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Christan Perona is the Director of Admissions at Central Christian School, a racially and socio-economically diverse academy in St. Louis.
She writes about practical theology at Repurposed (christanperona.com). She and her husband, JD, have two children.
*What Would You Tell the Younger You About Marriage?
There’s a longing deep within us for companionship. We were designed, created to live in relationships. We bear God’s image, and we watch throughout Scripture how the Father and Son and Holy Spirit esteem and honor each other. The respect and delight They find in each other is worth studying for years and years to come. Oh, to be others-centered…
The need to be understood and loved and to have someone to care for is imprinted on the human heart. Sometimes we’re brought to tears when we’re overwhelmed by God’s provision in our lives. Sometimes we ache in silence, for this longing is so deep we can’t find words.
We bring this part of us, the need for companionship, into marriage. We sigh in relief that we won’t have to spend the rest of our lives alone. We feast on security, anticipating waking up and saying goodnight to the same person at our side — morning after morning, night after night. We feel wanted, pursued, chosen above all others. We have a security blanket when we walk among crowds.
Like any other good thing, the sin of our unraveling world tries to taint relationships, too. I’m tempted to make marriage all about me. I don’t have to be alone. I’m secure with a constant companion. I’m wanted, pursued, chosen. I have someone at my side when I’m uncomfortable.
And without realizing it, my marriage becomes an idol. My husband becomes an idol, too. And my identity is found in this relationship, and in this person, and in my dreams for our future. (The idol of Control resurfaces on life’s canvas in these moments, too, doesn’t it? That Control idol — it’s always trying to speak into my life.)
One of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself is the challenge to view my husband as my brother in Christ rather than my identity-giver. I wish I would have tasted this freedom when we were walking our marriage path those first few years. But it took me 15. It truly did.
When you find your identity in your husband, and in his public face, and in the ways others like him — your world eventually crashes because your husband is real. And broken. He’s just this authentic guy who desperately needs a Savior, too.
And when I view him that way — a sinner thirsty for the deep well of grace — my expectations are laid aside. My need to control him backs away. My self-absorption starts to look very, very ugly.
As the Gospel unfolds in my life, day after day, I see my sin more easily. My wretchedness is swallowed up the shadow of the Cross, and that Cross points me toward my Rescuer rather than toward self-loathing. And my Redeemer becomes all the more beautiful as I recognize how much I need Him.
And my husband, he’s right there beside me taking in Christ’s beauty.
I find myself, sometimes, starting to look at my guy for worth and identity and wholeness, but Christ whispers. And He woos my focus back to Him and His grace. The job of Savior is already taken. It’s unfair and destructive to ask my husband to play that role.
And when I’m focused on my Redeemer, my world isn’t rocked when my husband messes up. I’m not surprised by his sin because, again, he’s my brother in Christ. He’s part of this Body of Christ who needs grace as much as I do.
And grace poured into a relationship — day after day, month after month, year after year — can be quite transformative. And freeing. And beautiful in ways you never expected.
*What Is the best beauty/fashion tip that someone gave you?
The best fashion tip I’ve ever received is to stop worrying about what’s in style and wear clothes that flatter YOUR body. I know many would disagree. I’ve never been called (or aspire to be called) a trendsetter, so that advice might not resonate with all women.
I’ve discovered certain brands of clothing that fit my body best (I buy pants at this store, tops at this store, underwear at this store, etc, etc). And I go back to those brands over and over.
After years of wearing clothes that are “me”, I now see clothing an extension of my personality.
I love that we can all wear different styles and cuts and lines and colors — and all look beautiful because we’re being ourselves.
*What advice can you give about body image?
I go through times when I honestly don’t care or think much about my body, preferring writing, reading, and studying to exercising. And I also go through periods when I’m super fit, working out regularly and enjoying how much more comfortable I feel throughout the day.
And the amazing thing? Whether I ignore the fitness scene or am in the shape of my life, I still don’t like the way God made me. I still look in the mirror and immediately gaze at my “problem areas”. Every single time.
Maybe, just maybe my issues have little to do with my physical appearance and everything to do with my heart.
There’s a gazillion types of trees around us, all adding depth and complexity and purpose and visual interest on the canvas we call Earth. There’s a menagerie of fish in the ocean. An endless array of flowers. Why wouldn’t He create people differently?!
I see the heart of our Maker in creation, proving He loves diversity. It’s His character. We’re made in His image, and collectively we reflect His complexity. His depth. Think about it.
“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image,” Paul writes. “Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:2)
You, who hates her hair, conform no longer. You, who hates her skin tone, be transformed. You, who has always scorned your waistline, renew your mind.
No amount of squats or lunges can renew you in this way. No fitness classes can remove your deeply imbedded misconceptions of your worth. Another highlighting session or manicure won’t cure your insecurity.
Believe me, I wish we could all grab BandAids instead of heading into open-heart surgery. But, you see, you are God’s Beloved, and He calls you to more.
“The Word of God, you see, is alive and moving; sharper than a double-edged sword; piercing the divide between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Our Maker’s truth, His TRUTH, is living. His truth is active. It’s so sharp it pierces us in the deepest places we don’t even understand ourselves. Deep in our thoughts. Deep in our feelings and reactions and self-absorption.
As we resist the way culture defines us, I absolutely HAVE to meditate on His truth, begging God to penetrate and pierce and transform and renew. I pray His words.
God, I thank You for taking great delight in me.
Quiet me with your love.
Help me believe You find joy in me.
Help me believe You actually sing over me.
It’s about recognizing the lies we’ve believed and then reconciling ourselves to the truth — the truth that He’s crazy about us. He’s crazy about the women who try, but can’t lose weight. He’s crazy about the ones society exalts as “the ideal”. The way culture has defined us doesn’t impact the Maker’s love for us. No, thankfully, He’s bigger than that.
And while His Story is so vast, spanning past generations and extending into a forever tomorrow, He planned you. And He created you for this very generation, intentionally placing you in this time and place to help redeem His world. To help a near-sighted culture know there’s a whole lot of something beyond this brokenness. To point it toward the unseen. To help it believe the Love Story.
And we believe it for a moment ourselves, until the Enemy comes and woos us back to our smaller stories. Just where he wants us. Back to fear. Back to ourselves.
Our thighs. Our upper arms. The core that once held life within its womb. And we interpret Satan’s lies as truth and get all caught up in the drama.
“We are the clay, You are the Potter.” But we scorn the very work of God. And then think about ourselves some more. And immerse ourselves in the smaller stories. It’s just where Satan wants us — caught up in our own little story of shame instead of seeing the pain of others around us. Instead of helping God heal the world. We tell our children to “think of others” before themselves. Yet, we struggle so intensely to heed our own advice.
Our communities, our work places, our churches are full of broken people who hold the same hurt you do. What would it look like to focus on others instead of your “problem areas”?
Only God’s grace could allow us to do it for even five minutes. Conversation by conversation, let’s see people through the eyes of Christ — even women who have bodies culture deems worthy of a magazine cover — let’s see past their physical traits and deep into their hearts. Into their brokenness. Into their baggage. Everyone has a messy story. Everyone.
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