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A Canvas, Not a Project

Oh, the highly sought after “perfect” body. It’s something many people of all ages yearn, push, starve, nip, tuck, pay, purge and restrict for, but does anyone know exactly what it is?

For some, it’s a slim waistline, chiseled abs and well-defined hip bones. Others, a sculpted back, bulbous biceps and broad shoulders. Yet others, rounded abdomens, soft thighs and plump cheeks. One group says long and lean, another short and stout. High cheekbones and a square jaw are a must for one side, while a second says long lashes and pointed noses. One new mom may pride herself for returning to her pre-baby jeans, whereas her friend celebrates her postpartum stretch marks. One man finds success in his ability to bench press his body weight, yet his friend in his ability to carry his aging mother to bed.

We all have different measuring sticks as to the definition of the perfect body, and chances are, they are all influenced by personal experience and popular culture. Even those who are not highly invested in their appearance can still probably find a thing or two about themselves they would like to change physically. No matter who you are or how old you are, there is always something to fix.

When did our bodies become a project, and an unending one at that?

Assortment of makeup
Amy Shamblen photo | Unsplash

Now, this is not to negate the need to adjust our eating and/or exercise habits to improve our health. Taking care of our bodies is not the same as pushing, prodding, nipping and tucking them until they fit into whatever beauty mold is trending. The former comes from a place of respect for these bodies we were given. The latter stems from shame, self-obsession and vanity, all of which can be traced back to pride.

As someone who has struggled with body image for as long as I can remember, trust me, I know the battle is real. Not a day goes by that I do not think something negative about my body, oftentimes several times a day and about several parts of my body. But, man, I do not want it to be that way! Especially because I know I was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and am a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I know this body of mine is good, not because of how many squats I can do or how many hours I’ve spent on the elliptical, but because of the One who created, redeemed and now lives within me.

I know all these things to be true, yet my mind keeps returning to its time-worn pathways—my old nature which screams, “This isn’t good! This must be fixed!” A nature influenced by the world and its definitions of beauty and worth.

My old self shines a spotlight on what my body should be all while my new self, which is being transformed by the love and grace of Jesus, kindly reminds me that I was made as I am, on purpose, for a purpose.

My body is not a project for me to fix, it is a canvas for the Holy Spirit to use for His masterpiece. I am the resident of this body, but I also have a roommate and a supervisor. This body is not mine and it’s definitely not only mine to inhabit. It belongs to the God who created it, and it is a privilege to share it with His Holy Spirit.

My body is not a project for me to fix, it is a canvas for the Holy Spirit to use for His masterpiece.

Therefore, it is not my project. It’s not even my canvas. It’s God’s. The moment I start seeing my body in this light, my new self gets a little louder, a little bolder. Fueled by the Truth, it burns a little brighter and stands a little straighter. The more attention I give it, the more it snuffs out the Enemy’s incessant guilt-laden, shame-driven monologue. The one who constantly taunts, belittles, lies and chastises.

Satan, the Enemy, is the source of our vain desires to fit into society’s beauty molds and dictate our worth based on our ability to fill them. He is the one who loves nothing more than to shame us into submission or feed into our pride until all we do is think about ourselves. He convinces us our bodies are our projects and it’s up to us to fix them or do with them what we please, whatever the cost.

His tactics vary; sometimes he beguiles us with ideas that seem innocent but actually contort the truth, like that of self-care or “My body, my choice.” Yes, it is an honor to care for these bodies, but it must come from a place of love—God’s love. If our desire is for ourselves only, we know it’s from Satan, the Enemy.

Parchment reading "Not today Satan" in all serif caps
Jon Tyson photo | Unsplash

It may seem like no big deal to say “yes” once, but that’s all the cunning deceiver needs. He baits us with seemingly harmless hooks like hitting the gym to rid ourselves of that extra belly fat, skipping that meal to get one step closer to fitting into those jeans, taking those supplements to bulk up, sneaking just one more glance in the mirror, getting a shot or two to plump up our cheeks. It starts small, and maybe with mostly good intentions, but that is all Satan needs.

Suddenly you’re at the gym all hours of the day to work off every last ounce of jiggle. You’re skipping more meals than eating because you’ve gone down 4 sizes now and want to keep it up. You venture into unregulated supplements and surgeries because the others just aren’t cutting it anymore. You stare at yourself in any reflective surface you can find to survey your beauty or scrutinize every supposed flaw.

Just one more set, one more meal, one more pill, one more peek, one more injection. Next thing you know, you’re burnt out and sick all the time. Your skin is yellow, nails are brittle, face is gaunt and energy is gone. You’re experiencing all these weird and painful side effects while the gains stopped long ago. You’re more focused on what you see in the mirror than what and who is around you. You’re scheduling yet another surgery despite being unable to move any of your facial muscles.

Or perhaps you find yourself on the other end of the scale, neglecting your body because you gave up long ago trying to care for it. Do you find refuge in a bag of chips at the end of a long day at work? Do you eat whatever you want, whenever you want and however much of it you want all because it makes you feel good, ignoring the damage it’s causing your health? Do you dive into a pint of ice cream for the fifth night in a row, not because you’re hungry but bored, depressed or anxious?

It’s an easy pit to stumble into, trust me, I know. It’s also one far too many of us find ourselves in now. Some of you may deny just how far you’ve sunk, but answer this: how often do you think about your appearance and how often do you dwell in that place, whether it be a positive or negative thought?

God does not look upon our appearance, but our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He looks beyond our bulges and biceps and focuses on our desires.

Your feelings and choices toward food and exercise, what motivates them? How often do you see someone else and think, “If only I could…”? How often do you comment (and judge) your wrinkles, rolls, bumps, sags, blemishes and soft spots? What about those of another person?

We all do it, and it’s because we have given the measuring stick and microphone to the Enemy. In the name of Jesus, it’s time we take them back! And not just take them, but rip them out of his paws and put them in their rightful place: burning in the bottomless pit with him.

Only God’s thoughts toward us matter, and when it comes to what He thinks about our appearance, it is good and not at all dictated by our standards. God does not look upon our appearance, but our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He looks beyond our bulges and biceps and focuses on our desires.

This does not mean He doesn’t care about our earthly bodies, for He is the One who thought of them before the foundation of the world. He created them in His image and molded them together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He died for them (Romans 5:6, 8), lives within them now (Romans 8:11) and promises to resurrect and recreate them in the age to come (Philippians 3:21).

Open journaling Bible with "It's your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise" written in calligraphy in the margin
Nienke Broeksema photo | Unsplash

He cares about our bodies—not our appearances—more than we ever could (or should) and in the purest, most loving way possible. He values and treasures them, and He invites us to care for them too. Not obsess over, criticize, nip, tuck, prod, abuse or neglect, but care for them as the gifts they are.

They bring life into the world, care for the sick and elderly, run into burning buildings, create works of art, carry others’ burdens, rest in loved ones’ arms, pull another up and transform the world. They deliver oxygen and expel carbon dioxide in just the right levels to keep our organs and nervous system functioning properly. They send white blood cells when we get a cut or cold. They burst out in laughter in times of joy and tears in times of grief. They rest when we need restored and move when we need to work. They are delicate, strong, complex, intrinsic and beautiful.

Our bodies are not our projects; they are our Creator’s canvas, which along with our hearts and minds, He uses to relay His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to a broken world (Galatians 5:22-23). When we recognize His supreme authority and power over all things, including our bodies, we return the design to the Designer.

Some of you may find that oppressive, demeaning or weak, but, my friend, it’s the complete opposite. There is nothing more freeing, affirming or strong than to accept the gracious lovingkindness God extends to us and dedicate our all—bodies, minds, hearts and souls—to the only One who is perfectly good, pure, just, loving and wise.

It's no longer up to us to fix ourselves for He's already taken care of our biggest flaw, one which far exceeds any bulge, wrinkle, jiggle or point—that of sin.

Once and when we do that, we are secure in His arms, ones that cannot be moved or shaken. We are no longer under the control of the Enemy and his evil tactics, but free to live for and with the loving Father.

It’s no longer up to us to fix ourselves for He’s already taken care of our biggest flaw, one which far exceeds any bulge, wrinkle, jiggle or point—that of sin. No amount of burpees, injections, powders, creams, shakes or diets will rid us of it (Ephesians 2:8-9), only the saving work of Jesus, which He already achieved when He paid the penalty our sins deserve and nailed them to the Cross (Eph. 1:7, Colossians 2:13-15).

All that’s left for us to do is accept His sacrifice and commit our lives—including our bodies—to Him. After that, we no longer are a project to fix but a blank canvas awaiting the Father’s touch.

Will you accept this transformation? Will you dedicate your life—and body—to the One who created and died for it and the only One who can make it new? Are you a project to be fixed or a canvas awaiting His masterpiece?

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6


English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.

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