On weight:Jill: There’s no need to step on a scale on the continent of Africa. I know I’m gaining weight when I start getting compliments on my appearance. More specifically, my butt. I’ve been told, with great kindness, that I looked “nice and fat” after returning from a vacation. The tailor who recently made me a dress looked at my lackluster curves and reassured me that she could figure out how to add in boobs and a butt via some magical seams.
Sarah: Recently I took some photos of some of the Mamas in my children’s lives, and Mama Youyou gently brought me Mamitsho’s photo (above) saying, “Madame, umm, hmm, well…Have you seen this photo of Mamitsho? Well, hmm, has she seen it? Is she okay with this?” I told her I thought it was a lovely picture of Mamitsho, and in fact everyone who has seen it comments on how nice she looks. (In retrospect, I guess it was only Americans giving the compliments.)
“Well, Madame, it’s not a good photo,” said Mama Youyou. “She looks skinny. It must be embarrassing for her. You can see her”—and then she yell-whispered—”collarbone!” Body fat is a precious thing here; a sign of nutrition, comfort and a good life.
Jill: The different perspectives on bodies and beauty are something that comes up fairly often. I just read an article in a local magazine about tia foin, the dangerous trend of women using prescription medications to fatten up a bit. It’s the same discussion as we might see in the pages of Marie Claire or Elle about weight-loss drug use among women, but with a completely different spin.
So, if our country defines beauty as skinny, but the Congo defines beauty as “nice and fat” what does that mean? It means beauty is subjective, sweet daughters. And we can listen to what the glossy magazines tell us about beauty or that boy in math class or the cluster of whispering girls in the corner. Or we can listen to what the pages of Scripture tell us.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to . . . bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. Isaiah 61:1, 3
Beautiful daughters, we can one day talk about acne and frizzy hair, and then later talk about wrinkles and grays. We can lament post-breastfeeding woes and the joys of cellulite and the torture of barre class. We can laugh and chat and share products. As long as you know deep down what beautiful really is.
Beautiful is a brave, vulnerable soul willing to share her story. Beautiful is stripping away the mask and showing the daily markings of grace. Beautiful knows her worth comes from the cross and not the scale. This is a beauty that only gets better with age. Daughters, I hope you will learn to look in people’s eyes to see the beauty that goes soul deep, to hear someone’s story and see the hand of God, to revel in beauty from ashes.
That kind of beauty isn’t the work of makeup or hair product. That kind of beauty is the work of your Creator, your Redeemer.