Okay, I promise. This is the last Boundless post. The previous posts are beating the obesity dead horse and pickiness and you may marry someone you’re not initially attracted to.
The main reason why I wanted to discuss is that in the previous post there was supposed to be a perspective from a man coming this Friday. Well, here we are. Weight no more.
I had previously posted on several traps that Christians tend to fall into when looking at the issue of physical appearance. Let’s get a refresher:
- [Cultural] Beauty standards — Women are inborn with wanting to be physically beautiful for a reason. After all, it’s a good thing that a wife is attractive for her husband. The problem occurs is if women want to be beautiful for vanity via grabbing attention, power, or other men not-her-husband. Unfortunately, most Christians believe that beauty is just vain and has no purpose otherwise.
- Reality denial — this can be seen by those who call beauty shallow or those who claim beauty is subjective or a cultural construct. These are two sides of the same deception coin aimed at placating feelings at the expense of the Truth. Beauty is minimized as something that is not good, even when everything they’re saying states otherwise. After all, if fat is fine and healthy then why do you have to write long posts to convince yourself and others?
- Churchian deception — this is the Christian ought trap where godliness is good so it should be attractive, or a woman’s feeling evaluates how well a husband is leading, or women are more spiritual than men. In this case, godliness or personality or other things that women want to be attractive take the place of beauty.
- Victim mentality — Other people should change to fit me rather than working on myself. That’s somewhat of a crass way to put it, but Christianity is an inside-out change religion. Other people around you don’t change… you change because you’re God’s disciple which God can use to change other people.
Let’s see how many of them are here in his post. My comments in bold and parentheses.
Dating. Why is it that that six letter word causes me to cringe every time I say or write it? [Victim mentality] For whatever reason, and I’m sure there are different reasons for each of us, dating is difficult. It’s especially difficult when you’re husky and broad-shouldered like me. To paraphrase my friend Joy Beth, dating as an overweight Christian man is nearly impossible. [Victim mentality]
Just recently I had the privilege to be in one of my best friend’s, Josh’s, weddings as a groomsman. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I was distracted. Words that I’d heard earlier that day kept buzzing around in my head: “James you sure do have a handsome face, and from what I’ve been told you’re a godly young man,” said a woman I hardly knew, “but honey you should seriously workout more because you’ll never attract a woman looking like that.”
I love working out. I love running. I love exercising. Shoot, I even have a degree in physical education! But this lady made me forget what I was even doing that day, and she reminded me that culture has invaded the church. [Cultural beauty standards] Somehow being a little bigger will always be linked to unhealthy lifestyles. [Gasp, appearances matter to humans] Had this women known that I’ve struggled with weight issues my whole life and have been depressed by them, or had she realized that I’m adamant about living healthy and exercising often, she probably wouldn’t have been so blunt. But unfortunately, she only gave voice to what many are thinking—I’ve heard similar statements from older women “looking out for my best interests” and from some women I’ve shown interest in. [Victim mentality]
It seems I’m too big to love, but I’m not alone in feeling shame over my body. If I wasn’t too big, I could be too short. Too skinny. Too tall. My hair could be thinning, my acne raging, or my six pack fleeting. I could have too scraggly of a beard or unable to even grow a beard. [Reality denial] The standards of physical beauty, even for men, are paralyzing. And we’ve been silent on for far too long. [Victim mentality]
The problem here is simple: It’s sin. [Churchian deception] That’s why we’re unable to recognize the beauty, the imago Dei, in each other. [Christian ought trap] We’ve unknowingly infused our churches with a distorted view of humanity and sexuality. [Cultural beauty standards] And while attraction is no doubt important, we’ve prioritized lust over a desire to truly know another human being. [Churchian deception] We’re making decisions on who to marry for the rest of our lives based on who will look the best for the next decade. [Reality denial] I want the women in the church to see Christ in me, and to see that I, James, have so much more going on for me than physical attractiveness. [Cultural beauty standards]
I long for the day I can be like my friend Josh, crying like a baby as I watch my bride adorned in the radiance of Christ walking down the aisle to publicly tell people “I choose him above all others. James is mine, and I am his.” [I don’t even know what to call this, aside from feminine] I long for the day to be a dutiful father, lavishing my children with love and homemade key lime pie. But for that to happen, a woman has to see me how God the Father sees me, as a redeemed sinner saved by grace, on fire with desire to see Christ made famous. Until that day, I remain ever devoted to Christ and the mission He’s given me to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, with the occasional watchful eye in the crowd seeing if there are any single women listening to me preach. [Red herring on the topic of physical attractiveness]
As I snap on my Fitbit to track some miles, I rest in the promise of God: He is for me, and He will never be against me. God knows the desires of my heart because He put them there. He calls me His child and reminds me to mosey on down to the cross daily where all men are made equal and rest at the feet of the One who gave new life to this husky kid 18 years ago. [Reality denial]
The interesting part about this is not that he succumbs to all of the 4 points mentioned above on beauty standards, reality denial, Churchian deception, and victim mentality.
No, the real interesting part is how we have a different visceral reaction to a man doing these things as opposed to a woman. It’s easier to sympathize with a fat woman, at least to some extent. However, when a man claims to be a victim — even if he is or isn’t — it viscerally disgusts us, especially when reading the part about how he’s going to cry like a baby because his wife ‘unconditionally loves him.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the women reading this had real feelings of revulsion from reading what he wrote. It’s very unattractive.
This man is looking for something he is never going to find on this earth. Only God is able to love us unconditionally. Every time we hoist up expectations of unconditional love from other humans we are bound to be disappointed.
Additionally, we can see that he’s blurring how God loves us with the roles and responsibilities of marriages. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. What love looks like from a wife is different than it looks like from a husband — they are told to submit to their husbands (Eph 5, Col 3, Tit 2, 1 Pet 3), to respect them (Eph 5, 1 Pet 3), to love them as a friend (philandros not agape — Tit 2), and to cultivate various behaviors and qualities (Tit 2, 1 Pet 3), even to win unbelieving husbands. His attitude is seeking the love that a husband would give his wife.
It’s not that unattractive is bad. Indeed, you could say at most that attraction is a general proxy for the roles of a husband and wives in marriage, but it must be tempered by godliness and character. The real issue is what I stated in the paragraph before this one is that this man wants the love that a husband would give his wife. This is the viscerally unattractive part because what he is implicitly telling us through his words is that he wants to be the woman in the relationship. He wants to be unconditionally loved by the wife, who is thrust into the role of the husband.
That is the feeling of disgust defined in a Biblical perspective. It’s right that you feel disgust to what he is writing.
James Forbis serves as the Director of Church Relations and for the Center of Evangelism at Ecclesia College in Springdale, AR and as a Discipleship Pastor with First Southern Baptist Church in Goshen, AR. He is completing his M.Div at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur, coffee snob, and Tex-Mex addict. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jforbis
Ladies and gentlemen: this is your next generation of pastors.
What will likely end up happening is that he will start to pastor a church. Then some women will be attracted to him because of his leadership position in the church. He will get married. Then marital troubles will come down the road like they do for most Christian pastors. If he’s ‘unlucky,’ his wife will divorce him. If he’s ‘unluckier’ he will live in marital hell with a nagging and contentious wife, who throws ‘godly temper tantrums’ or ‘uses leaving to wake him up to God’s voice in her.’ Indeed, this results in the pastor taking out his marital frustration on the Church by telling men to double down on serving and being nice to their unhappy wives like he did, which perpetuates this dysfunctional cycle. See: Dalrock’s blog if you want names to put to these examples.
If he’s blessed, he’ll realize that he is the man in the marriage relationship and he is called by God to be the leader. He’ll recognize that he needs to call out discontent and nagging behavior as sin in his wife and give her structured leadership. He’ll tell her that he can do nothing to make her happy. He’ll tell her that happiness and contentment cannot be derived from anyone or anything but Christ.