fast, my love. These are the truths on which you can stake your body and your soul.