In response to a request from our readers to have the male voice represented in the body image discussion, James Forbis offered to give us his perspective on the issue. We hope this continues to spark discussion and insight into a complicated topic.
Dating. Why is it that that six letter word causes me to cringe every time I say or write it? 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.
Just recently I had the privilege to stand as a groomsman for one of my best friends, Josh. 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. Somehow being a little bigger will always be linked to unhealthy lifestyles. 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.
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. The standards of physical beauty, even for men, are paralyzing. And we’ve been silent on for far too long.
The problem here is simple: It’s sin. That’s why we’re unable to recognize the beauty, the imago Dei, in each other. We’ve unknowingly infused our churches with a distorted view of humanity and sexuality. And while attraction is no doubt important, we’ve prioritized lust over a desire to truly know another human being. 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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.