In search of the perfect model
A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
The desire to be more slender is nothing new. But aided by the Internet, those obsessed with being skinnier – even emaciated – are increasingly spurring one another to more drastic levels of deprivation. Concerned about this phenomenon – perceived to be driven in part by the fashion industry – France's lower house of parliament last week passed a law that would make it a crime to promote "excessive thinness" (see The Christian Science Monitor, April 17).
Although it is well intentioned, it's hard to say how helpful this new law will be (it must still be approved by the Senate). But there is a provision in divine law that can put a stop to eating disorders. It's based on two of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image."
They provide a perfect antidote. They are more than rules about human behavior; they are promises about how God made His children to be. And the divine fact is that He made them to be satisfied with their spiritual nature, to be whole, free, full of joy, vigorous, and beautiful. He made them to know this perfection. So they can't be made to seek other powers or substances – such as self-will, starvation, diet pills, etc. – in an attempt to acquire what they already have.
The command not to make graven images is also a promise.
So often, those with eating disorders spend hours comparing their shape with the form they wish to attain, engraving those lines indelibly in thought. But God releases His children from such hypnotic thought patterns and lifts them to behold a higher standard of beauty and worth – and thus satisfy their cravings. How does He do this? Through divine Love, which tenderly reassures every individual of his or her intrinsic value.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, articulated the importance of imparting divine Love to those who are struggling. She wrote, "The poor suffering heart needs its rightful nutriment, such as peace, patience in tribulation, and a priceless sense of the dear Father's loving-kindness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 365-366).
The Bible brings out the freeing idea that the key to realizing perfection is not to focus on changing a material body, but to wake up to our true identity. In the Psalmist's words, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (17:15).
There's a huge pull to focus on body image and methods of improving it – "fat-free," "low-calorie," and "workout" are staples of Western vocabulary. The proliferation of websites that promote eating disorders can reinforce an almost hypnotic fascination with the body image presented to the public through advertisements, fashion, and food packaging, and the false promise that this is where satisfaction lies.
But wait. If someone is feeling down, can muscle tone make him or her happy? If lonely, can wearing size 0 pants really fill the void?
Ultimately, no. What needs shaping is our thought. Comparing such work to that of a sculptor, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models" (Science and Health, p. 248).
The solution lies in molding our thoughts after God's model of perfection. The satisfaction that comes from doing so not only brings a permanent, unfluctuating sense of peace; it also brings the discipline, joy, and strength that enable us to exercise wisdom in our eating habits and vitality in our daily activity.
Then, temptations to indulge either in gluttony or intense focus on the body will naturally yield to the irresistible power of divine Love. When we recognize that this power guides our thought and action, we'll find there is nothing in us to respond to the world's pull. Rather, we'll express the dominion God has given each of us.